Interview with Susan from The Breakroom Cafe! Plus, they’re serving VEGAN BRUNCH!! »
Have you ever wondered how one of your favorite vegetarian restaurants got their start? Here’s the story of The Breakroom Cafe in downtown Oakland! Susan, a 10-year veteran of working in bars and restaurants (and a kick-ass, awesome girl), and her partner Jason, a former department store manager (and all-around really cool guy), dreamed about opening a vegetarian restaurant and went for it! Coming up on the fourth anniversary of The Breakroom, Susan and Jason reflect on starting their veg business.
Vegansaurus: What was your opening date?
Susan: July 14, 2007. You were there, Anne! I think you just happened to be walking by or something, and you saw we were finally open. I remember us forcing all these free pastries on you.
What made you want to start a vegetarian restaurant?
While living in Cleveland, I always fantasized about moving to another state and running a vegetarian restaurant. After moving to Oakland, I served at a vegan restaurant for a few years, where I learned that there was definitely a market for vegetarian food out here. While browsing Craigslist, Jason found a space available, and voila! To be honest though, I thought this place would be more of a coffee shop that sells veg sandwiches. It turned out to be a sandwich shop that sells coffee.
Where do you draw inspiration for your menu items?
I guess it’s different for each menu item. I remember loving Sloppy Joes as a kid. Remember that Manwich stuff? Loved it! And since becoming vegetarian at 16, I had a craving for it, so I knew we had to have a vegan Sloppy Joe on the menu.M ost of the menu items are veg versions of familiar standard American sandwiches that people may miss eating since becoming vegan/vegetarian.
What’s your most popular dish?
It’s a toss-up between the Meatball, Club and Turkey/Bacon.
If your Sloppy Joe sandwich was a song, what song would it be?
Maybe "Cool It Now," that New Edition song—for those that think it’s too spicy!
Tell us a funny story about an unwitting omnivore who ordered one of your veg sandwiches.
None specifically comes to mind, but there are those that just don’t understand the imitation meat concept. We’ve had people say, “So when it says bacon, it’s not really bacon?” We say “nope,” and the next question is, “But what about the Ham & Swiss sandwich? That’s real ham, right? We answer “No,” and then they move on to questioning the “turkey.”
I noticed that there’s a cock on the front of your building, what’s up with that?
I guess the owner of the previous business Zodiac Desserts put it there. I didn’t even notice it until a few months after we bought the business, a friend and I were walking by the shop and we both noticed it at the same time. I was like “Where the hell did that rooster come from?”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to start a vegan business, what would it be?
Make food that NON-vegan/-vegetarians will like, and make them believe they could survive not eating meat.
This is Laura here and I just want to chime in because Breakroom just started doing Sunday brunch! It’s from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it’s the BOMB! A huge plate of potatoes, veggie ham, tofu scramble, fruit, AND french toast for like 10 bucks! You’ll be full for days! MORE VEGAN BRUNCH IN THE EAST BAY, Y’ALL!!! Oh, and here’s a shitty camera phone picture because I love you:
Uh, and you can check out their Facebook page for more updates and better photos!
Breakroom Cafe: 300 13th Street, Oakland. (510) 836-3864. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Anne Martin is an eater of free pastries and a lover of veg restaurants. She is a Ph.D. Candidate at UC Berkeley’s City & Regional Planning department, and is a member of the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy. When Anne is not researching or eating vegan Hearty Bagel sandwiches at The Breakroom, you will find her volunteering with Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary.
SF’s Saigon Sandwiches: NOT vegan (or even vegetarian), but can be made so! »
An AWESOME Vietnamese-speaking friend of Vegansaurus very kindly helped us get the full answer on whether or not Saigon Sandwiches cooks their tofu in meat juice and the crappy answer is: YES, the do. This is major-bummer sadness, but our investigator also reported that the sandwich artists were really nice and super forthcoming with a solution, even though he didn’t even ask for one! Turns out, you can ask for the tofu to be cooked with soy sauce (make sure to specify no fish sauce, just soy sauce!) and BAM! It’s vegan! Without the mayo, of course.
