Vegan Guide to San Francisco

Jeannine Abusharkh
Staff Writer 

San Francisco is a foodie destination where food trucks and novelty desserts reign supreme. The city is not just home to the well-known Bacon Truck and Crème Brulee cart, but also a city bursting with restaurants that are meat and dairy free, and provide customers with entirely vegan menus. Over the past two weeks I have challenged myself to eat solely vegan and was overjoyed to visit some delicious vegan spots around the city. Here are my impressions of just a few all-vegan restaurants.

Gracias Madre
211 Mission St 

Gracias Madre provides diners with meat-free and dairy-free versions of Mexican comfort foods that taste just like home-cooked Mexican fare. This festive restaurant–reminiscent of a Mexican cantina–is devoted to their customers, serving healthy and sustainable cuisine. The restaurant swaps cheesy ingredients usually found in Mexican cooking with cheeses made using only nuts. The Quesadillas de Calabaza cannot be missed. Whipped roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions are folded into house-made tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa. Overwhelmed by the range of options on the menu, I ordered the special that the friendly waitress recommended: a stew-like dish of chard, broccoli, and mushrooms in a peanut sauce served with a side of brown rice and pureed black beans. Although the dish was satisfying, it tasted more like Thai food and I felt let down considering my craving for a Mexican dish. I was more impressed by what my friends ordered. One had a comforting bowl of Pozole ($12), a traditional hominy stew in an ancho-chile broth that was topped with tortilla chips and avocado. Another ordered the Ensalada De Cole Rizada ($11), a mix of kale, orange slices, and creamy chipotle vinaigrette, and described it as “fresh, spicy, and perfect”. When we received the bill I was shocked by the price of my dish ($17) and felt defeated. However, I would like to return to try other items on the menu, like the enchiladas and cashew cheese nachos.

Seed + Salt
2240 Chestnut St

This Marina newcomer is pleasing the post-workout eater with their wholesome ingredients that are plant-based, organic, locally sourced and free of things like gluten, dairy, refined sugar, trans fats and GMOs. You would think that the menu would have its limits but chefs at Seed + Salt have come up with a comprehensive breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu with ingredients native to Northern California. They offer the most expensive shake I’ve found, the Super Alpha Mega Vanilla Shake costing $14, but it’s filled with ingredients that will help you power through the day. There are many options for thriftier patrons. After humming over the menu, the quinoa falafel ($12) grabbed my attention. This falafel was made with quinoa wrapped in collard greens, and stuffed with hummus, red cabbage slaw, cucumber, carrots, radish, sprouts and harissa. It was definitely the freshest meal that I had while on my vegan hype. My friend ordered the S+S Beet Burger ($14) which featured a patty made of of beets, walnuts, lentils, mushrooms, brown rice, raisins, spices, smoked sea salt and topped with vegan ranch dressing served on a gluten free burger bun. τ

Nourish Café
189 6th Avenue

Three friends frustrated by the lack of healthy food in the Richmond District recently opened Nourish Café. With a focus on healthy, plant-based foods, Nourish Café offers big bowls of salad, fresh juices, and acai bowls. When I entered the airy café I was craving an acai bowl, but was told they had run out. They were instead offering Dragon Fruit Bowls ($10). I decided to go with it and was pleasantly surprised by the fruity bowl that was topped with sliced bananas and granola. The granola sourced from Floating Lotus–a small batch local food company–was made of sprouted buckwheat, sprouted sunflower, pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds. It was the highlight of the dish and made me want to order a second helping. I had food envy when my friend ordered the Nourish Bowl ($12). The big bowl of salad was topped with quinoa, spinach, sliced yams, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds, a chunky house made hummus and dressed in an oil-free hemp dressing. All of the items at Nourish Cafe are garnished to perfection, and considering its close proximity to USF, I will be back for more.

Photo Courtesy of Jeannine Abusharkh/Foghorn

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