Friday, September 30, 2011

The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

The Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge starts tomorrow and runs through October 31st.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post (, several local restaurants have agreed to offer specially-created vegan items on their dinner menus during the month of October.  People who order these dishes will be asked to vote for their favorites online at the California Vegan Restaurants website.

The ten participating restaurants are:

Tower Bridge Bistro
58 Degrees & Holding Co.
Capitol Garage
Hot Italian
Cafe Capricho
Bombay Bar & Grill
Aioli Bodega Espanola
Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe

The Broiler Steakhouse will not be participating as previously reported, but they do offer a vegan entree on their lunch and dinner menus (

The California Vegan Restaurants website includes information about several of the chefs who will be involved in this competition, as well as the menu items they are planning to present.  I can't wait to try the Smoked Tofu in the Style of Korean BBQ at 58 Degrees & Holding Co., the Buckwheat Blinis with Raspberry Coulis and Chocolate Dipping Sauce at the Tower Bridge Bistro, and the Barley Risotto with Smoked Sweet Potato at Capitol Garage, among other fabulous vegan treats.  I'll be visiting all ten restaurants this month and writing about them on this website, so stay tuned! 

More information is available at and on the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge 2011 Facebook page at!/event.php?eid=147427958684028.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why Vegans Don't Eat Cheese

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me they could probably give up meat, but they don't think they could live without cheese.  This statement is often followed by a question about what's wrong with eating cheese.  It's not like you have to kill the cow to make cheese, is it?

While it's true that you don't have to kill that particular cow, cows do die so that we can have cheese.  But that's not the only reason vegans don't eat cheese.  Here are three concerns that may have caused your vegan friends and relatives to give up dairy products.

Concern for the Animals

Maybe I'm a little slow, but it took me awhile to figure out why dairy cows produce milk.  As it turns out, they produce milk for the same reason other mammals produce milk -- to feed their offspring.  Dairy cows are mother cows whose calves were probably taken away from them at birth so that all the milk the mother produces can be turned into dairy products for humans.  So what happens to all those baby cows?  It depends.  If they're female calves, they may grow up to be dairy cows just like their mothers.  But if they're male calves, they are likely to turn into veal. 

Several years ago, animal rights activists were able to convince thousands of meat eaters to give up veal by exposing the inhumane way that veal calves were treated -- taken away from their mothers right after they were born, packed into tiny crates to prevent them from using their muscles, thus ensuring that their meat would stay tender, and then sent to factory slaughterhouses to end their miserable little lives. 

Many soft-hearted people who were repulsed by this practice and stopped eating veal, however, didn't make the connection that the huge demand for cheese and other dairy products necessarily increases the supply of veal calves.  Although new laws were passed to make conditions marginally better for veal calves, I still have a hard time justifying the idea that a cheese pizza for me results in a short, unhappy life for a baby cow.    

Concern for the Environment

Dairy farming has become a huge industry, and it negatively impacts our environment.  Everyone by now has had a good laugh over the issue of whether global warming has been exacerbated by cows passing gas.  I don't know if that's true or not.  What I do know is that all of those cows produce millions of pounds of cow poop, which ends up in rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, killing the fish and other organisms and compromising our drinking water supply.  While small amounts of manure make good fertilizer, it's impossible to safely process all the manure produced by dairy cattle in this country.  The manure ends up in cesspools that may breed disease, pollute our groundwater supplies, and endanger the health and lives of dairy farm workers. 

Concern for Our Health

So, let's just say you happen to find a small family farm where the milk of a well-treated dairy cow is used not just for human consumption, but to nurture her calves as well.  Let's say those calves are allowed to graze in the pasture and live long and happy lives until they die of natural causes, and they produce only as much waste as can be used to fertilize the crops grown on the farm.  Is there any other reason to give up cheese?

Only if you care about your health.  Cheese and other dairy products contain large amounts of cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat, which can contribute to numerous health problems, including heart disease.  In fact, Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says that cheese is the number one source of saturated fat in the American diet.  And low-fat and nonfat cheeses have nutritional challenges of their own.  According to Dr. Barnard, the most abundant nutrient in nonfat milk is lactose sugar.  Many non-vegans think that cheese and other dairy products are necessary sources of protein and calcium, but there are many vegan foods that provide protein and calcium in a more healthful way than cheese and other dairy products do.

Vegans have decided that, as far as they're concerned, the drawbacks of eating cheese greatly overshadow any perceived nutritional benefits.  More information about the effects of cheese and other dairy products on our health is available at

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kathmandu Kitchen

If you're a vegan, it helps to like Indian food because there are always so many things for a vegan to eat in an Indian restaurant.  I was reminded of that last night when I stopped by Kathmandu Kitchen to order food to go.  I opened their take-out menu, and asked the woman at the counter which of their dishes were vegan.  She proceeded to name so many dishes so quickly that I had to stop her and ask her to just mark them all on the menu with a pen.  And then I had a terrible time trying to choose among all the different options.