Man, life can be complicated sometimes. But it can also be delicious, and I’m here to report that with all those specifications, this sandwich is THE BOMB. I also just thought of something: we should encourage them to put up a sign by the tofu sandwich that says, “Ask if you want it made vegetarian or vegan” so that people know the tofu isn’t automatically veg. I bet if enough people ask (politely! And get your Vietnamese-speaking friends to ask, too! Or get them to teach you how to ask in Vietnamese and practice a bunch to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself/accidentally ask one of the employees to eat your mom’s penis!), it would happen. I’m currently in the Marty’s vegan dining rules state of mind where I ask about ERRYTHANG but you know, lots of people don’t. And it’s a bummer when your tofu comes covered in blood, for realz.
If you are getting an enormous sandwich for about 10 cents from a hole in the wall that’s crazy crowded and the sandwich artisans are working at crazy fast speed and you don’t speak their language, you’re just gonna have to decide if it’s worth it or not. if it is, you just gotta let go and let god, you feel me? I am OK with eating the tofu banh mi from Saigon Sandwiches (tofu cooked in soy sauce/no mayo, natch) because I am super-poor, I go at slower times of the day so nothing’s rushed, and I want to support their veg options. I also have a stomach of steel and when the apocalypse comes (three days!), I’ll be totally fine eating directly from garbage cans and sewers.* Anyway, I’m off track, the point is, if that makes you uncomfortable—perfectly understandable, you’re a better person than I—then you gotta find another place to get your banh mi fix! I’m not sure where, as I don’t think Banh Mai is still serving, and I haven’t tried Bun Mee yet. Anyone? They have an eggplant banh mi that looks pretty awesome—anyone know if it’s vegan? Or do I have to go do more investigative journalism?
[unappetizing pic of half-eaten tofu banh mi from yelp!]
*And you know what? You will too if you want to defeat that devil army!
That’s the chicken fried tempeh from Greenburgers in SF. Why is it so hard to take a good savory food photo? It’s like they always come out looking like a big pile of garbage or a big pile of throw-up. If you have any tips, let me know! Please note: the tips should be for dining in low-lighting and using the iPhone’s camera. I know, it’s an ideal situation.
Anyway, trust that everything on that plate tasted DELICIOUS. Perfectly cooked tempeh coated in crispy-fried deliciousness, served with amazing asparagus (yay spring!) and your choice of fries or sweet potato fries. It comes with mashed potatoes normally but those aren’t vegan. YET!* It was exceptionally tasty. ALSO: Greenburgers JUST debuted a vegan sloppy joe (!!!), so I’ll be back very soon to try.
All in all, definitely give Greenburgers a shot, and let me know what you think! It’s definitely the cleanest/nicest place on this block of the Haight, and a totally acceptable place to bring your fancy parents or fancy friends who don’t like a side of Hep C with their food. Prudes! And I only say that because I know someone that actually happened to. And her name is Natasha Lyonne. And it also involved lots of drugs and possible sex with a parking meter. No matter, still love that bitch! I don’t know where this review is going but imma stop it right here. GOODNIGHT, SIR!
*Greenburgers! Earth Balance and coconut creamer make excellent mashed potatoes!
Top 10 links of the week: a rollercoaster ride through veganism! »
[Deer and Goose are BFF. Your cute animal viral video of the week!]
Ecorazzi had a post today where they quoted yours truly! In Martha Stewart, Honey and the Great Vegan Debate, they discuss the state of honey in the vegan community. Is honey vegan? Do bees count? Go comment and weigh in!
From City’s Best, “10 Meatless Musts in San Francisco." Vegansaurus is about to drop a similar list so be on the lookout. Ours will of course be not only informative but also the funniest ever.
Recently, Huffpo did a piece about the best sandwiches in the U.S. and none were vegan. Now they’re all vegan! Huzzah! A bunch of vegan bloggers—like, everyone besides us—created vegan versions of each sandwich. Maybe next time we’ll be included, eh? Just kidding! Cooking is for the womenfolk.
