One thing I know to be true about San Diego vegans: You are either a Rancho’s person or a Pokez person (plus a few Liticker’s punks). Me, I give all my marbles to Pokez. One of the few quantifiable reasons I can understand people preferring Rancho’s is their vegan cheese. But a dusting of unmelted Daiya isn’t going to sway my heart—especially when I can bask in the warmth of Pokez’s Potato Flautas ($8.79).
… Pokez (San Diego, CA)
Swollen with naivety and fortitude, in 2003 I moved in New York City. I knew few people so though nothing of the 90 minute subway ride from Bed Stuy to the Bronx to see a familiar face. The reward for this proved to be much more then conversation, it was my introduction to an iconic NYC dish: General Tso’s Tofu. A quintessentially Chinese-American sauce—cloyingly sweet and salty with soy—shellacked on cubes of deep fried soft tofu, scattered with ornamental dried chilies, and strewn with lightly steamed broccoli. To be cliche, it was love at first bite.
… Chopsticks Inn (La Mesa, CA)
I can’t put me finger on it. Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate‘s blend of dark Communist humor, Soviet hospitality, Georgian wine, topped with a plentiful selections of vegan options is so uncommon in the restaurant world. It beckons me with charm and salad, while at the same time flippantly tossing my kudos out the door.
The skill of the kitchen, and diversity of the cuisine, dances around the silver dimples of the Zakuski Sampler Platter. Or as Kafe Sobaka puts it, “For those who left their GPS in the car, allow our wait staff to orient you to the possibilities. ($Anarchist).” Our platter included all the vegan salads—plus a few off-menu items. While some salads—like the Lobio: Pâté style red beans with herbs, walnuts, tomatoes, and onions—were better then others, all were full of sharp, fierce flavors. I’m inclined to call it one of the San Diego’s best vegan dishes.
… Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate (San Diego, CA)[CLOSED]
An invite to Eclipse Chocolate for dinner was bewildering. Only because I had no idea this chocolate shop—whose bars can be found at shops throughout San Diego—is a full service restaurant with vegan options. From start to finish the menu is sprinkled with hints of a pastry chef—a little coco here, a splash of vanilla there—all in a savory context.
… Eclipse Chocolate (San Diego, CA)
Mello vibes fill the fair-trade cups lingering on the cafe tables at Mamacoffee on Vodičkova. I order a cup of standard brewed coffee—yes, I like my coffee boring—because it seemed the thing to do; but I was really here for the food.
… Mammacoffee (Prague, Czech Republic)
Drifting through the dusty snow we rounded the corner of Boršov—the shortest street in Prauge—where a small sign waved us into one of Paurge’s premiere vegetarian restaurant, Lehka Hlava. Behind (what an American like me considers) an ancient door this Gothic home opens into a slender atrium where a single wiry tree reaches toward the sky. Confirming our reservation, the hostess draws us into a space where the spirit of Bohemian thrives. Under the fiber optic galaxy an eclectic international menu is served out of the open rainbow kitchen. Vegan items are clearly marked—along with the requisite 14 allergens.
… Lehka Hlava “Clear Head” (Prague, Czech Republic)
…which is way harder then I thought! But here is a peek at how I got drawn into the vegan lifestyle, my love of pizza, and the one item I’m desperately waiting for someone to veganize.
Art filled walls surround diners in San Diego’s Fairouz Cafe & Gallery, by owner Ibrahim Al Nashashibi, and numerous vegan options fill the hot and cold trays of the all day Greek and Lebanese buffet (Lunch $12.99 / Dinner $15.99). All clearly marked and generous, the buffet makes for an easy-to-dine-together meal for difficult groups—but for those not partial to food sitting out all day, there is table service as well.
… Fairouz Cafe and Gallery (San Diego, CA)
One of the biggest fights of my life occurred after someone asked “What is your favorite cuisine?”
After a pondering pause—with pizzas, banh mis, and pad see-ew fly through the flavor pockets of my mind—I said:
… Awash Market (San Diego, CA)
Helming the Studio City kitchen, Jerry Yu delivers vegetarian—mostly vegan—dishes devoid of mock meats and omnivorous similes. Yu relies of the breath of organic fruits and vegetable adorn with nuts whipped into luscious sauces. On paper the preparations sound simple, but they comes together like magic on a plate.
… Vege • ta • ble (Los Angeles, CA)