I finally settled on the vegan thali, which consisted of chana masala (chickpeas in a spicy sauce), basmati rice, two Nepali samosas (fried turnovers filled with mixed vegetables), five vegetables momos (steamed mixed vegetable dumplings), and a piece of puri, which is a type of soft, flat, whole wheat bread.  I also decided to try the alu tama bodi, described on the menu as "[d]elicious tender fresh bamboo shoots, potatoes & black-eyed beans flavored with spices."  This dish and the chana masala were both pleasantly spicy.  Everything tasted delicious, but I liked the samosas and the puri best.

Most of the vegetarian appetizers at Kathmandu Kitchen are vegan.  In addition to the samosas and momos, other vegan appetizers include alu tikki (deep-fried patties made from potatoes and peas) and vegetable pakoras (spinach, cauliflower, and onion fritters).  Many of the breads can be made vegan if you ask for them with no butter.  The naan, however, is not vegan.  Kathmandu Kitchen also offers two vegan soups:  chole (garbanzo bean soup) and dal (lentil soup).

Several of their vegetable dishes are vegan.  In addition to the chana masala and alu tama bodi that I described above, other vegan dishes include mushroom masala, mismas tarkari (seasonal fresh mixed vegetables with spices), alu kauli ko tarkari (potatoes and cauliflower in a spicy sauce), alu baigan (potatoes and eggplant with spices), alu mutter (potatoes and peas with spices), and bhindi masala (okra with spices).  The saag (spinach) and tofu dish generally is made with cream but can be made vegan if the cream is omitted.  And the vegetable biryani, a rice dish, is vegan as well.

None of Kathmandu Kitchen's desserts are vegan, but after feasting on their other vegan options, you won't be hungry for dessert anyhow!

Kathmandu Kitchen is located at 1728 Broadway in Sacramento. Their phone number is 916-441-2172 and their website address is They are open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  They are open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. On Sunday, they are open from noon until 9:30 p.m.

Kathmandu Kitchen also has a location in Davis at 234 G Street. Their phone number is 530-756-3507 and their website address is They are open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. On weekends, they are open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shoki Ramen House

Shoki Ramen House is another restaurant that I might never have tried if I weren't writing this blog.  My only previous experience with ramen was those little packages of dried noodles with seasoning packets that you can get at the grocery store for about 25 cents.  Since I never liked that type of ramen, I couldn't imagine why I'd want to go to a restaurant where ramen was the only thing on the menu.

Besides, the Shoki Ramen House on 24th Street in the Curtis Park neighborhood always has a line of people outside waiting to get in, which looks very intimidating.  I had no idea how long I'd have to wait, or what to expect if I ever did get inside.  But I kept hearing that there was a vegan broth option, so I finally decided to check it out so I could write a blog article about it.

Imagine my excitement when I drove past the 24th Street location at lunchtime yesterday and there was no line outside!  I must have timed this just right, I thought smugly to myself.  And then I noticed the big red "CLOSED" sign in the window.  Oh.  Undaunted, I drove to the new Shoki Ramen House location at 12th and R, and pulled into the last open space in the parking lot.

The place was packed, but people seemed to move in and out fairly quickly, so I only had to wait a couple of minutes for a table.  I quickly located the vegan options on the second page of the menu:  vegan ramen or spicy vegan ramen.  I ordered the vegan ramen at the medium hot spice level.  The broth is served over regular or whole wheat noodles (I ordered the regular, but I'm looking forward to trying the whole wheat noodles on my next visit), and topped with spinach, bamboo shoots, green onions, and a piece of seaweed.  Other items can be added at an extra cost, so I added tofu and corn.  I would have added shiitake mushrooms, but because of the way they're prepared, they are not vegan.  Most of the ramen comes in small, medium, or large sizes, but the vegan ramen is available only in the regular size, which turned out to be considerably more than I could eat in one sitting. 

The broth was hearty and subtly flavored, and the chewy noodles were plentiful.  I had expected the broth to be very salty, but it wasn't.  And I really liked the texture and taste of the added corn.  A sign on the wall of the restaurant explains that each type of broth takes between 6 and 8 hours to make, so it's clear that ramen is a labor of love for the chef.  I'm sorry I took so long to give Shoki Ramen House a try!

Shoki Ramen House has two locations.  The downtown location is at 1201 R Street, and the phone number is 916-441-0011.  This location is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  It's open for lunch on Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  On Sunday, the restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The Curtis Park location is at 2675 24th Street, and the phone number is 916-454-2411.  It's open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and for dinner Monday through Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  It's open for lunch Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m. and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  It is closed on Sunday and at lunchtime on Monday. 

