Review: La Méditerranée! »
La Méditerranée is a local Mediterranean food chain with three locations, two in SF and one in Berkeley. Vegans can get a variation of the Salad Méditerranée which is hummus, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, Armenian potato salad, lentil salad and green salad. If you’re feeling extra hungry and you’re with another person or a group, you can get a vegan version of the Mediterranean Meza which is basically what everything in the Salad Méditerranée and dolmas too. Actually, I would skip that because it’s like $5 bucks more and you can only really add dolmas if you’re vegan. They also have falafel at lunch but it’s usually sold out by dinner. Always one vegetarian (usually vegan) soup too, which is probably something made with lentils and very good. The best part though is that they serve a VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE! It’s not marked vegan on the menu but it is! And it’s REALLY delicious, rich but not overly sweet. Very, very good and perfect end to dinner. They also can make their coffee drinks with soy milk. Overall, a solid choice for vegans if you’re feeling like Mediterranean food. It can also be a good date place in the evening, all locations are dimly lit and romantical. The Berkeley one also has a delightful heated patio in front.
A while ago I was eating there with a guy friend and this rather cute but obviously insane dude came up to me and said, “when you’re ready to dump this cheeseburger and get with a real man, you should call me,” and handed me his number. It was truly an act of crazy, not to mention REALLY the wrong line to use on me. Logically my response was, “?!??!!” and my friend, Dave, said, “I’m sorry, CHEESEBURGER?” The little dude, looking at Dave, said, “Uh yeah, cheeseburger?”—then, looking at me: “I know this is weird but you’re cute and if you’re not really with him, I’d love to take you out for a drink or a coffee or something?” and I’m all, “Uh, OK, thanks?” Dave is cracking up at this point and the poor little guy turned bright red(der) and walked-ran away. Where do dudes get the balls to do shit like this??? I can’t even make the moves on someone who is like, “Let’s have sex.” Anyway, I’ll always love Le Mediterranee in Berkeley for that awesome memory. And no, I never called the guy. That’s a lie. I called but totally chickened out when I realized it was a number for a U.C. BERKELEY DORM. I’m like 52. Knowing the statutory rape law in California as I do, I chose not to leave a message. Still not sure if I regret this or not. To this day, whenever I email or talk to Dave the conversation will eventually go back to, “Remember that dude who called me a cheeseburger?? That guy was amazing.” And he was. I hope he’s with some girl who thinks he’s USDA Quality Prime Rib. Ugh, I’m grossing out over here, I’ll stop.
[photos via yelp]
Review: Baladie Gourmet Cafe »
The lentil soup at Baladie is one of the best deals in the Financial District. A mere $3.25 for 16 ounces of delicious, hearty, spicy-if-you-want-it vegan lentil soup, plus toasted pitas, should you care for them. You know what you get for $3.25 at the wretched San Francisco Soup Company? NOTHING.
I had falafel in a pita once and it was all right; the hummus was good but the actual falafels were giant and dry. The dolmas are tasty. There’s a guy in the kitchen who wears two thin braids at the top of his forehead stuck straight up like antennae. Service is fast, even when they’re crowded. There is a big mural of Petra, the ancient rose city of Jordan, on the righthand wall; it is a little bit garish and absolutely beautiful. What I mean is, do not pass by Baladie on your way to Boxt Foods Co. or some other place to eat an overpriced salad on restaurant row (Kearny Street. You know). You will regret it in an hour when you are starving again.
What you should’ve ordered, especially on cold, bright, windy days, or foggy days, or rainy days, is LENTIL SOUP. It is so, so good. Everything you could want in a yellow lentil soup: carrots and potatoes and crispy little pita chips, and enough spice to break a little sweat along your hairline. I’d compare it to the first lentil soup I ever loved, namely my mother’s, but they are so different you couldn’t really compare them. And you can’t buy my mother’s soup from friendly people in an adorable little nook of a restaurant for $3.25, so Baladie it is.
I mean, I really love that soup.
Review: Blue Front Cafe! »
Blue Front isn’t just in the Haight, it’s on Haight Street, so all the food is a little pricier than you’d like. The wraps are chock-full of deliciousness, however, and the texture and tang of the hummus is incomparable. I mean, for serious. I hear the gyros are good, but not being a meat-eater, I can’t vouch for them.
The vegetarian selections are bountiful and tasty. The avocado has always been buttery and perfectly ripe—no one likes a hard avocado, after all—and that spicy orange-colored sauce is delightful. The garden salad is huge and a good price. Get falafel in a pita with some dolmas to go and stop off at the New Lite Market for a six-pack, and there’s your night.
When I lived in the Haight, a trip to Blue Front and back took me maybe 15 minutes round trip, and this was before I learned to call ahead to avoid waiting inside. I don’t know that I ever properly appreciated having such a quality “Mediterranean for the undiscerning Occidental” café so close to my front door, but, hindsight. The owners are Greek Orthodox dudes from Jerusalem, and you must love them for adapting their cuisine to your international palate. Or at least, the palate your parents created when they gave two-year-old you a bunch of food in a plastic plate with inch-high sides and let you mix it all up and eat it as a huge mush of flavors. You see? They know and love you; that’s why you can get a wrap with hummus, avocado, falafel, lettuce, tomato, and dolmas.
I advise getting any of their vegetarian wraps except the one with cheese, which I have never tried and do not advocate on account of its not being vegan. Make liberal use of the orange sauce; it will help you forget that you are paying $1 to $2 more for your food than you would were you not on Haight Street, but sometimes figurative costs do have literal translations, and this is one of them.
[photo via yelp]