what i ate in san francisco as a vegan
With the craziness of a fast-paced, densely-packed city shoved on the West coast, San Francisco, once a place sought out after for its gold, is now known for gold skin, gold sand, a few gold teeth, and gold medals. Why the gold medals? Well, everyone gets one after they climb one of the many San Fran hills. For hills there are a plenty.
San Francisco is defined by its hills. With cable cars moving up and down them like makeshift rollercoaster cars, they mirror neighbourhoods and divide the city. They shape the cold fog, guide the brisk wind and are home to famous landmarks like Coit Tower. And while it's a tradition to mention the "seven hills of San Francisco”, there are actually 42 (and some argue there are even more than that!). Either way, the hills make an excellent excuse to eat dessert twice a day, everyday - which I did #veganbootygains.
While I was only in the city for a few short days - this being my second time here - I ate pretty dang well. I don’t think I got to even a quarter of what was on offer, so please accept my humble apologises. In and amongst lunging uphill and viewing the Redwood Trees, the Mission district, the Summer of Love exhibition and Haight-Ashbury, I chowed.
Voted the best vegan restaurant on Happy Cow, I dragged my unsuspecting family for some “amazing Chinese, Vietnamese and Asian food”. It unfortunately didn’t live up to the expectations from the reviews by past patrons. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never been a fan of the oily Chinese cuisine. Maybe the mock-meats were too meaty. Maybe I tried the wrong dishes. Who knows! I guess you win some and you lose some, but I’m still glad I ticked it off the bucket list nonetheless, otherwise I would still be wondering, “What IIIIFFFF!?!?!”.
My family shared some Stir-Fried Broccoli with slices of soy protein and black mushroom, the Quinoa Salad and Crispy Cauliflower. I had their Spicy Kung Pao that came with soy protein, celery, onion, zucchini, peanuts, bell peppers sautéed in spicy kung pao sauce. My dad had the Spicy Sweet Potato Curry while my mom and sister had two different soups. Highlight meal: Quinoa salad.
Oh golly. This place was so nice we went there thrice! Twice for breakfast and once for lunch. Nourish is so special - the people who work there are so kind, the portions are generous and filled with fresh, organic and whole-food ingredients, and the meals are innovative, fun and nutritious. And they are a fully vegan restaurant. I wish I could take the whole kitchen in my suitcase to take back home!
While I didn’t devour the entire menu, I got through a fair amount of options on offer. Some dessert standouts included their melty, chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie, Super Seed Cookie, Magnesium Raw Chocolate Bar made with pumpkin seeds and figs, the power-packed soft ‘n gooey Energy Protein Bar and their Carrot cake Cupcake - both oil-free! For breakfast, try the Acai Bowl and their special Green Acai bowl that is made with spinach, broccoli, ginger, citrus and almond milk, topped with bananas, coconut and hemp & green granola. I also tried their Toast Sampler where I was given a slice of Country-bread divided into four. I decided on the Homemade Almond Butter, Sweet Ricotta (from Kite Hill), the slightly fishy “Lox” (nut cheese from Kite Hill, tomato, carrot, kelp flakes & red onion), and Housemade Nutella - my favourite one obviously. It was a tough choice but I hope I did you all proud. Try their green matcha latte, their magical blue-green matcha latte and their glowing turmeric latte.
For lunch, the Nourish Bowls with a side of tofu or falafel are light yet filling. Filled with quinoa, lettuce mix, yam, avo, hummus, sauerkraut, fresh veggies, toasted sunflower seeds and an oil-free creamy hemp dressing, I could tell these bowls were made with so much love.
I wish I tried their famous “Tuna” Sandwich, their Grilled Cheese Melt, the Bibimbap Salad and Quinoa Waffle. Guess who needs to come back to San Fran again?
Apparently, this restaurant was one of the highlights for my mom from the whole trip (#winning)! This was my second time going here - the first time being in 2015 - and it was just as memorable. Peña Pachamama is an Argentina and Bolivian restaurant with live music and dancing; wonderful, accommodating hosts; fabulous decor; and of course, delicious and organic food. The one half of the menu is raw (FYI - their kale chips are one of the best I’ve ever had) while the other half is cooked.
My whole family shared their beautiful bountiful Organic Tapas Sampler that came with yuca fries, grilled plantains (YUM!), organic lentil pate with raw crackers, plantain chips, guacamole, roasted potatoes with a nut sauce and a green salad. I ordered the Raw Taco & Coconut Bacon BLT Combo (sunflower flax pumpernickle bread/taco, organic tomato, lettuce, avocado, sauerkraut, pickles, dehydrated coconut bacon and salad). My dad had the Vegan Mozzarella Pizza (great crust btw) while my mom and sister had the Vegan Chef’s Plate (yuca, organic quinoa, guacamole, kale chips & organic greens). For dessert, I had their utterly delicious white chocolate cheesecake while my dad had the coconut-vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.
I would come back for a third time. The ambiance alone is enough to make anyone feel fill :) As Robin Williams said — "The kind of place even the Amish would dance."
(No photos unfortunately due to the lighting which, by the way, set a good ambiance but not a good setting for photography).
My sister and I found this place after a flowing yoga class in the Mission district. It’s a perfect place for a quick breakfast, on-the-road smoothie or refreshing juice. Their Green Acai Bowl, Nut Butter Acai Bowl, avo on cake-like toast, the raw Megaroon (their take on a macaroon) and Immunity Flush Kombucha on tap are on point!
My dad really wanted to check out this place as it’s meant to be the best modern Vietnamese restaurant in the whole of San Francisco. Some people book up to a month in advance but we got lucky and managed to get a table the day before we decided to book. It must be the South African charm. The place is pretty fancy, based on the Wharf, with a definite older crowd. The walls are filled with large paintings of dogs - I have yet to figure out why.
For every item on the menu, the Executive Chef, Charles Phan, goes to the original source region of that item. He first studies the traditional ingredients and techniques and then recreates the original using contemporary methods and with fresh local ingredients.
Standouts included the Vegetarian Banh Bot Loc (mung bean tapioca dumplings, scallion oil & thai chili soy sauce), the Green Papaya Salad, the Hodo Soy Beanery Organic Tofu (pressed tofu, shiitake mushroom, sweet roasted chili sauce & lemongrass), and the Young Broccolini with ginger and rice wine. Their tea selection is also on point.
So was it the best modern Vietnamese food? Maybe. Maybe not. The atmosphere was a bit stuffy for me but perhaps I just need to grow up a bit ;)
Other notable mentions from my previous visit:
Ferry Building Famers Market at Pier 1 - for all of the different date varieties, tofu testers and fresh organic fruit and veg.
Shizen Sushi - for creative, knock-your-socks-off fully vegan and Asian cuisine, in the trendy Mission area.