So I know what you’re thinking. As soon as you hear (or read, in this case) the word “vegan,” you’re thinking about limitations and bland food and eating only green things. Well, I’m here to promise you that the world of vegan food is anything but bland, and is actually infinitely creative and delicious. In a diet where no products from an animal are allowed, one must resort to innovative ways of recreating the dishes we have all grown up loving.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to introduce you to the best and the brightest vegan restaurants in the Bay area. You need not be a vegan, nor even a vegetarian, to enjoy the food here. Just have an open mind and an empty stomach.
First up: Souley Vegan. A small restaurant hidden in deep in the pockets of Downtown Oakland. Upon entry, the door chimes jingle, revealing a quaint and modest restaurant. The entire menu is written in yellow and pink on a big green chalkboard, handmade order number placards sit on the counter, and stringed lights snake up a large pillar in the center. A large painting of Ella Fitzgerald hangs on the wall. An always cheery cashier smiles and says, “Hello! Welcome!”
The menu features all of the most common and traditional fixings of soul food, and it seems the chefs pull out all the stops. Some dishes are pretty easy to make vegan, such as fried okra, fresh baked yams, or seasoned lentils. Souley Vegan offers their on delicious renditions of each of these dishes, not just relying on a classic recipe but adding a little dash of surprise into their versions.
I know what you’re thinking: but what about the mashed potatoes? What about the macaroni and cheese? What about the fried chicken?! Never fear, the menu features a vegan version of each, all unique and delicious. Don’t be afraid to try some of the southern fried tofu or some creamy mashed potatoes with gravy. And, let me assure you, as a non-vegan and avid meat eater up until last year, the spiced macaroni and cheese is one of the most convincing and delicious faux-cheeses I have ever tasted. Very creamy, very cheesy, and with the slightest hint of spice.
All of these side dishes can be ordered alone, in groups of two, or groups of three. Or, if you really brought your appetite, share the Everything Plate with a friend for just $19.00, which features one order of every dish on the menu (it’s $25.00 if you want to add rice, beans, and okra for extra measure). Or better yet, just sink your teeth into a spicy barbecue tofu burger and call it a day. Oh, and don’t forget about the cornbread. It’s so crumbly, you’ll be sorry you missed it.
So make your way over to 301 Broadway, Oakland, CA, and prepare your body for an epic vegan food baby. And, since there are obviously so many options, make sure you go back for seconds… and thirds. Then try to ask yourself what you had against vegan food in the first place.