Our Vegan Adventures in San Francisco Bay Area: Millennium Restaurant, Davey Jones Deli, Smart Alec’s, Blossom Vegan Restaurant.

So 2016 is in full swing, and I finally have a new blog post for ya! Even a few months ago, I wouldn’t have expected to start it off with travel adventures, but here we go – we recently went to visit Rob’s side of the family in San Francisco Bay area, and in less than two weeks we’ll be heading to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras. One trip down, another to go!

This was my first time ever visiting San Francisco and the Bay area, and I was definitely very impressed! I’ve heard that it was a true vegan haven, but since we were with the family, eating at as many vegan places as we could wasn’t really our goal. We still found a few vegan gems though, so hopefully our experience helps you if you head that way at some point!

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In case you’re wondering, the boots I’m wearing in this pic are totally vegan! They are made by Will’s London and can be found here.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without the obligatory visit of the Golden Gate Bridge. We really lucked out with the weather that day, especially given that it rained every day for the rest of our trip.

Having relatives in that area was a great benefit since they knew all the best places to show us. One of my favorites was the Land’s End Park on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Even though Rob and I live just outside of Seattle, we still haven’t made it to the Pacific coast in Washington, so finally seeing the ocean in San Francisco was very exciting! Plus, we got to the park just before the sunset, which made the area look even more beautiful:

Pacific-Ocean-San-Francisco-from-Lands-End-park-1Another tourists’ favorite spot is  the Ferry Building on the other side of town, known for its artisanal food shops and restaurants. My sister-in-law, who grew up in San Francisco area, took us there before dinner on Thursday. I’m a huge fan of artisan markets, so I had a great time: I stocked up on some heirloom beans at the Rancho Gordo stand (I previously thought that RG only exists online) and got my hands deep into that sweet bucket of beans below:

Rancho Gordo shop in the Ferry Building in San Francisco

There were also some vegan-friendly food stands at the Ferry Building, but we weren’t looking to eat there as we were anticipating our dinner at the one and only Millennium restaurant! In case you haven’t heard of it, Millennium is an all-vegan staple of San Francisco Bay area that’s been voted best vegan restaurant in the country, if not the world (since the linked article was published, Millennium has moved to Oakland). It’s been on my bucket list for a while, so I was excited to give it a try during this trip.

My sister-in-law’s side of the family is mostly vegetarian, while Rob’s parents were the only omnivores in our party of seven, but everyone enjoyed our dinner. We shared a few appetizers – charred broccoli stems and warm spinach salad are to die for, with the latter containing smoked tofu cubes so reminiscent of bacon in texture and flavor that I almost had to double-check the menu to make sure they were vegan. For entrees, everyone got something different. I went with the Tamale Verde shown below (sorry for the cell phone picture quality), served with smoked black beans and a root vegetable hash.

Vegan Tamale Verde at Millennium restaurant in Oakland, CA

I could talk about our dinner at Millennium for a long time, but I’ll spare you here since there’s a lot of other things I’d like to cover. In case you’re in Bay area someday, this is definitely a place worth checking out, just make sure to call a couple weeks ahead for reservations.

Finding vegan food in Bay area proved to be fairly easy, although we did have a couple bloopers. On the day we were exploring Sausalito, we decided to check out a casual farm-to-table type burger joint that boasted a ‘vegan burger’ on its menu according to our online search results. Lesson learned: don’t blindly trust Yelp or Urban Spoon reviewers as they can be misinformed! The veggie patty in question ended up containing eggs, which I found out just before placing an order. Since there was literally nothing else available for me and Rob, our entire party got up and left. Instead, we found a true gem of a deli in a less touristy part of town – a place called Davey Jones Deli located inside of the least attention-grabbing convenience store in the world!

The deli boasted a very impressive menu of freshly made sandwiches and wraps, with at least a couple clearly marked vegan options. On top of the set menu, you can also order a sandwich ala carte using any combination of their ingredients. Rob and I both ordered their bestselling vegan wraps (see below), which turned out to be HUGE! The wraps were stuffed to the brim with fresh avocado, beets, grains, sprouts and almonds, and I even saw some lentils peeking back at me. Definitely worth another visit!

Vegan veggie wrap from Davey Jones Deli in Sausalito, CA

Another interesting lunch happened when we were checking out my sister-in-law’s alma mater, UC Berkeley. She told us about various eateries she used to favor back in her college days, and since she’s mostly vegetarian, we knew this stuff had to be right up our alley. We ended up at Smart Alec’s, a very reasonably priced café with lots of vegan, vegetarian and omni options. I had a tofu and avocado sandwich (seen below, once again I apologize for my cell phone picture skills) while Rob opted for a veggie burger. Interestingly, Smart Alec’s doesn’t deep-fry their French fries – they air-bake them instead, but you couldn’t tell that from the way they taste!

Vegan Tofu and Avocado Sandwich at Smart Alec, Berkeley, CA

My sister-in-law ordered her favorite treat from her college days – chili cheese fries that used to be served with vegan cheese but now appear to have cheddar on them. In case you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods, ask the cashier if they offer vegan cheese for these (we didn’t), and maybe you’ll be in luck!

