Archive for the 'Restaurant Reviews' Category

Graze Kitchen Pismo Beach

Graze Kitchen Chef's Vegan Stack Sandwich

So happy to have found another place to eat when visiting family down south along the central California coast. While everyone else was busy scarfing down breakfast at Old West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Beach, I spied a bunch of vegan options on the menu next door at the recently opened Graze Kitchen.

Since they don’t open until 10:00am on the weekends, I headed back over to pick up lunch after hanging out at the beach. I got the Chef’s Vegan Stack – grilled zucchini, eggplant, roasted red bell pepper with sun-dried tomato pesto, black olives and pepperoncini on fresh sourdough bread.

So good, the freshness of the veggies really shines through. I’ve dined out on plenty of faux meat sandwiches which I like but an all-veggie sandwich when done really well like this, is just as filling and satisfying, perhaps even more so.

I also got the Graze Quinoa and Kale Salad – marinated artichoke hearts, olives, pepperoncini, red onion, toasted almonds, tossed in an Italian vinaigrette. Expertly seasoned and dressed, with the perfect balance of kale to quinoa. And like the sandwich, you can taste all of the ingredients.

Graze Kitchen Vegan Cowboy Cookie

For dessert, a vegan cowboy cookie. Having never tried a cowboy cookie before, I had assumed it was just a chocolate chip cookie with a fancy name. Taking a bite, it’s a lot harder than I expected, maybe because it’s packed full of chocolate chips and walnuts.

Graze Kitchen is all about being healthy and delicious, as well as local, organic and sustainable. They’re super friendly too. With their varied menu items, there’s something for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and the gluten-free. I’m hoping to convince the whole family to eat there next time we’re all in town.

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Ramen Yamadaya SF Japantown

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Yamadaya

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe the holidays have come and gone, it all went by in such a blur. Time seems to speed up as I get older, when I was little, Christmas morning took forever to arrive. Now, I blink and it’s all over.

While on holiday, I had lunch at Ramen Yamadaya in San Francisco’s Japantown. After spending the morning at the Fairmont Hotel gawking at the life-sized gingerbread house*, I was more than ready for a piping hot bowl of vegan ramen.

That’s right, vegan ramen. Rarely if ever seen in Japanese restaurants, but there it was, right there in black and white on the menu amongst the meaty versions of ramen. It comes in your choice of spinach or tomato noodles.

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Yamadaya

I got the spinach noodles. It came in a flavorful, silky, milky broth, topped with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, corn and green onions. It’s just the right portion size, I finished all of it and even drank the broth. A perfect lunch for a cold winter’s day in the city.

* The life-sized gingerbread house is large enough for people to walk-thru it. It’s a bit of a Willy Wonka experience. I was surprised (and kinda grossed out) to see missing pieces of the gingerbread house, I can’t believe people would actually pick off some of the candy pieces. What did they do with it? Did they eat it? Why?

There was a life-sized gingerbread dog house too, that was really cute with the gingerbread in the shape of dog bones.

Vegan Birthday Freebies

Sprinkles Vegan Red Velvet Cupcake

September was quite the month of decadence with me trying out as many vegan birthday freebies as I could. Turns out I only had time to get to just a few of them. Unsurprisingly, I made sure to hit up some of my favorite spots first.

Since they open at 9am, first up is a vegan red velvet cupcake from Sprinkles. It’s still the one and only vegan option available. To get it, join their birthday club and on your b-day, you’ll get a email for a free cupcake that’s only good on your actual birthday. They will ask to see your id.

Veggie Grill B.T.L.A.

At Veggie Grill, you get a free entrée of your choice, I got the B.T.L.A. – smokey tempeh bacon, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro pesto tossed arugula, aioli mayo on grilled sourdough with yukon gold fries. It’s another awesome new addition to their menu. So far, I’ve liked everything that I’ve ever tried at Veggie Grill.

The birthday offer is good for 14 days from when it’s sent, I received it a week before my b-day. The email said they check id but they didn’t for me. To get it, join the GrillClub and get a free dessert just for signing up and occasionally they’ll send coupons to try out various items for free.

