Archive for the 'Restaurant Reviews' Category

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.

Pot Pie Paradise

Vegan Jerk Tempeh Pot Pie

Somehow I always end up trying something new for my holiday meal. It’s kind of a tradition now, the trying-something-new. This year, I skipped the mock meaties, the un-this, roast-that and went with a humble pot pie. But not any ol’ pie, vegan ones from Pot Pie Paradise in Hayward, CA.

Tucked away in an industrial park, this no-frills deli isn’t just a slice of paradise but the whole pie. Focusing on healthy ingredients and creative fillings, they have a selection of homemade pot pies that changes daily, including a nice variety of vegan and vegetarian ones. I got three to try out:

Jerk Tempeh Vegan (pictured above)
Sometimes I’m a little wary of getting tempeh in restaurants (it can be bitter if not prepared properly) but the pie was delicious. Great jerk flavor, plenty of tempeh and veggies, nicely spiced.

Vegan Pot Pie

Piccata Mushroom Vegan (not pictured)
Even though the directions say it can be microwaved. Don’t. It leaves the crust soggy. Reheating in the oven is way better, resulting in a beautiful crust, flaky and buttery as it’s meant to be. No photo as there’s no point in taking one of a soggy crust (or maybe I should have as an example of what not to do). The filling is a mushroom lover’s dream – shiitake, oyster, portobello, along with orzo and fresh herbs.

Sweet Potato Thai Curry Vegan (pictured above, fresh out of the oven)
Filled with vegetables and Thai curry flavor but it seemed a bit drier than the other two. I would have liked more sauce. It’s the only quibble really. Overall, it’s pretty good.

But there’s still other vegan flavors to try such as Tikka Masala or Tuscan Delight and there’s dessert pies too. Besides the buttery crust, I really liked their range of atypical fillings. I can see why they were on the pot pie episode of Travel Channel’s Food Paradise. If you’re ever in the area, it’s definitely a must try.

Posts of Christmas Past
A Very Crabby Holiday
Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y
Smoked Vegetarian Goose for the Holidays

Vegan Eating at the Home of SF Giants

Garlic Fries at AT&T Park

The other weekend I attended my first San Francisco Giants baseball game at AT&T Park. I had heard they had vegan hot dogs. Not that I eat hot dogs all that much but it’s pretty cool to be able to have one sitting at the ballpark just like everyone else.

To my dismay, when I asked to confirm that it’s vegan, the counter person said it’s not. Knowing I was going to the game, I had done my homework on vegan options there. I even made a note of the closest vegan food to my seating section. So I asked what makes it not vegan – does it have egg?

They brought out the ingredients list for me to look at and it’s a Field Roast Frankfurter, of course that’s vegan. It’s a good hot dog – I haven’t tried it before even though it’s available at Whole Foods for awhile now. It’s made from vital wheat gluten which I prefer over the soy based ones. The texture seems better.

Field Roast Hot Dog at AT&T Park

I also got garlic fries because you really can’t go to AT&T Park and not get the fries. They’re not the super crispy kind. They’re pretty soft but still delicious and garlicky. The food came out quick but it was probably because it was on the early side and there wasn’t a line yet. It’s captive audience pricing though, with the five dollar bottle of water, my hot dog and fries lunch ended up being just under 20 bucks.

Baseball Players at AT&T Park

I didn’t look for any other vegan options, I’m sure there’s other items. From my seat, this is the view of the players warming up before the game. It’s way more interesting experiencing the game in person than watching it on tv; I didn’t want to miss any of the action wandering around looking for something else to eat. Although there’s a handy interactive map of the park amenities on the Giants website that show locations of food/drink by level and section.

A helpful site for finding veggie options at various ballparks:
Veggie Happy MLB Venue Vegetarian Guide

Veggie Land

BBQ Plate with Vermicelli Noodles

It’s always a delight to find vegan food, even more so when it pops up in the most unexpected of places. Veggie Land is a Vietnamese vegetarian spot (more like an oasis) in the food court at the Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino.

The mall’s food court is over by JC Penney, and on Friday mornings, there’s a farmer’s market conveniently located just outside in the parking lot. You can shop for fresh fruit and veggies and then go in for a quick bite to eat.

I asked the counter person if everything was vegetarian. “Yes.” Anything vegan? “Yes, everything. No egg and no onion.” As usual, when presented with an entire menu of options, I’m racked with indecision. Should I get one of the noodle soups or the jackfruit salad? I settled on the BBQ plate with vermicelli.