The website address for Shoki Ramen House is, but it only lists their hours of operation.  It does not include an online menu.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Downtown's Kitchen at the Round Corner

Recently, I heard from a few different sources about a new place that was advertising its BBQ vs. vegan menu.  The restaurant is called Downtown's Kitchen, and it's located inside the Round Corner, a bar at the corner of 24th and S.  I had to laugh when I looked at their website, which says:  "Going out with friends can sometimes be a problem if you are vegan, or vegetarian, where do you go with your carnivore eating friends?"  Which, of course, is the whole reason I started this blog!

So I had to check it out, and I'm so glad I did!  There really are two different sets of menu selections:  one for vegans and vegetarians, and one for carnivores that includes the non-vegetarian barbecue selections.  I decided to live dangerously, and I ordered the Vegan Boca Bacon Cheese Burger Combo, complete with vegan cheese, veggie bacon, and fries.  It was delicious!  I guess I've never tried veggie bacon before, but if I'd known that it was going to taste so much like the real thing, I'd certainly have tried it before now.

I also ordered two vegan lumpia, a kind of spring roll filled with chopped up vegetables.  They were fresh and crisp and very tasty.

Other vegan options at Downtown's Kitchen include potato tacos (hold the sour cream and ask for vegan cheese); grilled cheese sandwich if ordered with vegan cheese; tofu rice bowl; tofu sandwich; falafel sandwich; veggie chef salad; and various fried appetizers (I'll definitely try the fried tofu stix the next time I'm there!).  Since the next question is bound to be whether they cook their vegan fried foods in the same oil that they've used to cook the meat, I'll quote directly from their website:  "We use organic tofu and cook no meat in our deep fryer, and have special veggie pans for dedicated vegan/vegetarian meals.   We promise to cook every meal with love and attention!"  What more could I ask?

Downtown's Kitchen is located at 2333 S Street.  Their phone number is 916-455-4100, and their website address is  They're open seven days a week during bar hours, which is about 11:00 a.m. until around 1:00 a.m.  Since Downtown's Kitchen operates from inside a bar, no one under the age of 21 is allowed on the premises, so families with children will want to order their food to go.  Curbside pick-up is available. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scott's on the River



I don't know about you, but all of my friends seem to want to go to Scott's on the River these days.  What's not to like?  It's a lovely dining venue, and it's one of the few restaurants in Sacramento to take advantage of the fact that the city has a waterfront.

The Scott's Seafood chain, of course, is known for its fish.  But is there anything there that a vegan can eat while sipping on one of the many fabulous wines they offer?  This seems to be an issue that Scott's has wrestled with throughout the years.  I remember when the Scott's location at Loehmann's Plaza began offering vegan prawns on their menu several years ago.  I think it was the only restaurant in the Scott's chain to serve that particular dish, and I only had it a couple of times before they discontinued the item.  But I appreciated the fact that they made the effort.

The vegan prawns may not be on the menu anymore, but there is still one vegan item on the Scott's menu:  the Capellini Provencal, a dish consisting of angel hair pasta in a sauce made of tomatoes, onions, capers, kalamata olives, garlic, herbs, and olive oil.  It's listed in the "Small Plates" section of the menu, and it really is quite small, so if you're hungry, you'll need to either fill up on the complimentary sourdough bread, or order one of the salads as a first course and ask them to omit all the non-vegan parts. 

I can't say that Scott's on the River is my favorite place to eat from a food standpoint, but since I love sitting outside with my friends and family, sipping wine, and gazing at the beautiful Sacramento River, I'm glad to know that there's something on the menu that seems to have been created for people like me.

Scott's on the River is located at 4350 B Riverside Boulevard.  Their phone number is 916-379-5959, and their website address is  They are open for breakfast Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (looks like your best bets on the breakfast menu are the fresh fruit, oatmeal without milk, and toast without butter); lunch Monday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; dinner Monday through Sunday from 3:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; and brunch Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (not much for a vegan on the brunch menu -- probably just salad with all the non-vegan parts left off).

There are two other Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar locations in the area:  the one at Loehmann's Plaza, located at 545 Munroe Street in Sacramento (, and one in Folsom at 9611 Greenback Lane (

Scott's Seafood on the River on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chada Thai Cuisine

Sacramento certainly seems to have its share of Thai restaurants.  Everywhere I turn, a new Thai restaurant magically appears.  I expect to try out several of them so I can write about them for his blog, but the one I'm going to start with is Chada Thai Cuisine.

