Of course the real reason I’d schlepped up to San Francisco and the Bay Area on the train when I could have stayed in LA sunning myself was to check out the vegan restaurants. California is heaven for vegans. From the train station in LA where I perused “vegan meals” in the American equivalent of WH Smiths, to a corner shop in SF that sold salted caramel almond milk iced coffee, I don’t think there’s a better place to be if you’re keen to cut out the dairy.
Yeh, yeh London is great, but we’re stymied by our crap weather and lacklustre fresh fruit. There’s only so many times I want to eat stew before I scream. Here, salads are a meal in themselves. I’m sure I’ve raved about this before, but why shouldn’t they be a meal in themselves? In the UK, salads are watery bowls of romaine lettuce, cucumber and wet tomato. There might be an olive. Occasionally, there may even be a twist of lemon. But they are rarely interesting. Even in restaurants like Pizza Express, the salad is made filling by the inclusion of dough sticks. Rarely do you eat a salad, leave the restaurant and think: “I MUST try that at home.”
But in California, they’re blessed with fresh fruit and vegetables-the type that make me happy anyway. Generous slices of avocado share a salad bowl with ruby red grapefruits drizzled with coriander dressing and liberally scattered with almonds. These are hearty meals and they’re delicious.
Anyway, I’m getting off the topic. It was my plan to locate some top notch vegan options while I was in the Bay Area, and, although I was on a budget and so couldn’t afford to eat out that often, I think I did my best.
BLT at Cafe Gratitude
So these cafes can be found in LA and in SF. And excitingly, there’s also one in Berkeley. It was a hike-right at the northern end of Shattuck Avenue- but my god was it worth it. The premise of the cafe is that you remember to be grateful for everything in your life, something that could feel a bit hippy and strange if the food wasn’t so damn delicious. I ordered a BLT. This was a sandwich combination I’d never been able to eat before. It came with a mound of beautifully dressed salad. AT $13, it was more than I’d intended to pay, but the novelty won me over. There was lettuce, and there was tomato, yes. But the bacon itself was smoke roasted coconut flakes, which gave the sandwich a crunchy, chewy layer. There was also a thick layer of chipotle aioli, which sandwiched the bun together and added this incredible extra smokey flavour. I was also persuaded (easily) to buy a slice of raw vegan chocolate torte. This, at $8, I regretted. I forgot that I don’t really like raw cakes and the slice I’d got was the size of half my arm. I dumped it in my friend’s fridge and it lasted me for three days.
Cookie dough topped bun with vanilla frosting
Who knew that I would be able to find a cinnamon roll, complete with topping, soft scoop ice cream and frosting that was vegan? This place has them. Situated on Oxford Street, just opposite UC Berkeley Campus, Cinnaholic offers a standard cinnamon bun (but it’s far from standard, with a caramelised, crusty bottom layer and warm, melt in the mouth dough) complete with a choice of frosting (caramel, strawberry, anything) and physical topping. I got cookie dough (VEGAN COOKIE DOUGH-YOU HAVE NO IDEA!) but I could have opted for the far healthier fresh blackberries.
“Cheesey” Mexican food
Hands up, I didn’t actually go to this, but I salivated over the menu enough to at least have an appreciation of its wonderfulness. This Mexican restaurant is located in the heart of the mission, actually on Mission Street itself, a world away from the upmarket chic nature of neighbouring Valencia. Expect vegan tacos, salads and enchiladas, complete with vegan cheese and vegan sour creme. For desert, a slice of chocolate tart and ice cream or pear cobbler. Dreamy. I just wish that I hadn’t wasted that last food hole in my tummy having a fruit juice.
Mexican corn cake breakfast platter
I was a herbi-bore in San Francisco yesterday. I went here twice. Two different locations, granted, but I probably should have mixed things up a little. I just knew I could get coffee and a cake here, hence why I gravitated to the Valencia Street branch of the restaurant. At the Herbivore in Haight however, I treated myself to the full shebang. Brunch and a smoothie. Although the stack of pancakes tempted me, it was late enough in the morning for me to crave a more savoury brunch. I opted for the corn cakes, black beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and what they call Hash Browns. As in, not hash browns, but still pretty tasty. After a good heap of hot sauce, it was an amazing plate of food. Later that afternoon when I came back for tea and cake, I opted for a massive hunk of german chocolate cake and brewed coffee. The cake filling was crunchy, chewy caramel peanuts and thick chocolate frosting. Not too sweet, not too bitter. Amazing.
Menu at Herbivore