Our Hen House (who I hear was at the Martha Stewart episode with me but I didn’t meet them!) has started a cool endeavor, The Gay Animal Series, about the relationship between gay rights and animal rights. Check it out! You will feel so cultured and smart, you can skip the next This America Life! Which works out great for me because when you rehash the episode to me in detail, that’s not actually a conversation.
The Village Voice has an NYC guide to tofu—imagine that! I love me some tofu so I’m all over this one. It’s all the best tofu from various restaurants throughout the city. I haven’t been to any of them. How come you never take me out anymore!
Head over to A Soy Bean for a recap of the NYC Vegetarian Food Fest last weekend. Treehugger has a review too but no pictures! There’s a few videos, but no pictures? We love the pictures! Abby Bean has a ton of pictures. Pictures.
Cheeky Chicago has a nice post on how to make a variety of vegan cheese-substitutes. Walnut Parmesan Sprinkles? YES DEFINITELY GIVE IT HERE.
For a little homespun fun, check out Laura’s The Week in Vegan at SF Weekly. Leave a comment, let her know you care! And let SF Weekly know we vegans are plentiful and emotive.
Babe in Soyland has a great post about veganism and the idea that it means AUTOMATIC weight-loss. Here’s a taste: “People need to know that vegans come in ALL shapes and sizes and that fat vegans (the ones I’ve met are proud to be both fat and vegan) aren’t doing something “wrong” in their vegan diets. There is no “stereotypical vegan”—unless the stereotype is having awesomely low cholesterol.” Read it and tell me what you think.
Finally, from Lovely Bike, a list of vegan bike saddles! That means bike seats. I’m partial to this first one they’ve picked out, it’s the hotness:
Seven best Bay Area veggie burgers & Mission Burger’s vegan burger recipe! BURGERS! »
Obviously I’m trying to optimize SEO for anyone searching for “burger” and when I do things, I go big or go home! So usually I just go home but today: GOOGLE BETTER WATCH ITS BACK.
Anyway! I wrote some stuff up for SFoodie, first being (WHAT I BELIEVE TO BE) the seven best veggie burgers in the Bay Area. Next: a cobbled-together recipe for the dearly departed Mission Vegan Burger. I got the recipe from the nice dudes at Mission Street Food, and then tried to scale it down because that shit was originally for 70 patties and lord knows I can EAT but 70? Touché, Mission Street Food dudes. Touché. Oooh, perhaps we sell them at the next SF Vegan Bakesale?? We just need an industrial deep fryer. You got one? Wanna be my boyfriend?* Please note: if you have one and bring it to the sale, I WILL steal it. OMG, I’ll be deep-frying errrthang in site. You’ll be like, “Laura, where did you go?” and I’ll be all, “Oh sorry, I was just deep-frying my face!” Except I’ll probably be deep-frying a candy bar because ew, health code violation!
*Sorry, Jonas! I’m sure you understand, you’d do the same to me. It’s either leave or be left, baby!
It’s time to do stuff! Shut down fur stores, help animals in Japan and join the Great American Meatout in this week’s link-o-rama! »
Have you been thinking about the animals affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan? Well, @FigaroRascal’s favorite paper, the Anipal Times, has posted a wealth of information on how the situation with animals in Japan is being handled as well as what you can do to help. GO! READ! HELP!
Lunch Box Bunch had a post this week with 15 food photography tips! I need to read them. Shut up! I do the best job my iPhone can do.
Bay Area vegan Ai Hiruma-Martinez of If Martha Was Vegan got a recipe published in Rachel Ray’s magazine! Go Ai! It’s a quinoa salad. Pick up your copy of the magazine and tell them you love vegan recipes! In other news: I find Rachel Ray insufferable, anybody with me?
If there’s one thing I love, it’s bechamel sauce! I started following this French blog on twitter and they posted this super-looking bechamel recipe. I plugged it into google translate and it doesn’t look that difficult! What’s your favorite recipe that calls for bechamel sauce? Tell me now! I’m hungry!