One of the things I like best about Chada Thai Cuisine is that several of their dishes are designed so the diner can choose which type of protein to include.  For me, of course, the choice is always tofu.  I used to resist ordering any of their curry dishes, assuming that they contained fish sauce, but I asked the server during my most recent visit to Chada Thai Cuisine, and she said that they don't use fish sauce in their curries.

That opened up a whole new world for me, so I ordered the Panang Curry, which consists of tofu, coconut milk, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, basil, and kaffir leaves, served with white rice.  It was fabulous!  The coconut milk made it taste so rich and so sweet that I almost felt as though I was eating dessert.  I probably shouldn't admit this, but I kept eating long after I was full just because I enjoyed the taste so much.  The server didn't ask which level of spice I wanted (medium, hot, or Thai hot), so I assume my dish had medium spice.  At any rate, whichever level of spice I had added just the right kick to my meal.

I should also mention the soup I was served before the curry.  It was a coconut milk soup with tofu and bamboo shoots, and it was also quite delicious.

Another excellent dish I've had at Chada Thai Cuisine is the Pad Ma Kua, which is grilled eggplant sauteed with soy sauce, garlic, basil, bell peppers, onions, carrots, baby corn, and mushrooms. 

The Chada Thai Cuisine menu includes several different sauteed dishes and curries, all of which can be made with tofu.  A vegan could eat there for a long time without ordering the same item twice!

Chada Thai Cuisine is located at 1624 Broadway.  Their phone number is 916-444-8909, and their website address is  They are open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and for dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  On Saturday and Sunday, they are open from noon until 9:30 p.m.

Monday, September 19, 2011

La Trattoria Bohemia

For years, I drove past La Trattoria Bohemia, a charming little restaurant on J Street in East Sacramento, on my way to or from somewhere else.  I always thought I'd like to check it out, but somehow, I was never near the restaurant at mealtime.  One day several years ago, my son and I finally decided to stop in for lunch and we were both very glad we did.

La Trattoria Bohemia offers both Italian and Czech cuisine.  I knew I wouldn't be able to eat the schnitzels and the goulashes on the Czech side of the menu, but there's always something for me on an Italian menu.  As it turns out, La Trattoria Bohemia has several vegan menu options.

My favorite dishes are the Insalata Pomodoro, a nice big salad made of tomatoes, avocado, and fresh basil, and dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  There are times when that feels like a meal in itself, but if I need something more, I order their pasta (either spaghetti or penne) with  aglio-olio, a simple olive oil and garlic sauce.  And if I feel like having dessert after that, La Trattoria Bohemia offers the Artisan Trio Sorbetto, three scoops of Italian sorbet.  

They also make excellent pizza, which I have ordered on occasion with vegetarian toppings and no cheese.  Other vegan menu options include brusceta, mixed green salad (if dressed with vinaigrette or oil and vinegar), pasta with tomato sauce, and various side dishes, including avocado, applesauce, asparagus, and their delicious roasted rosemary potatoes.  The vegetarian panini can also be made vegan if ordered without the cheese and pesto sauce.

La Trattoria Bohemia has a nice selection of wines from Italy and the Czech Republic, as well as domestic wines.  And I'm not a beer drinker, but their selection of beers from the Czech Republic looks quite impressive.

La Trattoria Bohemia is located at 3649 J Street.  Their phone number is 916-455-7803, and their website address is  They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  The restaurant is closed on Monday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pita Kitchen

I had some shopping to do in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood the other day, so when I finished, I went looking for a restaurant offering something vegan for lunch.  Luckily, I came across Pita Kitchen.  Restaurants serving Mediterranean cuisine can almost always be counted on to have vegan options on the menu, and Pita Kitchen was no exception.  Even better, the menu had a "V" in a circle next to every vegan item.  Normally, that would make ordering very easy, but because Pita Kitchen had so many vegan options, it took me awhile to choose among them.

I decided to try a few things.  I started with the dolmas (hold the yogurt), grape leaves stuffed with rice, vegetables, and spices.  I thought the grape leaves were very tasty, just briny enough to go with the delicately-spiced rice mixture.  My entree was the falafel hummus plate, which included six pieces of falafel, tahini sauce, hummus, salad, and fresh baked pita.  Everything was quite good, but the falafel, deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas, onions, parsley, and spices, was excellent.

Among the vegan menu items I didn't order were baba ghanouge, a mashed roasted eggplant dip; tabouleh, a salad with a base of cracked bulgur; spinach kibbeh, deep-fried balls of ground bulgur, onions, spinach, onions, and spices; spinach pie; various roasted or grilled vegetable platters; and all of the soups (lentil, potato, and something called Freekeh, which is a roasted wheat soup).  Clearly, I'll have to take several more trips to Pita Kitchen!

