Organic Soul Live: vegan soul food (permanent?) (pop-up?) in Oakland’s Chinatown!  »

You guys! There’s some really exciting news from the East Bay Express about new vegan soul food place in Oakland’s Chinatown, Organic Soul Live! And it’s omnivore restaurant reviewer approved!

From the write-up:

Vegan readers, feel free to call me out on this cliché, but if Joy had told me the dish was made from real cheese — not a mix of commercial soy- and rice-based “cheeses,” plus a cream sauce he makes out of nutritional yeast — I wouldn’t have blinked. He had me fooled.

Sounds damn good! Here’s a photo from EBX!

Should we call him out? It IS a total cliché but it’s pretty great that he called out his own shit. I hate that the ultimate compliment for vegan food is that it, “you wouldn’t know it’s vegan!” You KNOW when plenty of stuff you eat is vegan, and it’s STILL hella good. No disclaimers or comparisons needed! Still, hard for me to get all up in arms about this shiz because I do it all the time FUCK IT I’M ONLY HUMAN. Just a vegan trying to hustle in an omnivore world!

Anyway, he loved the shiitake bacon and massaged collards and the whole thing sounds prettttty delicious. Let’s all go! It’s open every day from 12-9pm and is located inside the Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt shop at 388 9th Street in Oakland. Which means that you can eat VEGAN FRO-YO with your soul food. Seriously, life is getting pretty damn fancy for vegans in the East Bay. Something bad has to happen, right? It’s going too well! Oh wait, there’s the total collapse of the economy, looming environmental destruction and the fact that I STILL don’t have a network sitcom based on the double shenanigans of me and my dog.  


SF Bay Area! Help feral cats!  »

From Nadine! She’s an SF Bay Area cat-rescuing superstar and she and the cats need our help! They are shining their cat signal into the air, who will answer their cat calls!?*

Two small feral cat colonies in the Chinatown/North Beach area need a little help! If you live in the area, do you have a little time to feed these feral cats one or two days a week starting in August?

Feeding the cats is simple and easy: it involves just putting down fresh food and water in two locations, one right across the street from the other, and does not take long—perhaps five to 10 minutes maximum in each spot. We are happy to provide the dry food, as well as some wet food, if necessary, and can supply the bowls for food and water. There are four cats in one colony, and one or two in the other. All the cats have been spayed/neutered and vaccinated.  There are two other people who feed the cats on the other days.

If you’re interested or would like more info, please email me at Feel free to call me on my cell phone at (415) 846.1362 on weekends and after 7 p.m.

 Know people who love cats but are allergic?  It’s perfect for them—no contact is necessary, but they will get the enormous satisfaction of helping and seeing these beautiful creatures! Please tell any other animal-lovers who live in or near that area who might be interested in helping.

*the BEST kind of cat calls are the ones from actual cats, ladies!


Restaurant review: Spices 3 in Oakland!  »

Have you been to Spices? You shouldn’t have to think. With dishes like “Numbing Spicy Salad Noodle”, this Chinese mouth-on-fire hole-in-the-wall is hard to forget. My location of choice, nestled in the depths of Oakland’s Chinatown seems like an unlikely contender for vegan options, but to the contrary… I think they love us.

The menu is chock-full of carefully marked vegetarian items, of such volume and variety that a decision was HELLA hard to come by. We got the vegetarian chow mein (by default made with eggless noodles!) and IT WAS SPICY! I’ve never had a chow mein so HAWT. Come to think about it, I’ve never had one that was so delicious.

We also ordered a tofu vegetable curry, which came out on fire (literally) and it was pretty tasty. It might make you sweat a little. It is worth noting that they know how to cook tofu much better than I do.

But it got really exciting when I caught a glimpse of “fried tofu snowed in garlic”. They really did snow it in garlic. The tofu was crispy and it was delicious. I just want to encourage you not to eat a chunk of the fried garlic when your friend dares you. You’ll be off aromatic root vegetables for a week.

