Monday, March 26, 2012

Salad Days

Even though the Sacramento weather can't seem to figure out whether it's winter or spring, I've been craving salads lately. I'm ready to move on from hearty soups and full-bodied red wines to cool fresh salads and crisp chardonnays. So where are the best places for a vegan to find a salad in Sacramento? Here are some of my favorite local salad spots:

Jack's Urban Eats isn't particularly vegan-friendly otherwise, but I love their Create Your Own Salad option. You get to choose your salad greens (mixed greens, Romaine, or spinach), dressing (the only vegan dressing option is the balsamic vinaigrette), and six toppings from among a list that includes numerous vegan choices (broccoli, corn, cucumber, red bell pepper, grilled mushrooms, tofu, celery, beets, grape tomatoes, Fuji apple, kidney-garbanzo beans, red onion, sun-dried cranberries, pepperoncini, peas, jicama, carrots, and fire-roasted red peppers). You can order a half salad or a full salad (the price difference is $1.00). There are several Jack's Urban Eats locations in the greater Sacramento area. More information is available at

Mai Pham's Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar, located at 3101 Folsom Boulevard, offers a fabulous Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad, which consists of pan-seared tofu, greens, red and green cabbage, celery, cilantro, roasted peanuts, crispy noodles, and ginger-sesame dressing. Her Lemon Grass Restaurant, located at 601 Munroe Street, serves a delicious Ginger Tofu salad that includes, in addition to the ginger and tofu, green beans, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, fresh basil, and roasted chili-soy vinaigrette. More information about Mai Pham's restaurants is available at

Cafe Bernardo R15, which is located at 1431 R Street, currently has a really tasty Asian Cabbage & Tofu Salad on their menu. In addition to the cabbage and tofu, its ingredients are carrots, scallions, mushrooms, cashews, and soy-ginger vinaigrette. This salad does not appear to be offered at either of the other Cafe Bernardo locations, although the Cafe Bernardo Midtown, which is located at 2726 Capitol Avenue, has a Napa Cabbage & Tofu Salad, which includes carrots, mushrooms, scallions, sesame seeds, and soy-ginger vinaigrette. More information about Cafe Bernardo is available at

Magpie Cafe, located just down the street from Cafe Bernardo R15 at 1409 R Street, offers a variety of salads every day, most of which are vegan. Although their menu changes daily, certain salads seem to be offered fairly consistently. I haven't tried them all, but my favorites so far have been their golden beet salad and their outstanding black rice salad. Other vegan salads that were offered during my most recent visit to Magpie Cafe were broccolini, bean, fruit, potato, and asparagus. Information about Magpie Cafe is available at

La Trattoria Bohemia, which is located at 3649 J Street in East Sacramento, offers an excellent Insalata Pomodoro, which consists of tomatoes and avocados with fresh basil, capers, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. It's a good sized salad, so you may not need to order anything else, but if you think you're going to need more food, this salad goes well with the Spaghetti Aglio-Olio. More information about La Trattoria Bohemia is available at

What local restaurant makes your favorite vegan salad?

Monday, March 19, 2012


I had lunch last week at Bangkok@12 Thai Restaurant. It was a very rainy day, but the place was packed. Fortunately, the server was able to find a small table along the wall for me.

I don't know how I've managed to miss this restaurant, which has an extensive vegetarian menu. Most of the Thai restaurants I've written about offer various combinations of vegetables and spices with a choice of meats or tofu. This restaurant offered those dishes as well, but they also had numerous other choices for vegans, including appetizers, salads, soups, stir fries, and curries. They also have five vegetarian specialties, and I decided to try one of those, the Vegetarian Hot Plate, which consisted of mixed vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, bell pepper, baby corn, and carrots) and tofu in a chili garlic sauce with basil, served with rice. It was very flavorful and the portion size was generous. I also had a cup of the soup of the day, Tom Yum Jay, which is described on the menu as "Mix vegetables and mushrooms in a hot and sour soup and a touch of lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves." It was quite tasty too.

The vegetarian menu lists several rice and noodle dishes. However, most of them contain either eggs or egg noodles, so if you're vegan, watch out for those items. It appeared to me that the only potential vegan item in that section of the menu was the Bangkok Street Noodle dish.

Bangkok@12 Thai Restaurant is located at 900 12th Street, at the corner of 12th and I streets. Their telephone number is 916-443-5588, and their website address is They are open daily from 11:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vegan with a Sweet Tooth

Dessert has always been my favorite part of any meal. So I was a little concerned about what desserts would still be available to me when I took the plunge and went vegan. It seems like there was a long period of slim pickings in the dessert department, but I have finally weathered that storm. If you're a vegan with a sweet tooth, here is a list of six local establishments that can help you feed that craving.