I didn't have room for dessert (as it was, I had to get a to-go box for part of my lunch), but I did look at the dessert menu.  I was surprised to see a few desserts with a "V" next to their menu listing that I wouldn't have expected to be vegan, so I thought I'd better inquire. 

First, both the baklava and the chocolate baklava indicate that they're topped with a "honey syrup."  I asked the owner if honey or butter is used in the baklava, and he said no.  They use a sugar syrup and palm oil, so I guess the word "honey" is just used in the sense of being sweet, not in the sense of actually being, you know, honey.  Since baklava is one of the things I really miss since I went vegan, I bought a box of vegan baklava to take home.  It's not as sticky sweet as regular baklava, but it was a nice treat.  Next time I visit the Pita Kitchen, though, I'll try the chocolate baklava.

The other dessert that was marked with a "V" on the menu was the coconut cake, which has as one of its ingredients "vegetable ghee."  Since "ghee" generally refers to clarified butter, I thought I'd better ask what "vegetable ghee" is.  Apparently, it's an ingredient made from palm oil.  The owner of the restaurant assured me that they don't use butter at all and don't even have any on the premises.

Pita Kitchen prides itself on serving healthy, all-natural food, and all of their dishes are made from scratch.  They don't use any additives or preservatives.  The owner of the restaurant is very knowledgeable about veganism and says that he has many vegan customers.

Pita Kitchen is located at 2989 Arden Way, and their telephone number is 916-480-0560.  They don't appear to have a website.  Pita Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 15, 2011



Now that I'm writing this blog, people tell me about all sorts of restaurants offering vegan options that I might not have heard about otherwise.  For example, over the weekend, I ran into a couple of friends and during the course of the conversation, I mentioned the blog. 

"Oh, you should check out Doughbot," I was told.

Doughbot?  I had never even heard of it.  Turns out it's a new doughnut shop that just opened September 3rd near the corner of 10th and W, and they sell vegan doughnuts and fritters!  Believe me, I was there the next morning!

Not being an early riser, I didn't arrive at Doughbot until about 11:15, so they were out of most of their vegan doughnuts.  Apparently, they're very popular with the folks who patronize the Sunday morning farmers' market a couple of blocks away.  But they still had some vegan chai and vegan lemon-glazed doughnuts left, so I bought one of each.  They tasted a little different than my memories of doughnuts past, but they were still delicious and I devoured them in no time.

The main thing I missed by not arriving earlier, apparently, was the chance to experience Doughbot's blueberry fritters, which were highly recommended by the young woman working the counter.  I'll be sure to try one of those if they're available on my next visit.

Doughbot is located at 2226 Tenth Street, and their phone number is 916-444-5157.  Their website ( is still very much under construction, so if you want further information, it's probably best to check their Facebook page at!/doughbotdonuts?sk=wall.  They are open every day except Tuesday from 5:00 a.m. until they run out of doughnuts, usually between 10:00 a.m. and noon.  They post daily updates on their Facebook page to let people know what doughnuts they're offering, or when they've run out of doughnuts completely and have closed for the day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge!

Apparently, I'm not the only person wanting more vegan choices in the restaurants I patronize.  The folks at California Vegan Restaurants have launched the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge, which will take place October 1st through October 31st.  During that time, several local restaurants have agreed to offer specially created vegan items on their dinner menus.  People who order these dishes will be asked to vote for their favorites online at the California Vegan Restaurants website.

If you want to encourage local restaurants to offer more vegan menu options, this is your chance to get out and let the participating restaurants and chefs know how much you appreciate their efforts.  The restaurants that will be offering special vegan selections during the month of October are: 

Tower Bridge Bistro
The Broiler Steakhouse
58 Degrees & Holding Co.
Capitol Garage
Hot Italian
Cafe Capricho
Bombay Bar & Grill
Aioli Bodega Espanola
Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe

So I guess you know which restaurants I'll be blogging about in October.  Personally, I can't wait!

More information about the Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge is available at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gogi's Korean BBQ Street Tacos

One of the really great things about writing the Sacramento Vegan blog is that I have to keep going to new restaurants in order to make sure I don't run out of places to write about.  So while I used to eat at the same few places over and over again, I am now on a mission to find restaurants I haven't tried before.

It's a good thing, too, or else I probably never would have gone to Gogi's Korean BBQ Street Tacos.  I've seen this stand at the corner of 15th and L many times, but it never occurred to me to try it because I'd never eaten Korean barbecue before and didn't know if I'd like it.  How pathetic is that?

But when I saw that they had tofu tacos, I knew I'd have to give them a taste test.  I'm so glad I did!

