Monday, January 22, 2018

Cafe on L at Sutter Medical Center

Could the great-looking bowl of vegetable and tofu pho in the picture above really be hospital food? Why, yes, it really is! Sutter Medical Center recently opened a new café in the basement of their Anderson Lucchetti Women's & Children's Center, and at least some of the food they're serving is a serious upgrade from the hospital cafeteria food most of us have experienced in the past.

The real game-changer is that the hospital has contracted with Star Ginger restaurant to offer delicious Asian food options using local, seasonal produce. The pho is made-to-order -- all you have to do is choose your broth (vegetable, of course) and whichever other ingredients you want included. The Star Ginger station also offers a vegan Thai tofu salad. 

The café also has a good-sized salad bar. There's Mexican food, pizza, and burgers too, but I didn't notice anything of particular interest to vegans at those stations. Next to the café is a Peet's coffee counter. I didn't see any of the wonderful vegan pastries usually offered at Peet's, although the man working the counter seemed to think that one of their cookies was vegan.

Café on L is open to the public, although if you're really in the mood for food from Star Ginger, you'll probably just go to the actual Star Ginger restaurant a couple blocks away. If you're visiting someone at the Sutter Medical Center, though, the Café on L is definitely worth checking out. I asked if it was possible for a patient to call down and order something to be brought up, and the answer was no. If you're a patient, you'll just need to find an accommodating friend to buy it for you and take it to your hospital room.

Café on L is located at 2825 Capitol Avenue and it's open to the public. To get there, you enter the Anderson Lucchetti Women's & Children's Center and take elevator N to the basement. There doesn't seem to be a phone number, website, or Facebook page for the café at this point. They are open daily from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, although food choices may be limited after 7:00 p.m.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Thai Farm House BBQ & Bistro

After reading reviews in both the Sacramento News & Review and the Sacramento Bee, I decided I really needed to check out Thai Farm House BBQ & Bistro, which opened on Broadway and Riverside a few months ago. I couldn't find a copy of the menu online, but the Bee's reviewer said the restaurant was vegetarian-friendly, so I assumed they'd probably be vegan-friendly too.

I got there around 1:00 p.m. last Wednesday, and the place was packed. It's got a small dining room, but I was surprised that it would still be that crowded after the noon rush. That's a good thing, though, right? It usually means people really like the food.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait very long for a table to open up. I looked at the menu and found that vegetarian options were clearly marked, but there were no similar markings for vegan items. I was told, however, that they can work with you to veganize many of the dishes. The caveat whenever you go to a Thai restaurant is to make sure your server knows that you are vegan and that you don't want fish sauce in anything.

The specials board listed an interesting item I'd never seen anywhere else -- Thai samosas. They were described as "crispy puffs filled with potato, taro, herbs & spices." I was told they were vegan, so I ordered them, and they were excellent. The dipping sauce that came with them was sweet.

For my main course, I ordered pa ram, which consisted of steamed broccoli, carrots, and cabbage in a peanut sauce, with tofu added for my protein. (The menu indicates that it also includes green beans, but there weren't any in mine.) The combination of flavors was quite good.

Since the menu doesn't appear to be online anywhere, I took photos of it so you could see what else they offer.

Thai Farm House BBQ & Bistro is located at 1049 Broadway, Suite 40, and their phone number is 916-382-9448. They don't appear to have a website, but their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Road trip! Next Level Burger in Concord

When I went vegan many years ago, one of the things I really missed was a good burger. The soggy bean burgers or frozen processed veggie disks that restaurants passed off as their vegan options held no appeal for me. The recent appearance of extremely beef-like Beyond Burgers and Impossible Burgers in some local restaurants has been a dream come true for me.

Then I started hearing about the Next Level Burger chain, and was happy to discover they had opened a restaurant in Concord. I drove down a few days ago to meet my parents there for lunch. The restaurant offers burgers, sandwiches, salads, fries, hot dogs, and shakes, and everything on the menu is vegan. Since my parents aren't vegan, I suggested they order the classic burger, with the Beyond Burger patty option. I decided to try the savory meaty patty with my classic burger. We also ordered shakes, two chocolate and one salted caramel and peanut, all made with coconut ice cream (they also had a soy ice cream option). In addition, we shared an order of tater tots, which could be deep fried or baked.

The food was really good. If the bar hadn't been raised so high by the Impossible and Beyond burgers, I would have said the savory meaty patty was the best veggie burger I'd had. The tater tots were excellent, and the shakes were thick and delicious. It was a real treat to be able to eat at a burger joint without having to question the ingredients or make substitutions, and I'm sure this was just my first of many visits to Next Level Burger.

The Next Level Burger restaurant in Concord is located inside the Whole Foods Market at 2085 Diamond Boulevard, and their phone number is 925-215-7779. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at The restaurant is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Backbone Cafe

Vegans who work downtown or have business at the courthouse (jury duty, perhaps?) will be happy to know about a great little café that just opened on J Street. Backbone Café is an organic restaurant offering several vegan options, and I definitely think you should check it out!

I dropped by for lunch one day last week. The restaurant is currently offering a limited menu, but there were still lots of good things for vegans. I decided to try the hippie hemp curry, because how could I not with a name like that? It consisted of cauliflower, carrots, and other vegetables in a coconut milk curry, served over rice with avocado slices and hemp seeds, and it was wonderful.

I went back a few days later, thinking I'd really like to try their vegan cauliflower wings. Unfortunately, they were out of them, so I ordered the vegan power bowl instead. Served over white rice, the flavorful power bowl included spicy mushroom carnitas, carrots, summer squash, avocado, and other vegetables, topped with a chili verde sauce. 

Backbone Café is located at 729 J Street, and their phone number is 916-970-5545. Their website address is, and their Facebook page can be found at They are open only on weekdays, and only for breakfast and lunch -- Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.