Starbucks Hearty Veggie Brown Rice Salad Bowl

Register a Starbucks card to get a birthday reward redeemable for your choice of drink or food. I went with the Hearty Veggie and Brown Rice Salad Bowl – roasted butternut squash, beets, kale, red cabbage, steamed broccoli florets and peas with lemon tahini dressing over brown rice. It was pretty good. Nice and healthy. Although I would prefer it if they had de-stem the kale.

Ike's Place Vegan Tom Brady

For a free birthday sandwich from Ike’s Place, join Ike’s E-Club. You’ll get an email with your free sandwich coupon a week before your b-day. It said to bring your id since they’re going to card you but they didn’t ask to see my id. It’s good for 14 days from when the email was sent.

I got the Vegan Tom Brady – vegan breaded chicken, garlic, mushrooms, herb sauce, avocado, vegan cheddar on Dutch Crunch. Messy to eat but so good. I can only managed to eat half of an Ike’s sandwich at a time. I also phoned in my order so I didn’t have to wait in line. As always, you get a free lollipop at Ike’s whether or not it’s your birthday.

I received these other birthday freebies that I didn’t get around to trying. But there’s always next year.

Red Robin, free birthday burger
Rubio’s, free meal up to $7
Johnny Rockets, free hamburger with a purchase of any entree and drink
Noodles & Company, free birthday bowl

The Veggie Grill Mountain View

Veggie Grill Buffalo Wings

I finally got around to eating at the Veggie Grill in Mountain View that opened earlier this year. I’ve been down to the Southern California one in El Segundo a few years ago. I loved it then and I still love it now. In the interim, they’ve expanded their menu and they have a number of interesting new items.

Buffalo Wings, while good (I think they’re just Gardein Chickin’), weren’t quite as exciting as the below cauliflower bites.

Veggie Grill Crispy Cauliflower

Crispy Cauliflower – fried panko breaded cauliflower florets tossed in a sweet and spicy, orange sauce. I got the sauce on the side as well as extra buffalo sauce. If you’re going for something fried, this is the thing to get.

Veggie Grill Bombay Bowl

Bombay Bowl – roasted veggies, super grains, kale, cannellini beans, almonds and topped with a green curry coconut sauce. Not the most photogenic of bowls but flavorful and filling. I wish I had asked for the sauce on the side as I couldn’t eat it all in one sitting.

Veggie Grill "Crab" Cake Sandwich

The “Crab” Cake Sandwich was exceptional – crispy “crab” cake, spiced tartar sauce, pickles, tomato, lettuce and red onion on a wheat bun with Yukon Gold fries. I don’t know where they get the crab cakes from but they’re really good.

Veggie Grill Carrot Cake

And the Carrot Cake was fluffy with big strands of carrot and the cream cheese icing wasn’t overly sweet, just the way I like it.

It’s pretty quick too, I usually get my food in about 10-15 minutes or so after ordering. Super friendly people and very helpful with menu suggestions if you’ve never been or are unsure.

There’s only two other Veggie Grill locations in all of Northern California, one at Santana Row in San Jose which I haven’t been to yet and the other that just opened in Corte Madera. If only there was one closer to me, I would be eating there all the time.

Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana Pismo Beach

Quinoa Farro Salad

Eating out as a large family is a constant challenge with everyone’s likes and dislikes, will eat and won’t eat. But now we have a new favorite for when we’re all together down on the central California coast, where there’s something good for everyone, Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana in Pismo Beach.

When it was first suggested as a dining option, I didn’t have much hope but called the restaurant anyways to ask about menu options that can easily be made vegan. I was delighted to hear that any of the salads can be made without the cheese and that the pizza dough is vegan.

I’ve eaten there three times now, each time I’ve gotten the salad off the specials-for-tonight menu. Pictured above is from the most recent visit, the quinoa farro salad without the cheese. It was huge. I didn’t expect it to be quite so large and only managed to make a small dent. No one wanted to help me eat it, because you know, it’s “healthy”. I don’t care, it’s more for me.

Vegetable Pizza

I also got a pizza with no cheese, just vegetables. It’s not on the menu but the chef just puts on whatever veggies that are available that night. It’s been different each time I’ve ordered it, summer veggies vs winter, but it’s always comes out great.

I’ve often wondered though, after calling the first time about vegan options, do you call again each time you plan on eating there? Or do you just assume they can make something vegan as they’ve done it before? I usually just assume unless I haven’t eaten there for a long time.