The tacos consist of corn tortillas, seasoned tofu cubes, and a vinaigrette coleslaw with cilantro.  It sounds like an odd combination, but the flavors really work well together.  The seasoned tofu was spicy enough to be interesting without being oppressive, the coleslaw was tangy and crisp, and the taste of the corn tortillas blended well with the other ingredients.  I just wish that two corn tortillas had been used with each taco, as the seasoned tofu soaked through the single tortilla in no time, making it impossible to eat with my hands.

Since I didn't know if I was going to like the tacos or not, I only ordered two of them.  If I had it to do over again, I'd order the #1 combo, which is three tacos and a soda.

Gogi's also serves burritos and burrito bowls with tofu.  The burrito consists of chipotle rice, seasoned tofu, and vinaigrette coleslaw wrapped in a flour burrito.  It also comes with pepper jack cheese, so if you're vegan, you'll want to ask them to leave that off.  The burrito bowl is the same as the burrito, except without the tortilla.

Gogi's is located at 1431 L Street, across from Capitol Park, and their phone number is 916-442-7333.  I haven't been able to find either a website or a Facebook page for them.  Gogi's is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday nights from 9:00 p.m. until 2:30 a.m.

Monday, September 12, 2011



I had lunch with my friend Philly last week at a restaurant we'd both been wanting to try.  Freshii is an international chain, offering, as you might expect from the name, fresh and healthy meals.  According to their website, "Freshii is focused on becoming the most convenient choice for healthy and fresh meals and snacks served quickly in a cool, clean, and environmentally sustainable setting for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between."  Sounds like a vegan's dream!

I checked out their menu online, and found a very cool feature.  They have a "custom built" option that allows you to create your own salad, wrap, soup, or bowl.  If you check off the items you want using the interactive online menu, it will calculate the calories and other nutritional information for you.  For example, if you decide you want a salad, you can choose the type of greens you want, add various unlimited toppings (included in the base cost of the salad), pick some premium toppings (these cost extra and add up quickly), and then choose your salad dressing and portion size.  The interactive online menu will then tell you the number of calories, and the amount of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and protein in the salad you've created.  If you find that you have more or less than you want of some nutritional element or another, you can tweak the ingredients using the online menu until you have exactly what you want.

Freshii also has set menu items.  For vegans, these include the Vegan Wrap (spinach, avocado, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, sweet corn, chick peas, sun-dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and aged balsamic vinegar); the Spicy Noodle Bowl (rice noodles, grilled tofu, chopped almonds, bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, and spicy lemongrass sauce); and 7 Vegetable Soup (100% vegetable broth, brown rice, grilled tofu, spinach, diced tomatoes, sweet corn, broccoli, carrots, and celery).  Looking at the menu, the only breakfast item I saw that was potentially vegan was oatmeal, but when I called the Sacramento location to make sure that it didn't contain any dairy products, I was told that they don't offer oatmeal anymore.

Freshii has two locations in the Sacramento area.  The Sacramento restaurant is located at 400 Q Street and their phone number is 916-538-6644.  The Folsom restaurant is located at 2776 East Bidwell Street, Suite 500, and their phone number is 916-983-1400.  More information about restaurant menus and hours is available on their website at

Friday, September 9, 2011

Preaching to the Choir?

If you're a vegan, you're probably already aware of the health benefits of a plant-based diet.  But if you're not a vegan, you might not know that switching to a vegan diet can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve your blood sugar levels. 

This is a message that Dr. Neal Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has been delivering for many years.  He is the author of several books offering advice about why and how to switch to a plant-based diet, and his newest book, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health ( challenges people to try a vegan diet for just 21 days. 

Why am I blogging about the 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart program today?  Because Dr. Barnard will be in Sacramento next Tuesday to talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet and to sign copies of his new book. 

If you're already a vegan, why attend?  Wouldn't Dr. Barnard basically just be preaching to the choir?  Not necessarily.  I think even the most dedicated vegan needs a little support and inspiration from time to time, which is why I am planning to attend this event.

And if you're not vegan, all the more reason for you to go and hear what Dr. Barnard has to say.  Who knows?  Maybe if you decide to try this program for the full three weeks, the health benefits will be so noticeable that you'll willingly give up all the animal-based foods that can lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 

If you can drop a few pounds and feel better with only a 21-day commitment, why not give it a try?

Dr. Barnard's talk and book-signing event will take place Tuesday, September 13th, at 7:00 p.m. at the Artisan at Uptown, located at 1901 Del Paso Boulevard.  Copies of 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost Metabolism, Lower Cholesterol, and Dramatically Improve Your Health will be available at the event for $25.  More information about the program is available by calling 916-929-9900 or 866-416-7276 or at the following website:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

So Long, Celestin's

I was sorry to read in the Sacramento Bee this morning that Celestin's Island Eats and Cajun Cuisine
( will be closing at the end of this month.  The delightful Celestin family has been serving delicious Caribbean cooking in their beautiful restaurant for many years now, and I'm really going to miss them.  If you want to try their fabulous Curry Vegetables or Vegetarian Gumbo, you should make a point of visiting the restaurant before they close after dinner on September 30th.