Anyway, they give you complimentary tea, the prices are low, the food is plentiful. And they’ve got three locations—conveniently titled Spices!, Spices! 2, and Spices! 3—two in San Francisco at 294 8th Ave. and 291 6th Ave., and one in Oakland at 369 12th St. Go! Get sweaty!


Review: Loving Hut!  »

Loving Hut. Yes, it has the grossest name around. Loving Hut. It reminds me of somewhere a girl would go to lose her virginity to an elder. And I mean ELDERLY elder. I’m Gonna Puke Hut.

Other than that, this place is delightful. I am reviewing the SF location today but there are two others that just opened in Palo Alto and Milpitas. It’s apparently part of a huge chain that’s all over Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. It’s a Ching Hai Enterprise and so is filled with cult-like awesomeness, including a large television that plays Supreme Master TV on loop. I don’t get to watch much TV and I love it/hate it/want to marry it so when I’m in a room with one, my eyes immediately wander towards it. However, since SMTV is basically unwatchable insanity, it was both a blessing (to my friends who enjoy my company SO MUCH) and a curse (to ME, can we get some Gossip Girl up in here?!).

The menu is available to view and download on their website, but don’t expect to find the exact same menu at the restaurant you go to. The prices are also totally different. But the weird thing is, they’re cheaper at the restaurant than on the site. I don’t know what that’s about, some sort of reverse bait and switch?! Mama like! Most of the food is Chinese with some Vietnamese influences and a slight touch of crazy town. They also have a section of the menu titled “Western Food,” which is basically burgers, club sandwiches and spaghetti. See above about crazy town. So far, the standouts have been the Triple Happiness, pictured below—it’s like these deep-fried layers of gluten, taro and bread. Kinda like a savory gluten baklava. I think. Just try it. I think. Basically, you’ll either love it or think it’s kinda funky. Russian Roulette!; the Ocean Platter, above—basically a big platter of delicious fried foods and yummy dipping sauces, a huge hit with everyone; Spicy Cha Cha—yam crescents that are deep-fried to look and taste like shrimp HOW DO THEY DO IT; and the Won Ton Noodle Soup with fake pork! SO GOOD! The Guru’s Curry and the Veggie Stew are also delicious, basically just big pots filled with potatoes, carrots, and soy protein chunks—beef-esque. also, that’s a great fake word—in a yellow curry/gravy mixture. They have white and brown rice available and lots of drinks—NO ALCOHOL! Ching Hai does NOT imbibe!—ranging from the tasty vegan Thai iced tea to the insanely foul to adults/insanely delicious to kids, e.g. some sort of tropical drink mixture with vegan gelatin in it. I don’t know, I think I’m 10 sometimes and so I ordered it and then it came out and it was like drinking warm liquefied jello. Raunchy.

They have desserts too. Stay away from the cakes (sub-par Black China) and go for the fried bananas and ice cream! Soon they’re supposed to have fried ice cream (!!!) but they haven’t perfected it at the SF location and so we wait. Eagerly. I want that g-d fried ice cream. It’s available in Palo Alto currently so strongly considering making the drive in five minutes, JOB BE DAMNED! WHAT HAVE YOU EVER DONE FOR ME! BESIDES GIVE ME MONEY AND A SENSE OF PURPOSE! I say, nuts to THAT! I need fried ice cream like I’ve never needed anything! Actually, to be real, I need fried ice cream like I need a hole in the head. I just really want it. Really, really, very badly. I mean doesn’t that sound amazing? Also, I almost accidentally typed “friend” instead of “fried” 90 times in the above paragraph. What that says about me, I do not want to know. Probably that I’m really cute and fun.

Okay, also, two more quick awesome things. According to Loving Hut, SF is located in Canada. I feel like if this election doesn’t go well, this map will be called foreshadowing as half of SF is likely to move there. SNAP! Kind of! Also, the interior of the SF Loving Hut is like eating in the Taiwanese future. It’s all super-bright and clean with floating hearts and shit. You sort of expect your waitress to be one of the Jetsons. Love it. This place is good for dinner with a few friends but not going to be great for large groups and not at all romantical. Unless you think Clockwork Orange is sexy and then, eat here and after that, check yourself into the psych ward, you sick fuck! Alternately, CALL ME!


