Get out of town: The vegan charms of Northern California!  »

I should start by saying that California’s North Coast is a lot like San Francisco: often cold, foggy and filled with people who smell like a dirty pair of underwear. But, what the North Coast has that the City don’t is a whole lotta peace, quiet and ocean views for days. And this incredibly intoxicating smell of earth and fresh rain that I’ve never smelled anywhere else.
Vegan eating and food options are nowhere near as prevalent on the coast as they are in more urban areas, but they are available here, you just have to know where to look! But don’t all you city-dwellers move your asses up here, otherwise it’s going to get overpopulated and then where will all the wild turkeys, deer, and bunnies go?

As you’re making your way up to the coast, you’ll probably get hungry. I mean, driving’s EXHAUSTING right? My favorite place to stop for road food is High Tech Burrito in Windsor. They have three burritos sure to leave any vegan feeling fat, sassy and ready to continue the drive. Because seriously, you’re not even close to getting here yet. I highly recommend taking Highway 128 off of 101 North versus taking Highway 20. Highway 128 takes a little bit longer, but there’s much more to see, and much less switchbacks that make you feel like you want to puke all over your lap. Highway 128, trust me.

While you’re cruising up 128 and remarking over all the incredible beauty (because if you don’t find Anderson Valley beautiful, turn around and go home because I don’t want you tainting the coast with your shitty attitude), keep your eye out for signs for Boonville. Right before the town is Highway 253. Take a right on 253, and Anderson Valley Brewing Company will be on your left. Stop here. Drink beer. Eat free pretzels and peanuts. Yes, they will give you a basket of both if you ask. Buy beer. Take beer with you. Play disc golf! According to Barnivore, AVBC’s entire lineup of beers is vegan-friendly, so try them all. Just don’t get back behind the wheel until you’re sober, you lush.

Once you arrive on the Coast, you’re probably ready to eat more, drink your beer, or pass out drooling onto a pillow. Where should you stay? The Stanford Inn. Ok, yes, it’s not the cheapest option on the coast, but how can you go wrong with a place that not only serves vegan food at their Ravens Restaurant, but also has an organic garden, a strong focus on sustainability, is pet-friendly, and has ocean views? Quit being such a tightwad and go there already. They have resident horses you can pet! Horses!

[Photo by the Stanford Inn]

If you want something a little less upscale but still nice, check out the Coast Inn and Spa. It’s just south of Fort Bragg, right on Highway 1, and their CapHe restaurant menu is 80 percent raw, organic and focuses on alkalizing and energizing. If you’re into that kind of thing.

After your restful sleep imaging you can hear the ocean’s crashing waves, the options for breakfast are plentiful. Head south to the Little River Inn to enjoy some of their delicious vegan rancheros. And if you’re there on a Sunday, a free glass of champagne to boot. Woot free booze! If you’re looking for more “big-town” action, head to Fort Bragg, where you can find a vegan omelet at the Homestyle Cafe, or a bunch of vegan options at the organic eatery Cafe One.
[Photo by Little River Inn]

Lunch and dinner is really where you can start to party down. I highly recommend the Thai Burrito at the Mendocino Cafe—just don’t let them forget the peanut sauce on the side. I’m assuming you won’t be sick of burritos at this point, since loving and appreciating burritos is a requirement for living in the Bay Area. Frankie’s in Mendocino makes a mean vegan pizza (they use Daiya cheese, which is the bizness) and their falafel is fantastic. And they serve beer and wine.
[Photo by Frankie’s Mendocino]

If you’re feeling like a fat ass but still want an afternoon snack, look no further than the Living Light Cafe. Raw, gorgeous foods, and juices that will clean you right out. And yes, I’m referring to pooping. Don’t be embarrassed; everybody poops.

One of the best spots for beer on the coast is the North Coasting Brewing Company. I can’t lie-their vegan food selection is somewhat lacking, but the veggie burger is indeed vegan, it’s big and it comes with french fries. Which is good, because you’re going to need substantial food to soak up the awesome selection of beers on tap. I am a big fan of their IPA and the Old Rasputin. Fair warning: Rasputin packs a punch, and isn’t for the lightweights.

For dinner, stumble a couple blocks down the street to Mendo Bistro. Upstairs in the same building where you discovered Living Light, Mendo Bistro is good place for nicer vegan dinner selections. Their menu changes seasonally, but I’ve had a great root vegetable stew and pasta dish there, and they always have tofu and portobello mushroom on their “choice” menu.

Listen up y’all, because I am about to let you in on possibly the biggest insider vegan tip for the North Coast. Two words: Vegan potluck. You heard me, a potluck where every single dish is vegan. PIG OUT! Not only that, but it’s a group of really nice people too. They meet every second Saturday of the month, in Little River. It’s public knowledge and in the local papers, but I’m not going to tell you more than that. If you want to join us, do your homework and make a phone call. And bring something delicious, dammit. [Ed.: We found this! We are master sleuths!]

Now that you know the scoop on getting your vegan grub on in one of quite possibly the most beautiful places on earth, come visit. Bring your dogs, because if your dogs are anything like mine, attacking seaweed ropes and hauling ass along the beach are some of the most fun activities on earth.

As you’re schlepping around, beware of wild male turkeys hollering at you. It’s mating season and they’re looking for company. Bow chicka wow wow!

Tara Barnes is a writer, running and cycling nerd and vegan foodie currently living in a teeny, tiny town on California’s North Coast. She talks a lot about food and dogs at her blog VeganRahRah. Loves: Her hometown of Oakland, popcorn, and sleeping. Dislikes: Rude people, giant spoons, and not getting enough sleep.

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