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.


Road Trip THURSDAY (WHAT?): The Stanford Inn!  »

This is a Road Trip Thursday because you need extra time to get to Mendocino and back, but you still have time to call in sick to work tomorrow and get away for the weekend. DO IT EVERYONE ELSE IS DON’T YOU WANT TO BE POPULAR?

Okay so. The Stanford Inn is pretty much heaven on earth. It’s heaven if you are healthy and active and want to wake with the sun (PSYCHO) and mountain bike and kayak (CARAZAY) and do partner yoga (I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN) and you’re everything I stand against in this world, BUT it’s also heaven for lazy asses who just want to eat and drink and hot tub and lay around watching premium cable in their enormous bed with billion-thread-count sheets and eat complimentary vegan cookies and bon bons and pet llamas. I call that Living and you can quote me on that. Actually, I think you can technically quote me on everything I put on the internet and kids who are posting nerkid photos of themselves on myspace OUGHT TO THINK ABOUT THAT ONCE IN AWHILE*.

The Stanford Inn is located in Mendocino, about three hours up the Pacific Coast from SF. If you haven’t been to Mendocino, it’s what we like to call “God’s Country.” That is because it is very beautiful and also inhabited mainly by bible-thumping hicks. Those seem to be the two qualifiers for “God’s Country.” Actually, I don’t know about the hicks…that might not be true. I’m mainly talking nonsense. Okay strike that, I’m talking complete nonsense. Mendocino is filled with charming retirees, artists, and hippies and their disaffected youth (aka HOODLUMS). They have several restaurants with more than one vegan option on the menu, and an almost all-veg co-op grocery in an old church. cool.

It’s a little pricey for people in my demographic (i.e. people who live in SF and spend all their money on rent and eating out) but they’re currently running Spring Specials that allow you a gorgeous room for $198 (Mon-Thur) and $228 on the weekends. All rooms include FREE BREAKFAST (and this ain’t continental, you can choose from the menu! Pancakes, waffles, tofu scrambles, amazing SCONES?!—who knew! scones are such a boring non-food but these scones are ridiculous!—also, I love that if you pay for breakfast they charge you extra if you want EGGS. THAT IS CORRECT. Vegan tax in reverse, I love you!) and free rentalsonkayaksandmountainbikesSNOOZE. They also offer this couples special where you get two nights, FREE BREAKFAST AND DINNER at Raven’s Restaurant (the onsite all vegetarian mostly vegan restaurant) and a free massage or facial for $685. Now, I’ve done the math on this and while I’m basically a math illiterate, I believe it’s a very good deal, especially considering that dinner at Raven’s, while not $$$, will set you back about $100 for two people.

Speaking of Raven’s Restaurant. It’s excellent and the chef has a really sassy blog on the Stanford Inn website. I strongly recommend you check it out. He is pissed! He is sassy! He is ONE OF US! The food is not at quite the caliber of Millennium but it’s still VERY good and uses a lot of produce from their own gardens. Very cool. I especially liked the tofu scrambles at breakfast and the pancakes! I love a vegan pancake!

A couple things to note: 1) You will be the youngest people there and if you’re not into that, this is not the place for you. The other guests aren’t stuffy or lame, they’re just hella old like the crypt keeper, you dig? It’s to be expected when you look at the price and then consider that younger people spend their money on strippers, coke and other fun-in-the-moment but ultimately super-lame shit. 2) They have a pool and hot tub that are open 24/7. Midnight slightly boozy underwater handstands? Yes please! They also have a sauna but Jonas couldn’t get it as hot as he wanted it, even after he threw water on the furnace. We are lucky to be alive. 3) Make sure to be around for tea time from 3-4pm when they serve up drinks and homemade snacks like brownies and wraps and crostini and hummus! FREE FOOD AND DRINK DO NOT MISS IT. 4) Head into Mendocino and walk around and then head up the road 10 miles to Fort Bragg and walk around. Apparently Fort Bragg is the place where the first tempeh was cultured in the United States. Hippies. Also, check out the raw food restaurant/raw foods culinary school!? in Fort Bragg. It was really good, especially the ice cream! 5) IF YOU ARE THERE DURING THE WHALE MIGRATION, DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE OCEAN. I never stopped staring at the ocean and now I think I have a lazy eye! Worth it! 6) Also, on the drive up, you’ll pass Anderson Valley Brewing Company. All of their beer is vegan and you can snack on free pretzels and excellent house-made mustard. Perfect rest stop on your trip.

I guess to wrap this bitch up, save your pennies and go to The Stanford Inn. Since it’s about a three-hour drive from SF, you’re going to want to stay more than one night to make it worth your while and that package above looks pretty good. When you consider that you’re supporting an all-veg business in a beautiful place, it should push you over the edge! YOU MUST GO. Tomorrow. So call in sick with ebola** and hit the open road!

*signed, prudy mccheckyourself.

**I actually did this once when I was in college. I got confused, I thought I was saying I had e. coli. Oops!

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