The most exciting dessert news I got after going vegan was that the fabulous Freeport Bakery offers a vegan chocolate cake. It has to be specially ordered at least 24 hours in advance, but the moist chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and filling is definitely worth it. I've taken a Freeport Bakery vegan chocolate cake to many potlucks in the past several years, and both vegans and non-vegans insist that it's the best chocolate cake they've ever eaten. If you want writing on the cake, they'll lay a small rectangle of marzipan on top of the cake and write your message in chocolate icing. One caveat: once you cut into it, it's best to just go ahead and finish the whole cake, as it tends to dry out quickly otherwise. More information about Freeport Bakery, which is located at 2966 Freeport Boulevard, is available at their website:

As far as I'm concerned, the best vegan ice cream on the planet can be found across the street from C. K. McClatchy High School at Here's the Scoop! They usually have a few flavors of soy-based ice cream available, including Mint Chocolate Chip, Vanilla, Blueberry, and my personal favorite, Very Cherry Chip. They also make bon bons, molding their soy ice cream into little balls and coating them with dark chocolate. Here's the Scoop! is located at 3051 Freeport Boulevard. They don't appear to have a website, but if you'd like more information, their telephone number is 916-446-4478.

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op offers a nice variety of vegan desserts. Their bakery display case in the Deli section of the store includes vegan baked goods such as cookies, brownies, and muffins from Sunflower Baking Company, Bennett's Bakery, and Old Soul. The refrigerated case next to the produce section includes pies, cakes, and cupcakes from Sugar Plum Vegan. The vegan dessert that I have to buy every time I go to the Co-op, though, is the incredibly wonderful Cherry Dream Cheesecake made by Earth Cafe, packaged in individual wedges. Not only is it vegan, it's also organic and raw. Seriously, it just doesn't get any better than this. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is located at 1900 Alhambra Boulevard and their website address is

Speaking of Sugar Plum Vegan, their cafe offers a wide variety of vegan baked goods. Sugar Plum Vegan was a bakery before it was a cafe, and I still think that the best items offered in their cafe are their desserts. They have vegan cookies, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, pies, cheesecakes, streusels, doughnuts -- need I go on? Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe is located at 2315 K Street, and their website address is

I guess reasonable minds can differ as to whether doughnuts are dessert or breakfast. But you can't argue with the fact that the vegan doughnuts served at Doughbot are so good that they ought to be eaten for breakfast and dessert. The flavors vary, but one morning last week, the vegan doughnuts offered at Doughbot included PB&J, Lemon Lavender, Maple, Vanilla Bean, and Blood Orange. Doughbot is located at 2226 10th Street. They have a website, but the information on their Facebook page is more current. It can be found at!/doughbotdonuts?sk=info.

Vanilla Bean Gourmet in midtown offers an impressive assortment of cupcakes. While they don't routinely sell vegan cupcakes in the shop, they will make them by special order with 24-hour advance notice. I actually haven't tried them yet but wanted to include information about the shop in case anyone is in the market for vegan cupcakes. If you try them, please let me know what you think. Vanilla Bean Gourmet is located at 1809 S Street (next to Safeway), and their website address is!.

If you have any recommendations for other bakeries or restaurants that offer vegan desserts, I'd love to hear about them. You can never have too much dessert!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vegan Sacramento

Eating in restaurants has been a challenge for me since I went vegan more than nine years ago. Most of my friends and family members are still happily eating all manner of meat, eggs, and dairy products, and there aren't all that many local restaurants that cater to vegans. So I decided to write this blog to help other vegans figure out what menu options are available to them in local non-vegan restaurants.

But Sacramento does have some notable restaurants that are either completely vegan, a combination of vegan and vegetarian, or non-vegan but with a variety of vegan options that are clearly identified on the menu. So for vegan visitors to Sacramento or for new local vegans who want to easily find things they can eat without having to interrogate the restaurant staff, here's a list of ten restaurants (in no particular order) where a vegan should feel right at home.

1. Andy Nguyen has been a popular destination for Vietnamese food since 1984. When it opened, its menu included animal products, but in 2005, the restaurant switched to an all vegetarian menu, which was more in keeping with the family's Buddhist beliefs. I love the names they've given their menu items, such as Peaceful Curry (tofu, potatoes, carrots, button mushrooms, soy ham and mixed vegetables in yellow curry) or Supreme Wisdom (mixed vegetables, tofu, and button mushrooms in spicy coconut peanut sauce with mint, cilantro, and crushed peanuts). Almost everything on the menu is vegan, although a few vegetarian dishes contain egg. Andy Nguyen is located at 2007 Broadway. More information is available on their website at

2. The menu at the Green Boheme is all organic, all vegan, and all raw. So while the names on the menu sound like food you've been eating all your life, the ingredients and the preparation process will be significantly different from what you're used to. "Raw" means either uncooked entirely or not heated beyond 105 degrees, so it's always an adventure to see what something like a No Sea Tuna Sandwich or a Pesto Pizza will taste like. The Green Boheme also offers a pre-paid food plan and raw food preparation classes, where you can learn to make your own raw vegan delicacies. They are located at 1825 Del Paso Boulevard, and their website can be found at