Review: Sabra Grill!  »

You climb a narrow staircase to get in here, and the noise from Chinatown/FiDi/Union Square fades away. The walls are covered with Jewish and/or Israeli art/photography/iconography (the Dalí print is a highlight). The owner is a big, friendly, intimidating man. The last time I was there, the waiter’s yarmulke had Mario (as in, one of the Super Nintendo Brothers) embroidered on it.

Important note: They close two hours before sundown on Fridays for the sabbath, and they close for Jewish holidays, too. I recommend checking an online calendar before getting your hopes all up for the food. I have made this mistake, and it’s crushing.

I have eaten there about 10 times now, at first during my painful FiDi lunchbreaks, and most recently with my cousin who had never had falafel before. Sabra probably ruined him, as it is doubtful he will ever find such divine little falafels outside of the Holy Land. The service is not the fastest, but everyone is so polite, and I think the prices are quite reasonable. One of my omnivorous friends got the lamb sandwich, and sang its praises to the heavens.

The lamb, friends, is not what I am here to tell you about.

THIS IS THE BEST FALAFEL I HAVE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It has ruined me for all other falafels, and I have eaten a lot of balls of fried chickpeas in my life. I had NO IDEA that falafel could be so fucking moist and crispy and delicate and goddamn, just thinking about it has started me salivating like Pavlov’s dog, the falafel is just so fantastic. Not kidding.

If this is the standard, I will never eat any other falafel but Israeli falafel ever again. In this city, it is Sabra or nothing.

But! I completely forgot about my other favorite part of Sabra: the pickles. I am barely a pickle person; sometimes I can choke down a few bites of a sweet pickle, and I generally have no problem with relish in and on the many things you can put it. Real pickley pickles, though, much like raw cherry tomatoes and soft grapes, make me absolutely gag. Biting into one of those things is one of my worst food experiences ever. This is why I like sweet; they’re teeny, unintimidating, pleasant every once in awhile. What Milka is to Lindt 70 percent, so is the sweet pickle to the dill.

Sabra’s pickles are no wussy-baby sweet pickles: they are thick slices of juicy, salty dill pickles that they give you on a plate before bringing you your precious falafel. And I love them. I could, and once almost did, eat myself sick on them. It’s hard to share them. Just these lovely pickle slices in front of you, calling your name. Sabra changed my life, or at the very least, changed my palate.

If you are visiting the city, it is just inside the famous Chinatown gates on Grant Avenue, and after an hour (read: more than one minute) wandering around that neighborhood, an hour of quiet upstairs at Sabra with the city’s best falafel is exactly the remedy for your case of exhaustion/overstimulation. Tip: If you only want a falafel-in-a-pita lunch, order the falafel sandwich. It is not on the big menu, but sometimes they forget to give you the small sandwich menu, so be sure to ask for it.

[external photo by Brett L.]


New restaurant alert: Loving Hut!  »

Via Eater SF, apparently a new vegan restaurant is opening up in Chinatown! It’s called Loving Hut. I took a look at the menu, and it appears to be a faux-meat bonanza, Chinese style, a favorite of the Vegansaurus gang! The dinner menu has a few nods to the “HK-style” Chinese cafe (a Chinese restaurant that also serves American dishes), so it has stuff like spagetti and a “tofu club sandwich” in addition to the standard variety of noodle and rice dishes.

Who are these people? They are the “fastest-growing International vegan fast food chain in the world.” This new Chinatown location appears to be their seventh. The copy on their website is already pretty great. They say: “At Loving Hut, all dishes are prepared free of animal ingredients (vegan) and served lovingly, in a graciously decorated, pure and peaceful environment, giving one a heavenly feeling.”

We will see how heavenly it makes us feel when they open up on Saturday, Oct. 11!

Update: True to form, an intrepid Yelper has already reviewed the place, even though they haven’t even opened! The reviews for their Milpitas location seem very promising, so I’m even more excited to have another venue for fake meat Chinese in the city!

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