Thursday, May 7, 2015

Kicking It Vegan Style In San Francisco

When my friend, Das Baldwin, got the opportunity to house & cat sit in San Francisco and asked me to tag along, I jumped at the offer.  Full disclosure, I did it mainly for the food - San Fran is one of the top vegan hot spots in the entire U.S.

Here are the places we hit & the awesomeness that ensued...

Day 1

Herbivore - The Earthly Grill

Nice, laid back vibe, friendly staff and the variety of vegan options had my head spinning - breakfast, lunch, dinner, this 100% vegan place can please even a non-vegan.  We stopped in for a quick bite, because the price was right.  I had the Orange Pepper Chicken - chicken chunks and charbroiled, vegetables in a orange pepper sauce on a bed of basmati rice.  It was so awesome and huge that I had to get a doggy bag so I could experience the meal the next day and it still rocked!


For dinner, we hopped over the Golden Gate Bridge to the little bay front community of Sausalito.  Nothing particularly vegan there so it took some internet digging to find a place to eat.  We found ourselves walking through the doors of a nondescript storefront into a cramped one room, packed restaurant.  Don't bother checking out the menu because there's nothing vegan on it, however, if you ask what they can do vegan, you will start a frenzied conversation with the rather eccentric owner which will result in possibly one of the best meals of your life and a challenge that you will lick your plate clean and not know what you're eating.  I was skeptical because I rarely leave a clean plate behind on any meal but I was highly optimistic & excited due to the extreme confidence in which my meal was being concocted.  What I received for a fusion of India meets Mexico - a taro root enchilada nestled in a delectable sauce and a side of basmati rice to tame the heat.  It was AMAZING and my plate was indeed licked clean!

Day 2

Seed + Salt

Plant-based, organic, ethically & locally sourced, gluten-free, dairy-free, no refined sugar, no trans
fats and no GMOs. What more could a girl ask for...oh yeah, great food!  I loved the open, bright, airiness of this place and the super friendly staff.  I chomped down on their signature S+S Beet Burger - beets, walnuts, lentils, mushrooms, brown rice, raisins, spices, smoked sea salt + ranch served on a GF burger bun.  I also had my first rice crispy treat in over six years!

Gracias Madre

I had been Gracias Madre's sister location Cafe Gratitude in Santa Monica on a prior vegan pilgrimage, so I was very curious to see how they reinterpreted the Zen-like atmosphere for San Fran. It's not really the same concept at all, but the place was packed for a Sunday night (maybe that's a Cali thing, because in Ohio you lock it up once the sun goes down in prep for Monday morning).  The staff was friendly, the food was inventive and the atmosphere was warm and cozy.  I opted for two appetizers as my meal: the Quesadillas De Calabaza: roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa (this was a little too spicy for my tame taste buds and the Gorditas: grilled potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado, and cashew cream (this was a little too oily for my typical oil-free lifestyle.  The dishes were beautiful but a little too spicy for me.  I refused to leave without trying their Chocolate Cake complete with chocolate sauce and homemade strawberry ice cream (which tasted like real ice cream.  Again...AMAZING!

Day 3

Enjoy Vegetarian

This place really needs to change its name to Everything Vegan, because out of 120 items, only four Ling Zhi in Chinese, is a herbal mushroom known to have miraculous health benefits.  It also has a very strong, potent taste, which this soup did a fair job of taming. I only got the soup because I felt a head cold coming on and was attempting to give my immune system a boost (it didn't work).
are vegetarian, everything else is vegan!  Places like this are dangerous for me because I adore variety and I was like a kid in a vegan candy store.  We had three appetizers: Fried Spring Rolls, Chicken Nuggets (so real my anti-vegan friend was chowing down) and Steamed Dumplings.  Be careful with the soup, its really meant to be shared with the entire table.  Being newbies we each got enough soup to feed the Duggar family - Won Ton Noodle Soup w/ Vegetable & Reishi Medicine Soup.  I wouldn't recommend the Reishi Soup per say.  Having had Reishi Tea before, I knew what I was getting into.  Reishi, commonly known as

Since I went all crazy with the appetizers, I decided to go simple with my entree and opted for the Spinach & Pine Nuts Fried Rice - such a unique pairing of flavors and a very tasty dish.  I even enjoyed it for breakfast a few days later...  But, Das Baldwin got the best dish of all...the Vegetables Chow Mein, which was served with unbelievably tasty noodles (I think I ate half of her meal).  I'm giving this place my best restaurant of the trip award!

Day 4

Herbivore - The Earthly Grill

Despite my love of breakfast foods, I only made it out once during my trip for this coveted meal.  I made the most of it with the Herbivore's Combo Plate - which allowed me to sample a large portion of their early morning offerings - 1 pancake or sour dough french toast (we upgraded to get both), tofu scramble and house potatoes a bargain at $9.95.  The freshly made juices are also a big plus!

The Plant Cafe

After touring Alcatraz, on Pier 33, we snagged a ride down to Pier 3 to check out The Plant Cafe. 
While the main restaurant was closed, we were able to hit up their smaller cafe right across from the restaurant.  This place is not 100% vegan and the vegan options are limited - at least at the cafe.  Nevertheless, I was still able to get their soup of the day, which was a creamy, velvety squash soup and their signature Plant Burger: patty made in-house from lentils, mushrooms, beets, cashews & bulgur wheat, topped with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, vegan aioli.  Be careful, none of their buns are vegan; (who offers a vegan burger with no bun!) you'll have to settle for sourdough bread.  And of course, I investigate their chocolate, chocolate cupcake (it passed inspection)!

Pssst.  If you're flying out of SFO, this place has a location in Terminal 2, one of the very, very few vegan options at this sad non-vegan friendly airport.

Herbivore - The Earthly Grill

I'm sure by now you've picked up on a pattern...the Herbivore was a five minute walk from the place I was staying.  Plus, the menu was so extensive and varied that I literally could have eaten here every day.  After a tired journey to and from Alcatraz, we decided to stay in for dinner and stopped by the Herbivore for a to-go order of pizza - baked on pizza lavash with Daiya cheese and choice of housemade tomato or basil pesto.  I customized mine with their BBQ chicken and red onion.  I loved how light the crust was.

This was merely a sampling of all the vegan goodness that San Fran has to offer, but I hope it gave you an idea of where to start.  Be sure to check out to plot your vegan adventure!

Happy vegan travels!

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