vegansaurus!

04/13/2010

Flacos Restaurant Opens!  »

It’s been a good few months for vegan Mexican food! It’s everywhere. Well, in two places. Gracias Madre is considerably better than when it opened. Or maybe I’m just less of a bitch today. PEOPLE CHANGE. Not me, but I’ve heard that some do. Like, in movies about people changing. Anyway, I highly recommend the cheesy cauliflower and patatas bravas because they are both the tastiest. But we aren’t here to talk about that cult restaurant, we’re here to get down on some delicious East Bay Mexican food from Flacos. Yes we’ve reviewed them before, but now they have a stand-alone restaurant and it’s bare bones. You probably shouldn’t go with a group larger than four and you won’t all be sitting together. The food is worth it though, with the tamales and taquitos being the stand-out stars of the menu. Skip the pozole unless you’re a fan of things that are flavored like “red.”

I guess I really have nothing else to say. AND STILL I RISE. I guess I just wanted to tell you that Flacos is open in Berkeley and y’all should go so their asses stay in business and continue to be awesome so that I might get as delightfully fat as possible. Oh and they’re open from 12-9 Tuesday thru Saturday. And are cash only. FOR THE TIME BEING. I think they’re working on getting a credit card machine and to that I say: WORK FASTER! I joke but really, fuck you, Cha Ya.

01/29/2010

Taco Happy Hour oppression!  »

Chances are if you live in San Francisco and are an unemployed bum (“freelancer”), you’ve heard of El Toro's and Pancho Villa's Taco Happy Hours. Between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m., both venerable taquerias offer $1 tacos and $2 beers. While in the past I've had no troubles getting tofu tacos for the $1 advertised price, yesterday when my friend and I hit up the Panch, we were told that the only vegetarian taco eligible for the deal was the plain rice/beans/salsa deal…BUT I could get a meat taco for the happy hour price!

What the shit? The basic meat taco is $3, while the rice/beans/salsa model is $1.50. That means that you get a $2 discount per taco if you eat meat, and a $0.50 discount per taco if you don’t. What’s more is the tofu tacos COST LESS THAN THE PLAIN MEAT TACOS! THEY ARE $2.25!!! WHY, PANCHO VILLA/EL TORO, WHY?

Now, I love me some El Toro and I love me some Pancho Villa (more El Toro, because they have pico de gallo in their salsa bar, and I am like a fiend for that stuff), but I am not so in love with this veg discrimination, so I say let us rise up, vegans, and fight for our $1 tofu tacos! Contact El Toro and Pancho Villa and (politely and pragmatically) let them know that we’re on to them. End veggie discrimination now!

01/25/2010

Gracias Madre opening party TONIGHT! FREE DRINKS!  »

Really, all you should care about there is: TONIGHT and FREE DRINKS. It’s from 5 to 7 p.m. Also, FULL DISCLOSURE, we have no confirmation on this and I’m not calling anyone. It’s near the end of the month and minutes are a valuable commodity that I’m sure as hell not wasting on your asses. Now, anyone in an office care to call and confirm? THANK YOU AHEAD OF TIME!

Here’s our initial observations about Gracias Madre. I’ll also add that you should skip pretty much everything except the cheesy cauliflower thing (it’s AMAZING) and OK, here’s the plan. Get to GM at like 5 p.m. Have a cheesy cauliflower dish and several free drinks. Wander down the street to El Farolito (or ANYWHERE BUT GRACIAS MADRE) and get a big-ass burrito for $5. Head on over to my place and LET’S PARTY (read: I’ll never tell you where I live EVER!!).

12/26/2009

At Gracias Madre! It’s open!
First impressions: they spent a shitload of money on this place. It’s like being in a fancy spa (in Mexico?). The super-white host greets you with a “Buenas dias.” Hehe. As expected, they ask you a question of the day (shoot me) and there is communal seating (shoot me) (although fairly empty right now so we’re relatively safe). Pretty much the entire menu is available (except a few of the desserts).
That’s our report from the front lines! We’ll be back with more in a little! Over and out!

At Gracias Madre! It’s open!

First impressions: they spent a shitload of money on this place. It’s like being in a fancy spa (in Mexico?). The super-white host greets you with a “Buenas dias.” Hehe. As expected, they ask you a question of the day (shoot me) and there is communal seating (shoot me) (although fairly empty right now so we’re relatively safe). Pretty much the entire menu is available (except a few of the desserts).

That’s our report from the front lines! We’ll be back with more in a little! Over and out!

10/27/2009

Preview Gracias Madre! Right now!  »

OK, more like “pre-taste,” but the prefix is the key here because oh boy: They’re serving Gracias Madre tamales at Café Gratitude right now! Oh I cannot wait for this place to open, one of everything to stay, please.