A couple spectacular meals happened at my sister-in-law’s house, but unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. Her mom and grandma made us elaborate South Indian meals with some of the things I’ve never even seen at Indian restaurants! My favorite thing was idli – small steamed pillows of fermented rice, served in a bowl of light vegetable soup. I could have those every day for the rest of my life!

On Sunday, we celebrated Rob’s birthday at an all-vegan Asian restaurant in Pleasanton called Blossom. I ordered stir-fried ‘beef’ and broccoli, and Rob got vegetable chow mein with organic tofu. The broccoli was bright green and crunchy – just the way I like it cooked – and the vegan ‘beef’ had a spot-on texture and a flavor fairly close to the original. I’m not a huge fan of fake meats though, so if this dish came with tofu instead, I would have been even happier.

Vegan Beef and Broccoli at Blossom Vegan Restaurant, Pleasanton, CA

Since it was Rob’s birthday, we decided to get some dessert to share. The restaurant had a nice selection of vegan desserts. We ordered a slice of Oreo cake that turned out to have amazingly fluffy frosting. It wasn’t made in house, but at that point it didn’t make a difference for us.

Vegan Oreo cake at Blossom Vegan Restaurant in Pleasanton, Ca

So that’s how our vegan adventures went in San Francisco Bay area! I’d love to go back there at some point and explore vegan food offerings in San Francisco proper, since there are just so many of them. In case you’re heading that way and can’t afford to wait for that post, here’s an article by Lindsay Nixon of Happy Herbivore blog in which she shares her findings a few months earlier.

UPDATE 3/15/2017: Recently Inderpreet from one of the vegan FB groups I belong to shared a whole plethora of vegan and veg-friendly restaurants in San Francisco – Bay Area. Below are her picks.

Vegan San Francisco:

Wholesome Bakery – vegan & gluten-free pastry shop
Pena Pachamama – raw vegan & gluten-free restaurant featuring Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine
Gracias Madre – vegan & vegetarian Mexican cuisine
Shizen – vegan sushi bar & Izakaya
Golden Era – vegan Asian food
Enjoy Vegetarian – vegetarian & vegan Chinese cuisine
Lucky’s Creation  – vegetarian & vegan Chinese/Asian cuisine
VeganBurg – vegan burger shop (also has a location in Singapore)
Indochine – traditional Korean cuisine, veganized
Udupi – vegan & vegetarian South Indian cuisine
Nourish Cafe – vegan sandwiches, wraps, salads, smoothies, etc.

Good Veg options:

Papalote
St Francis Fountain
Urban Fish
Big Lantern
Sunflower
Goat Hill Pizza
Plant Cafe Organic

East Bay:

Sanctuary Bistro
Soulely Vegan
Hella Vegan Eats
Shangri La
Two Mama’s
Butcher’s Son
Flacos

Question for you: what’s your favorite vegan restaurant (or a restaurant with vegan options) that you discovered while traveling?

Please post your thoughts and comments below!

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About Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Being vegan eventually opened her eyes on the issues of animal welfare, environmental protection, human rights and feminism. Alina hopes that her blog will help its readers on their path to making this world a better place.
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6 Responses to Our Vegan Adventures in San Francisco Bay Area: Millennium Restaurant, Davey Jones Deli, Smart Alec’s, Blossom Vegan Restaurant.

  1. Cadry says:

    What a fun trip! I love the Bay area, and it’s been way too long since I’ve gotten to spend any time in San Francisco. When I lived in Los Angeles, I went fairly often, and I miss that beautiful city! It looks like you had a great time. I haven’t been to Millennium since they changed locations. Their food definitely lives up to the hype!

    That’s too bad about the non-vegan burger, and your whole table needing to leave because there was nothing else for you and Rob. That can be so awkward. That happened to David and I once when we were visiting some friends in another state. They took us to a place that advertised their vegan options, but then they were out of everything. Our whole big table left and went out for Thai food instead. Hopefully that will show restaurants that even though vegans make up a small percentage, it can overflow into their non-vegan clientele when the vegans in the group are left out of the menu planning.

    • Alina says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking, Cadry! It’s especially disappointing when it happens at places that bill themselves as ‘farm-to-table’, etc. I really hope that eventually the lightbulb will turn on in the minds of restaurant owners to include at least 1-2 vegan entrees.

  2. Terri Cole says:

    In New Orleans, check out Surrey Cafe if you get the chance. They are vegan-friendly, including fresh pressed juices. Truly delicious food!

  3. Joy says:

    Ouuu so many great places for me to try! Thanks for the list. I am challenging myself to eat San Francisco from A to Z and V will be Vegan. Can’t wait!!

    If you are ever in the area again, I heard Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya is also great. If you have more restaurants that you want to try but didn’t have time, I would appreciate it if you can pass the list along and I will share my stomach, try them and rank them.

    • Alina says:

      Hi Joy! I didn’t really have a plan other than to check out the Millennium, so there’s no list to pass along. Take a look at the article by Lindsay Nixon linked at the end of this post, she has some great suggestions!

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