Hope Sinks

San Francisco Round Up
May 28, 2008, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Veganism | Tags: , ,

So I’m back from San Francisco. To add insult to the injury of being back in my shitty old town, my husband is seeing Iron Maiden tonight (as I type, he’s in a car with 4 friends eating vegan cookies and popcorn, that bastard). Granted, I’m waiting for my sister so we can head out and see Battles (for free, even), and an old friend from university is in town and hanging out tomorrow, but I’m still sad that I’m no longer in San Francisco and will be sleeping alone for the next month at the very least.


Each time I’ve been to SF I’ve meant to write afterwards about the food. Here in Edmonton, vegan food can be difficult to come by, and oftentimes, if I want something either specific or specifically well made, I have to make it myself. San Francisco is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Where I live (when I’m there) is 4 short blocks away from one of the greatest grocery stores I’ve ever known: Rainbow Grocery. Though native SFers tend to criticize Rainbow for being expensive (which, okay, it can be), the selection makes up for it. Rainbow carries Sjaak’s vegan caramel chocolate bars, more kinds of Tofurkey than I’ve ever seen, three colours of organic beets, and even cast-iron frying pans. Plus, it’s a cooperatively run place that closes not on xmas or easter but on May Day and Hugo Chavez Day, and it carries all kinds of local products (Black China Bakery, Peasant Pies, Maggie Mudd, and countless local farmers).

I didn’t eat out as much this time as I have in the past, but I did have a few meals worth mentioning (though I only got photos of one thing – apologies!). The first night in town, my husband took me to the Jasmine Tea House, which isn’t a vegan or even vegetarian restaurant but which has the greatest mock chicken I’ve ever had. Try it kung pao or sweet and sour style. Located in the heart of the Mission district, the Jasmine Tea House also has the added bonus of being a fun bus ride from my place. This time around, I sat next to a crazy drunk man who called my husband chubby and pontificated on the merits of John McCain for a whole 10 minutes.

Next meal out was breakfast at Boogaloo’s on Valencia Street. While Boogaloo’s isn’t altogether vegan oriented, there are some good items on the menu (I had the tofu scramble with ranchero salsa and mushroom, and husband had tofu scramble with ginger peanut sauce; both of us had fruit in lieu of hash and also rye toast) and great diner-style coffee, which I love.

That night, I hit up Bender’s bar on South Van Ness (a short 10-minute walk from home). Bender’s is not only a cool place to drink (with good beer on tap and a good happy hour and good music), but they serve the vegan fish and chips from Weird Fish! While I haven’t been to the flagship Weird Fish store, if what Lukas cooks up at Bender’s is any indication, it must kick ass. The vegan fish and chips at Bender’s consists of a couple pieces of battered and deep-fried seitan with a gingery sesame sauce and a big basket of home-cut fries. It’s pretty much the perfect thing to eat while drinking. Incidentally, that’s also what I ate on my wedding night, so it will always have a place in my heart.

Next up (and last but not least on the list of restaurants I visited this trip) was the brand new The Usual Suspects Cafe. I was tipped off about this place by my friend melisser, whose new baking venture, Sugar Beat Sweets, is providing the desserts for the Cafe. Now, I complained about San Franciscans who complained about the Herbivore restaurants in the Bay Area. I figured they were being unnecessarily snobby and didn’t appreciate what they had. I’ve only eaten at Herbivore one time, and it was okay, but the food was uninspired, and from what I’ve heard, the staff and management of Herbivore don’t care all that much about veganism or animals or creating really great vegan/veg*n food. This is absolutely not the case at The Usual Suspects. While there is (for the time being, anyway) cheese on the menu, the offerings at Suspects are largely vegan, with an assortment of vegan cheeses (including cashew cheese and macadamia nut cheese). In addition, the kitchen staff are vegans who interned at Millennium, and boy did they do a good job.

The fettucine with pesto, seitan, and oyster mushrooms that I had was perfect. The seitan (which was house made) was just the right consistency; the pasta was cooked perfectly; the pesto was flavorful without being an overpowering garlic paste. The salad was generous and topped with a delicious cherry balsamic dressing. The picture I took doesn’t do it justice, but trust me when I say that if you live in the Bay Area, you should be visiting this place. To top it all off, the chocolate cake with peanut butter caramel (yeah – holy shit!) that I ordered for dessert was so amazing I didn’t get a photo. The cake was moist and flavorful, certainly delicious on its own, but the caramel was perfect. Sticky, thick enough to hold a bit of shape on the cake but without it being too hard and tearing the cake. I could eat this stuff plain and in disgustingly large quantities.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, since the writing of this post, The Usual Suspects closed its doors. It came to light that the owner failed to treat the staff, particularly the kitchen staff, with any kind of professionalism or respect, and so they have walked out. From what I hear, the cafe is attempting to stay open, but I urge you not to support an establishment that abuses its staff. Besides, the real genius of the cafe, the chefs and bakers, are gone and are reportedly going to be opening up a place in Portland ASAP! Sugar Beat Sweets is still fully operational, so be sure to buy their stuff if you’re in the Bay Area!

Finally, I wanted to mention the beers of San Francisco. Not that all the stuff I drank was made in SF, but holy crap do San Franciscans ever know their beer. If you’re in the Bay Area and like to drink at all, be sure to check out City Beer!


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m sorry we didn’t get the chance to hang out! I was SO frazzled when y’all came in to the cafe, I couldn’t even properly say Hello. eek! Glad you liked the cake, I have a hard time not eating that PB caramel with a spoon! haha.

Comment by Melisser

I’m a lurker at PPK and just wanted to say that your tattoos are fantastic.


Comment by flaco

It seems like you had quite a time in SF. :>

Comment by Kelvin

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