The tamales are described as follows:Stoneground heirloom masa steamed in the husk filled with seasonal vegetables. Served with pumpkin seed salsa and black beans. Rajas – roasted poblano chile strips sautéed with onion. Calabaza – roasted butternut squash.” ¡Muy delicioso!

[thanks for the tip, Grub Street San Francisco!]

10/22/2009

08/27/2009

Road Trip: Aguas frescas in Mexico City!  »

¡Buenas tardes! Welcome to a vegan’s guide to eating in Mexico City—with no Spanish!

First thing to learn, you are the only one who calls Mexico City “Mexico City;” everyone else calls it D.F., which is pronounced “day-effay” and stands for distrito federal, or, federal district. In order to get you used to this, so that when you go you too can be mistaken for some other nationality (or at least sound like you know a thing), henceforth we shall also be using this abbreviation.

D.F. street food, while generally delicious-looking and -smelling, can be a tricky business if you don’t speak Spanish—like me! The control you have to give up when you’re speaking through a translator, for people who are using to asking about every ingredient in every “vegetarian” dish in a new restaurant, it’s dismaying. Do not despair; not everything is scary and foreign and dangerous and GOD TAKE ME HOME NOW. Some things are vegan by default!

I love vegan-by-default foods; they’re usually noncontroversial, meaning you can suggest them to, say, your uncle who refuses on principle (I know) to eat tofu without ever saying the word “vegan,” and everyone can partake and enjoy, and there’s no SURPRISE IT’S VEGAN at the end, which apparently some people don’t like. Look, there are people in the world who hate fun, you can’t change them.

In D.F., one of these vegan-by-default items is the agua fresca, which is essentially like  drinking fruit; no, not like juice, exactly. You choose one or more fruits that you would like to drink, and the person throws them into a blender with some cold water, blends until everything is evenly textured, pours it into a Styrofoam cup the size of your (my) (read: enormous) head, and there you are, the best fruit drink you’ve ever had. Yes, you can get them here in the city, but do they make them fresh? NO, they ladle them out of plastic tubs, and you don’t get to choose from a multitude of fruits that won’t even be cut until you ask for them. Oh Mexico, your fruit is outrageous.

My introduction to a proper agua fresca was strawberry-lime; first the man blended the strawberries with water, and while the blender was still moving, he threw an entire lime in as well. Entire, as in, skin and seeds and pulp and pith and all, the whole little round green thing, he popped it right in and covered the blender again. When it reached the proper texture—maybe 90 seconds—he poured the entire contents of the blender through a metal strainer and into one of the aforementioned gigantic cups, and gave it to me. I don’t think it cost more than 20 pesos, i.e., less than $2, and it tasted like heaven. Light and tart and fruity and so, so good; if only I had a larger stomach, that I could’ve finished it before it got warm; it took me a whole hour to drink. Good hydration is especially important in D.F., where the elevation makes the atmosphere thin and in combination with the pollution can turn your mouth and eyes into individual deserts. Don’t let this happen; drink aguas frescas. Drink them with cantalope, with pineapple, with mango or papaya (if you can taste it properly); drink them as often as you need. You can’t drink the tap water so you’ll have to buy something whenever you’re thirsty, so you might as well get a drink that is both unique to your location and a magical taste bud wonderland.

For reference, here is a list of Spanish words for fruits. Remember, the accent indicates the stressed syllable!

06/19/2009

02/23/2009

Joe’s Taco Lounge & Salsa!  »

If you are stuck in Mill Valley, you are pretty much fucked for food. You’re either eating what the people who live here are eating (read: nothing because shit is expen$$$ive and it’s richie rich “happy” meat town) or you eat what people who work here are eating (read: nothing because shit is Jack ’n the Crack. Blarg.) There just isn’t much for us middle of the road vegan food connoisseur to enjoy with one notable exception of the fantastically tiny Joe’s Taco Lounge. First things first: it looks like Rita Moreno threw up and then exploded inside. That’s all right by me. The tofu tostada is OUT OF SIGHT. It’s crispy breaded and fried tofu on a bed of lettuce (ask for lettuce instead of the slaw which is filled with gross mayo) in a gorgeous fried tostada. It’s totally perfect. I’ve eaten it maybe 100 times and it never gets old. I’d almost say that it’s worth a trip to Marin actually fuck it, YES, it’s worth a trip to Marin, especially if you like to hike and stuff like that. It’s god’s country out there, bring a gun. Or at least a shovel. I’m pretty sure they filmed Into the Wild down the road. And maybe Gorillas in the Mist? But if that’s the case, bring your hugging arms because if I see me a baby gorilla, I’m hugging it!