Old Spaghetti Factory

Parents with young children are doubtless familiar with the very popular Old Spaghetti Factory chain.  Especially exciting for kids who visit the Old Spaghetti Factory's Sacramento location, which used to be a train station, is celebrating a birthday meal in the train car that sits in the middle of the restaurant.  The restaurant is also a favorite venue for office get-togethers, so between your kids and your co-workers, it's likely that a trip to the Old Spaghetti Factory is somewhere in your future. 

Since I went vegan, I've always ordered the spaghetti with mushroom sauce whenever I visit the Old Spaghetti Factory.  I assumed it was vegan, but before I put that in this blog, I thought I'd better send them an e-mail to get a definitive answer.

The response I received informed me that the mushroom sauce is, indeed, vegan, as is their minestrone soup and their marinara sauce.  Also, their broccoli side dish is vegan if ordered without the Mizithra cheese.  Top off any of these selections with a nice glass of chianti, and the vegan life seems pretty good!

The Old Spaghetti Factory has four locations in the Sacramento area: midtown Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Roseville, and Elk Grove.  More information about their restaurants and their menu is available on their website at

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Chalk It Up! Mobile Food Truck Experience

Over the weekend, my mobile food truck wish (, or something very close to it, was granted.  Several food trucks and other food vendors set up at Fremont Park for the annual Labor Day weekend Chalk It Up art festival.  I went from truck to truck looking for something vegan to eat, but I wasn't having much luck.  

There was nothing vegan on the menu at Mama Kim Cooks, but they offered to put together a sandwich with guacamole, lettuce, and tomatoes.  I decided to keep looking for a truck offering something specifically vegan.  I thought I could count on Yolanda's Tamales (a food vendor, but not a mobile food truck), since Yolanda's makes veggie tamales without cheese, and I'm pretty sure that vegetable shortening is used in the masa instead of lard.  But Yolanda's Tamales wasn't serving any tamales on the first day of Chalk It Up.

Finally, I reached the last food truck in the row -- Wicked Wich, a sandwich truck.  The menu offered not one, but two, vegan options.  One was a vegan Italian sausage and the other was a vegan kolbassi.  They were out of the vegan Italian sausage, so I ordered the kolbassi.  While I waited for them to prepare my order, I noticed a small sign posted next to the menu:

            "Yes...the fries and slaw come on the sandwich!!  It has been made this
            way for almost 80 years we suggest you don't try to change it!!!"

Which necessitated the question, is everything on the sandwich vegan?  The answer to that was "yes."  The coleslaw is made without mayonnaise, and the provolone cheese is vegan too.

My husband had ordered something from another food vendor, but we were able to sit together in the park at one of the few tables that had been set up for that purpose.  My kolbassi sandwich, served on thick slices of white bread, was pleasantly spicy and quite tasty. 

Before we left Chalk It Up, we stopped at Little Rich's Italian-ice for dessert.  My small lemon and cherry combination hit the spot as we walked around in the summer heat and looked at all of the great sidewalk art.

According to the Sac Food Truck Tracker (, several food trucks have been having weekly roundups at various locations outside the Sacramento city limits.  Tonight's roundup, for example, is from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Soccer World in Elk Grove, located at 9756 Kent Street.  I'm looking forward to the day when there will be regular roundups inside the Sacramento city limits.  Of course, I'm also looking forward to the day when more of these food trucks offer something for vegans to eat!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Luna's Cafe & Juice Bar

I stopped by for lunch at an old favorite last week, Luna's Cafe & Juice Bar, where the inimitable Art Luna has been blending fresh fruit licuados and providing a venue for local artists since 1983.  In addition to licuados and other specialty drinks, Luna's Cafe serves breakfast, sandwiches, salads, and soups.

Over the years, several vegan items have been added to the menu.  Luna's breakfast offerings include a create-your-own Tofu Scramble and Vegan French Toast.  The licuados are vegan if you order them with either an orange juice or soy milk base and request that the honey be left out.

For lunch, I ordered the Hummus Sandwich, which consists of homemade hummus, olives, avocado, tomato, and sprouts on your choice of bread.  Try it with the tasty sourdough wheat walnut bread!  There is also the Baked Tofu Sandwich, which is served with mustard, tomato, lettuce, and sprouts.  La Ventana looks as though it could easily be made vegan by asking that the cheese be left out of this sandwich, which includes zucchini, celery, carrots, sunflower seeds, tomato, and sprouts, served in pita bread with a choice of dressing.