The service really was outstanding and very accommodating (we had a lot of special requests at our table and it wasn’t all me). The setting is casual, cozy, a bit on the small side so when they’re busy, there can be a wait. But it’s totally worth it.

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Voodoo Van

Voodoo Van Vegan Seitan Sandwich

While there’s been an increase in the number of food trucks near me, I haven’t seen all that many with good vegan options. Some have nothing at all, some are so close with a vegetarian option but it might as well be nothing.

Then there’s Voodoo Van with their Mister Sister vegan seitan sandwich – spicy sweet jerk marinated seitan topped with red onions. It’s tangy, meaty and filling, I washed it all down with a cucumber soda.

The only problem is they’re not closer to me on a regular basis, I never even heard of Voodoo Van until I spotted their food truck at this year’s Sunset Magazine Celebration. The weekend festival is like an open house at Sunset Magazine’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

You can tour their test kitchen, check out various presentations, exhibits and products. There was an outdoor/backyard oven manufacturer handing out pizza samples fresh out of their oven. Luckily, I got there just in time for a slice that had just olive oil and rosemary. So good, I could have eaten the whole thing for lunch but I didn’t want to gobble up all their samples.

Plus I would have missed out one mighty tasty seitan sandwich.

One Handsome Owl

Vegan Handsome Owl Sandwich

Ah, the joys of a road trip on spring break – the open road, the sun on your face, the wind rushing by, the challenge of finding something vegan to eat. For me, it’s that long stretch between San Jose and the Central Coast where eating options are bleak.

Any snacks that I actually remember to bring with me have long been eaten. Sure there’s always fast food chains or unknown restaurants where vegan inquiries are met with blank stares and the sound of crickets.

Then an Ike’s Place opened in Salinas of all places. Although Google maps had me driving the long way around to get there. Maybe it thought I should do a little sightseeing before arriving at Ike’s. It’s actually located not that far off of the 101 freeway.

Typical Ike’s, there’s something for everyone with separate sections of meat, vegetarian and vegan sandwiches made by super friendly folks. And the wait wasn’t too bad either.

I previously tried the Meatless Mike and the Vegan Backstabber at their Redwood Shores location. This time I went with a Vegan Handsome Owl – teriyaki, vegan breaded chicken, vegan cheese and wasabi mayo on dutch-crunch bread.

Delicious, a bit messy to eat, but so nice to be able to enjoy a good vegan meal at a pit stop.

San Francisco’s Underdog

Underdog Organic Vegan Smoked Chipotle Sausage

I’m at the point where I only eat vegan hot dogs when traveling or on some sort of excursion. It’s the same with veggie burgers. There was a time when I ate them at home but now I reserve them exclusivity for eating out just so I don’t get tire or burnt out eating such things. Plus, it makes it much more of a treat.

Last time was last year when I tried the vegan frankfurter at AT&T Park during a Giants game. This time, this year, it’s right before going to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Located close by on Irving Street between 17th and 18th Avenue is Underdog: The First Organic Hot Dog Joint. It’s a teeny-tiny spot serving both meaty and vegan hot dogs and sausages. You can kinda see how small it is, the red in the photo is the front door and window and that’s the entire width of the space inside. Outside, there’s a large mural on the side wall. Looks very San Francisco-ish, no?

San Francisco Underdog Side Wall

From at least a half dozen vegan options to choose from, I got the Vegan Smoked Chipotle Sausage on a toasted wheat bun with grilled onions and a side of baked tater tots. The sausage tasted like it’s from Field Roast, which you know is good. The taters could have been just a tad more crispy. But overall, it was just the thing to fill me up before going to gawk at museum paintings.

All of the condiments are organic and you just help yourself. I piled on handcrafted sauerkraut, relish and ketchup after I snapped the photo. Sides are organic too, those that are vegan include coleslaw, potato salad and chili.

Underdog Organic Homemade Soda

To drink, Underdog has a selection of homemade sodas along with bottled or canned organic juices and sodas. Pictured is the homemade mango vanilla soda served in a mason jar with a paper straw. I don’t normally drink sodas but I’ll make an exception for homemade.

Super friendly and they do their best to be a socially responsible business from recycling to using sustainable and biodegradable products. And they donate a portion of their profits to local charities. They may be the underdog but they sure are kicking butt.

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