They also have a really good vegan black bean soup, vegan enchilada and vegan tacos. They have 10 million kinds of hot sauce lining the walls. I’ll go so far as to say that it’s very authentic Mexican food and I should know, I’ve been to Tijuana on spring break, okay? Finally, Joe’s Taco Lounge is always filled with blond Mill Valley pregos and their whiny-ass babies. No husbands ever spotted. I mean, I wouldn’t hang out with these foul bitches either but I didn’t marry ’em, boys!

12/10/2008

Review: Chevy’s Fresh Mex!  »

I was a waitress at a Chevy’s one summer break from college. Oh fuck off. Like you never gave a blow job you didn’t regret. Actually, I waitressed at the Chevy’s in Alameda which was the VERY FIRST CHEVY’S EVER. Thas right. Chevy’s originated on The Island. You’re surprised? Alameda is basically Texas-Mexico. I know, I want to burn the whole Island down too. Anyway, that Chevy’s is now defunct but I picked up some odd shifts at different Bay Area Chevy’s and have eaten at a few (I KNOW) so I feel qualified to write a review about them and let’s be honest, even if I didn’t, I’d write it anyway.

Now, the only things to really eat at Chevy’s as a vegan are the chips, the salsa and the margaritas. Four food groups covered? Check! They actually have a large and decent tequila selection and I recommend a top shelf on the rocks with salt. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO GET THE FROZEN MARGARITAS. They totally skimp on the amount of tequila to nasty-sweet-slushy ratio and the only buzz you’ll end up with is a cold freeze followed by a shitty sugar rush. Or fuck it, who are we trying to kid? You’re at CHEVY’S. Get a MangoGuavaWatermelonRita with seven pieces of giant fruit and nine Mexican flags hanging off of it. It might be 2,000 calories and not get you even remotely drunk but you’ll be this ridiculously ridiculous American asshole drinking a fake margarita at a fake Mexican restaurant and let’s just do the damn thing!

You might also consider enjoying some fresh flour tortillas from “LA MAQUINA”. I’m pretty sure that’s Spanish for, “TERRIFYING DEATH TRAP”. It’s this insane tortilla-making machine that looks like a medieval torture device. They have one at every Chevy’s, lucky you. When I worked there, I had nightmares about getting my arm caught in LA MAQUINA and being left with a tortilla for a hand. Scary business. You can also get some shitty salads and a veggie fajitas plate but what’s the use? I already told you your dinner is seven margaritas and 10 baskets of chips. Oh also, don’t forget about,”El Happy Hour" (I couldn’t make this shit up) where all well drinks and some crappy beers are $3 from 4 to 7 p.m. I don’t think they do this in the SF locations because they know we can afford their ridiculous prices. Assholes.

Speaking of, since I’m always drunk off my dinner when I’m here, I can’t really comment on the service but I’m guessing by my skillz in that department that it’s pretty fucking horrendous. I was either drunk, high or completely disinterested during every single one of my shifts. In fact, I was probably a better waitress drunk than I ever was sober…at least then I was TRYING to focus so that I wouldn’t bite it when walking to your table or like, throw up on you. I’ll tell you another thing, fucking people who eat at Chevy’s are the fucking worst. I had my ass grabbed by a GUY WEARING A BACKWARDS BASEBALL CAP, I was referred to simply as “Red” by several dudes old enough to be dead and I can’t even tell you how many times I was condescended to by the Beverly Hillbillies out for a fancy dinner at Chevy’s. I made it a point to mention 19 times each shift that I was on BREAK from COLLEGE in NEW YORK CITY because I just couldn’t stand being asked if, “I understood the order?” one more time by some twat with seven teeth. Either that or I’d tell some bizarre lie about how I was a scientist from NASA who recently cracked the Flux Capacitor and traveled BACK through TIME into the FUTURE to er, wait tables at Chevy’s Tex Mex.

This is also the place where I learned from Sonya, the giantess Swedish bartender, to always order a “Crown and Water” on a date because even though it tastes like earwax, men love it. I’ve found this secret to be very true and ladies, I pass it on to you today. I’ve drank so many of these that I actually like the taste now, go figure. It’s no Midori Sour but come on, what is? There is no competing with the King of Girl Beer.

I hope this review doesn’t get me sued.

Logistics: Chevy’s has nine Bay Area locations, four in SF. Mostly downtown-ish and one in Stonestown shopping center. You might be forced to go there on a work-type event. That is when this review will help. I think.

[margarita photo by dipdewdog; la maquina photo by americanvirus]

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