3. Any of the restaurants featuring the cuisine of the incomparable Mai Pham are vegan gold, as far as I'm concerned. While her Lemon Grass and Star Ginger restaurants fall into the non-vegan category, they offer a significant number of vegan options (the Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad and the Jungle Curry are my favorites), all of which are clearly marked on the menu. She has also made her distinctive cuisine available to a larger segment of the population by sending a Star Ginger Asian Grill mobile food truck to the UC Davis campus, establishing a Lemon Grass Asian Grill and Noodle Bar in Terminal A at the Sacramento International Airport, and partnering with the La Bou Bakery chain to include a Lemon Grass Asian Grill and Noodle Bar in a La Bou cafe on Howe Avenue. I always know that if I'm dining at a Mai Pham restaurant, I'm going to be eating well. More information about all of the Lemon Grass and Star Ginger restaurants is available at

4. No listing of vegan or vegetarian restaurants in the Sacramento area would be complete without a mention of the venerable Sunflower Drive-In in Old Town Fair Oaks, which has been a mecca for local vegetarians since 1978. They offer a variety of burgers, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, smoothies, and other items, all of which are vegetarian and many of which are vegan or can be made vegan upon request. Their nutburger is legendary. While there is one long table inside the restaurant and some outdoor seating, this is basically a take-out restaurant. And as a bonus, maybe some of the famous Old Fair Oaks chickens will wander through the parking lot while you're waiting for your order. Sunflower Drive-In is located at 10344 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Fair Oaks, and their website address is

5. Sacramento has a nice variety of Indian restaurants offering vegetarian and vegan menu choices. I don't know if Mati's Indian Eats offers more vegan options than the other restaurants, or if they're just better about identifying them, but Mati's makes it very easy to be a vegan. It's nice to be able to eat Indian food without having to ask about hidden ingredients, such as ghee (clarified butter) in the curries. Mati's always has several clearly-marked vegan offerings, and even their naan is vegan, which doesn't seem to be the case in most of the Indian restaurants in town. Mati's Indian Eats is located at 1501 16th Street, and their website address is

6. Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe opened in 2010 and quickly became a popular destination for vegan diners. They serve salads, sandwiches, burgers, and many other all-vegan items in a two-story Victorian house that offers ample indoor or outdoor seating. The best part of any visit to Sugar Plum is choosing from among the amazing baked goods in their display case. They offer a wide variety of vegan cookies, cupcakes, pies, muffins and, my personal favorite, whoopie pies, that will keep you coming back for more. Sugar Plum Vegan Cafe is located at 2315 K Street, and their website address is

7. Malabar in Natomas offers the types of menu items you would expect to find in any non-vegan restaurant serving American cuisine, but they also have something that most other restaurants don't have: a separate menu listing their vegan and vegetarian offerings. Salads, risottos, and rice noodle dishes are among the entrées available for vegans at Malabar, which is located at 2960 Del Paso Road. Their website address is

8. A surprising place to find vegan menu options is at Downtown's Kitchen, located in the Round Corner bar. Downtown's Kitchen bills their food choices as "BBQ vs. VEGAN" and they take their vegan menu seriously, even having a separate deep fat fryer so the vegan food won't be fried in the same oil as the non-vegan food. They have items like potato tacos, a grilled cheese sandwich that can be made using vegan cheese, and a tofu rice bowl, but I order the same thing every time I go there -- the Vegan Boca Bacon Cheese Burger Combo. I can't get over how much like real bacon their veggie bacon tastes. A couple of caveats, though. First, since Downtown's Kitchen is located inside a bar, you have to be at least 21 to dine on the premises. And my second caveat is that the Vegan Boca Bacon Cheese Burger Combo must be really, really popular, because they seem to run out of Boca burgers fairly often. So if you have your heart set on this particular item, you might want to call ahead and make sure they have it. Downtown's Kitchen is located at 2333 S Street, and their website address is

9. There are several restaurants in Sacramento that offer Mediterranean cuisine, but what I love about Pita Kitchen (in addition to their excellent food!) is that they have a "Vegan" symbol printed on their menu next to each of their numerous vegan items. They offer all the items you'd expect -- hummus, falafel, dolma -- as well as a variety of salads, soups, and grilled or sautéed vegetable combinations. They even have vegan baklava, which is made without butter and with a sugar syrup instead of honey. Pita Kitchen is located at 2989 Arden Way. They don't appear to have a website, but if you need further information, their telephone number is 916-480-0560.

10. Loving Hut is part of an international vegan restaurant chain. We are fortunate to have two of these restaurants serving Asian cuisine in the Sacramento area: one is located in the Oak Park neighborhood and the other is in Elk Grove. I think I could eat their fried tofu appetizer every day. The menu relies rather heavily on mock meats, but it's a relief to go out to a restaurant where I don't have to ask any questions about the ingredients. The Sacramento Loving Hut restaurant is located at 3500 Stockton Boulevard, and their website address is The Elk Grove Loving Hut restaurant is located at 8355 Elk Grove Boulevard, and their website address is

Bon appétit!