BBQ Plate with Vermicelli Noodles

The BBQ is the Asian type of veggie mock meat with a very nice flavor and a chewy, meaty texture. Comes with vermicelli noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, mint, cucumbers, peanuts, cilantro and a separate container of sauce. I think the pile in the right upper corner is shredded tofu and vegetables.

Everything was very fresh and delicious, and it’s a good sized portion for $6.50. Plus it only took about 5 minutes or so to get my order, pretty darn good for fast food, vegan or not.

Roasted Butternut Squash Tamale From The Oaxacan Kitchen

Roasted Butternut Squash Tamale

While at the Palo Alto California Avenue farmer’s market today, I picked up a tamale from The Oaxacan Kitchen booth. That was the extent of my Cinco de Mayo activity for the day. It’s not much compared to whipping up a tableful of Mexican dishes or hanging out at a party, but it sure was tasty.

There’s only one vegan tamale, the Roasted Butternut Squash – Fresh corn, guaillo salsa, big chunks of butternut squash and zucchini. Really good flavor. Available mild, spicy or extra spicy. I got the middle spice level, spicy but not mouth-on-fire kind of spicy (at least for me), $4.00 for one.

I haven’t tried anything else there but while waiting for my food, I spotted the lady making corn tortillas to order. She would grab a bit of the dough from a giant pile, flatten it out in a large hand press and then cooked it up. Man, she was fast.

And all this in basically the middle of the street (a section is closed down for the farmer’s market). Next time, I going to have to try to get something that has those handmade tortillas.

Chipotle Sofritas

Sofritas Burrito Bowl From Chipotle

Last week I tried sofritas, the new shredded tofu option that Chipotle is testing out. I’m happy to report it’s really good. And no wonder, the organic, non-GMO tofu is supplied by a local Oakland-based Hodo Soy Beanery. Maybe that’s why the seven test locations are all in the Bay Area.

I got a burrito bowl with brown rice, fresh tomato salsa, the tomatillo green chili salsa as well as the red, guacamole and romaine lettuce. I pushed aside some of the guacamole and lettuce so you can see the tofu there on the left side. Braised with chipotle chilies, roasted poblanos and spices, the tofu has a very nice savory taste and a meaty texture.

I asked the counter people how long the sofritas will be available but they didn’t know. Just that if it does well, they’ll keep it on the menu. If you’re nearby and thinking of trying it, it’s probably best to do it sooner rather than later.

The chosen Chiptole restaurants with sofritas:
525 Market Street, San Francisco
121 Fourth Street, San Francisco
126 New Montgomery St., San Francisco
2019 Chess Drive, San Mateo
251 East 3rd Ave., San Mateo
180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
135 El Camino Real, Millbrae

Rooster Creek Tavern Arroyo Grande CA

Veggie Paella at Rooster Creek Tavern

Visiting one’s hometown is always a slightly weird experience – you get the “remember-back-when” mixed in with the “oh-that’s-new.” A new to me restaurant is the Rooster Creek Tavern, located in the downtown village of Arroyo Grande, CA (a town halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the Central Coast). There’s an actual creek behind the storefronts with a swinging bridge and real live roosters and chickens freely roaming around the creek and parking lot area.

I’ve notice the restaurant months before but when asked, there wasn’t anything vegan on the menu. I remember thinking that’s too bad.

Too lazy to drive all the way to San Luis Obispo during this last trip, I looked for some place a little closer that could accommodate the diets and tastes of the whole family and gave the Rooster Creek another look-see. This time it looked much more promising, they must have updated the menu since that first inquiry.

I can only confirm the Veggie Paella is vegan – smoked tofu, bell pepper and onion in saffron veg broth with saffron rice. I didn’t ask about any other items. It’s just nice to not always be stuck with a veggie burger when eating out.

Veggie Paella at Rooster Creek Tavern

The paella is cooked to your spicy level, I went with medium. It came out piping hot, just perfect for the extra chilly weather. It was so warming, I had to take off my jacket.

The flavor is good, but I didn’t really taste the smokiness of the tofu and kinda wish there was a few more pieces. I normally request no bell peppers as they’re not my favorite by a long shot. But I’m actually getting better about having them in my food. I’ll eat them nowadays if they happen to be in a dish. And if they’re any color but green. But I won’t guarantee I’ll eat all of them on my plate (there was a lot as you can see). Now, that’s real progress.

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