All of the soups at Luna's -- lentil & rice, split pea, or frijoles de la olla -- are vegan if you order them without the cheese or bacon toppings.  Only one of the salads, the Garden Delight, appears to be vegan, but you may want to ask about the croutons. 

Several nights each week, Luna's offers a variety of entertainment:  jazz on Mondays, comedy on Wednesdays, poetry on Thursdays, and a mixed bag (flamenco, lectures, book readings) on other nights.  There is always original art on the walls, freshly brewed coffee in the pot, and a nice selection of beer and wine by the glass.

Luna's Cafe is located at 1414 16th Street, between N and O.  Their phone number is 916-441-3931, and their website address is  Breakfast is served Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  Lunch is served until around 3:00 p.m., and then Luna's re-opens at 6:30 p.m. on the nights that entertainment is offered (check their website for their entertainment calendar).  Luna's is open on Saturdays from 7:00 p.m. to midnight, and it's closed on Sundays.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ma Jong's Asian Diner

When I went vegan, it didn't take me long to figure out that I could usually find something decent to eat in a Chinese restaurant.  So when I found myself looking for someplace to catch a late lunch yesterday, I decided to try Ma Jong's Asian Diner.

I was a little worried looking at the first page of the menu because I didn't see a single thing I could eat.  But the second page more than made up for the lack of vegan offerings on the first page!  On the second page, I found that nine of Ma Jong's signature dishes, which are served with white or brown rice, can be made with tofu instead of some form of animal protein.  A picture of a tiny pepper was thoughtfully placed next to the description of each of the dishes that are considered spicy. 

Since I like my food spicy, I ordered the tofu mandarin kung pao, which consisted of zucchini, bell peppers, onions, chili peppers, and roasted peanuts in a chili garlic sauce.  I thought the portion size was exactly right, since I left the table satisfied but without a bag of leftovers.  My second choice would probably have been the tofu General Jong's, with broccoli and bell peppers in General's spicy sauce.  That will give me something to look forward to the next time I dine at Ma Jong's.

For those who don't like spicy food, I thought the tofu with sugar snap peas, bell peppers, and onions in a garlic black bean sauce sounded pretty good too.  There are also a few rice bowls that can be served with tofu.

Ma Jong's is located at 1431 L Street, across the street from Capitol Park.  Their phone number is 916-442-7555, and their website address is  Ma Jong's is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.  They offer curbside pick-up if you call in a take-out order, so you don't have to worry about finding parking along busy L Street.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sacramento Mobile Food Truck Movement

What does the Sacramento mobile food truck controversy mean for vegans?  Since the local vendors who are leading the charge to ease restrictions on mobile food truck operations don't appear to offer any vegan menu selections, is this a fight that concerns vegans at all?

Absolutely!  Allowing mobile food trucks to operate more freely in Sacramento will benefit vegans, as well as their non-vegan dining companions. 

A variety of mobile food trucks would almost certainly include a vendor or vendors providing vegan menu options.  Before the current ordinance restricting the operations of mobile food trucks was adopted in Sacramento, Roots-N-Kulchah used to set up for lunch daily at the corner of 24th and K, serving delicious vegan Caribbean cuisine.  Also, the wildly successful SactoMoFo mobile food truck festival held earlier this year at Fremont Park in midtown included many food trucks from San Francisco that offered vegan menu selections or indicated on the menu how certain dishes could be made vegan. 

Mobile food trucks are popular with consumers because they are convenient (the food comes to you), the service is quick, and the prices are affordable.  These things tend to worry some restaurant owners, who fear that they will be unable to compete with mobile food trucks parked in the vicinity of their restaurants.  One savvy restaurateur seems to have embraced the mobile food truck movement, however.  Last month, Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar launched the new UC Davis Star Ginger Food Truck, bringing their excellent Southeast Asian cuisine, featuring both vegan and non-vegan menu options, to the UC Davis campus.

Recently, my family and I vacationed in Tahiti, where we experienced the culinary phenomenon of "Les Roulottes" in the capital city of Papeete.  Every evening, these Tahitian mobile food trucks roll into an area near the cruise ship docks and start setting up tables and chairs for their customers.  Before long, local residents and tourists begin to line up for whatever type of cuisine they've chosen for the night's dinner.  Most of the French Polynesia guidebooks mention Les Roulottes as a not-to-be-missed outing for visitors to Tahiti.

Why can't we have a similar experience in Sacramento?  Isn't there a space where mobile food trucks can congregate in the evening, providing a variety of culinary offerings to hungry diners?  If each truck were to set up a few tables and chairs in a communal setting, vegans could order food from the vendors of their choice and then join friends or family members in the communal dining area after everyone has made their own food purchases. 

Sounds like the easiest way ever for vegans and non-vegans to dine in peace and harmony!