The oldest wild bird in the northern hemisphere, a 60-year-old albatross named Wisdom, totally got her groove back! Wisdom has a new chick! She is amazing scientists with her longevity and fertility. God bless you and your libido, Wisdom.
Hey, ever wonder what a gay rights activist thinks about being vegan? Check it out!: Being Vegan is SO Gay!
Hey, ever wonder what Glamour magazine thinks about being vegan? Check it out!: Why is Everyone Going Vegan?
Hey sandwich-lovers! Check out this list of the seven best vegan sandwiches in New York for under $7! GIVE THEM TO ME.
Now here’s something, from CALMaction.org, a successful grassroots model to shutting down fur stores! Successful stuff is like my fave.
What are you doing this weekend for Meatout? You are supposed to host a meat-free event and get the people excited about vegan food! DO IT! OR go to an event someone else is hosting like this one in San Francisco:
What: Vegan Feed-in, leafleting, and signs at the March & Rally to Stop the Wars
When: Saturday, Mar. 19 at noon.
Where: UN Plaza
RSVP: Contact FARM’s new West Coast Coordinator, Alex Felsinger;
HuffPo published an article about the 10 best new sandwiches in the United States and of course, only one of them is even vegetarian. I call bullshit for several reasons. First and foremost, lots of these sandwiches ain’t even new! That Bakesale Betty Fried Chicken sandwich has been around for years and years and guess what? I invented that sandwich in the parking lot of a KFC when I was seven (responsible parenting, what what!). Secondly, I can’t eat almost all of them and I love sandwiches way more than any of those omnivore fucks. Screw that noise.
Luckily, vegan blog Namely Marly has my back. They responded to the meaty-meat-time sandwiches by having guest bloggers create vegan versions of them! In your FACE, AOL. The deeeeelicious-looking picture above is a a Bulgogi Steak Sandwich from the brilliant and lovely Allison of Manifest Vegan. And of course she made the bread so this bitch is gluten-free, to boot! Get the recipe and drool over other vegan sandwich creations at Namely Marly.
Holy crap! That’s Truly Mediterranean's Dolma Sandwich and I can confirm that it's off the hook! I want to eat it always. In fact, if I don't eat that sandwich right now I will seriously throw a tantrum. Watch out world. Or don't, I usually do these things at home in a corner.
Vegansaurus NYC: Foodswings! »
Jesus Christmas, this is my new favorite place! It’s in Williamsburg, which I am finding out is not the most annoying place in the world after all; they do gots the good vegan food, that’s for sure. Foodswings is a self-proclaimed “fast food joint” and I got the cheese fries to prove it! The cheese fries were not amazing but they were definitely good in that, “yowza are these bad for me!” way. What really stole the show for me though was the chicken cutlet sandwich—it was off the hook! And it comes with soy mayo! You can get vegan bacon on it and all kinds of stuff but I went a little plain-jane with it. Next time, the works! My omni companion got the sausage and pepper hero and I was nice enough to try it and confirm it was delicious as well. The grilled onions and peppers on it were very fresh and yummy. The roll was great too; like, we talked about it.
The one downer was the side of fried plantains my friend got. They were actually battered and fried and they just didn’t really have any flavor. But the menu is big and diverse! There is plenty more to keep you busy. Oh! And BONUS: they sell Lula’s ice cream! Oh! And another BONUS: It’s full of good-looking people. So really the only downer is that I don’t live upstairs from this place! Seriously, let’s all move in there and eat vegan fast food and die slightly slower than the rest of our compatriots!
Robyn in Berkeley made a super-gravy-ful plate of leftovers: technically an open-face hot seitan sandwich with mushroom gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, but I bet about 35 percent of that plate is gravy alone. Still! Everything except the single slice of bread is homemade, and the seitan is Ellen’s chef Roberto’s recipe. Really, it looks delicious; hard to go wrong with homemade seitain and gravy! Happy post-Thanksgiving weekend, Robyn!