Guest post: Santa Cruz’s best kept veggie secrets »
Santa Cruz: Foggy Redwoods, beautiful beaches and lots of hippies! You know what that means? Lots of organic and vegan-Friendly dining options in this funky little city nestled along the Monterey Bay. You can pretty much go anywhere here and you’re bound to find some decent veg options; even better, you won’t get a confused look if you tell the server that you’re vegan. While SC has a few popular veggie restaurants, I want to focus on two lesser known establishments of theAsian persuasion: Charlie Hong Kong and Pearl of the Ocean.
Charlie Hong Kong
Santa Cruz is a pricy place. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on delicious AND nutritious grub. Charlie Hong Kong is a local hotspot that provides quick, cheap ‘Organic Asian Street Cuisine’ to busy (and lazy) Santa Cruzans. Known for their rice and noodle bowls, they also have Vietnamese sandwiches and other small dishes like salad rolls and soups. All of their bowls are vegan, with local and organic veggies, with the option of adding on ‘toppings’ if you so choose. Toppings range from sweet tofu, marinated mushrooms, as well as a couple to satisfy the omnis which will remain nameless. But whether you’re craving curry, peanuty, spicy or sweet, you have plenty of options at CHK. For about five bucks, you can get a fast, warm, DELICIOUS meal filled with veggies, and we’re not just talking a few pieces of crummy lettuce. We’re talking broccoli, chard, mushrooms, cabbage, and usually a nice helping of peanuts! If you’re like me and go for the peanut sauce, you won’t be disappointed, TRUST. Their Pad Thai (pictured) is a local favorite, with a delicious sauce that really packs a punch. The icing on the cake? They sell BEER and VEGAN COOKIES!! I mean, what else do you need?
Pearl of the Ocean
If you have a little more cash on hand, do yourself a favor and check out this amazing little restaurant, Pearl of the Ocean—arguably Santa Cruz’s best kept secret. If you’ve never experienced Sri Lankan food before, you’re missing out! Imagine if Indian food and Thai food had a delicious food baby. That’s the best way I can describe the amazingness that is Sri Lankan cuisine. The most flavorful, sweet and spicy curries, elaborate salads, fancy soups, as well as a great wine selection, makes this place a treasure trove of exciting vegan dishes. Pearl is owned by a sweet and motivated Sri Lankan woman, dedicated to serving healthy and organic meals to locals and visitors alike. As newbies can be a little thrown off by the Sri Lankan style of ordering, which typically includes multiple small dishes, the employees are always willing to help and provide suggestions. With the exception of a few unfortunate items, the menu is almost entirely vegan. I can NOT get enough of the Spicy Mango Curry and Kale Mallam, while my husband could eat their Garbanzo Curry for every meal, of every day. Each dish comes with ginger or brown rice and a mild yellow dhal, the perfect compliment for mellowing out your taste buds in between those spicy bites. Top it off with a creamy Soy Mango Lassi, or if you’re feeling fancy, a Kiss of the Island Princess cocktail. I’ve always said this would be my ‘Last Supper,’ you know, if I’m ever on death row or Top Chef. Until then, I will be shamelessly and unsuccessfully trying to recreate these meals at home. Next time you’re in the SC area, be a little adventurous and check them out! Your belly will thank you.
Alicia Guzman Sadler lives in Santa Cruz with her husband and two crazy cats. She spends her days writing, gardening and cooking, and her evenings plotting to take over the world. Keep up with her culinary adventures at Vegantopchef.posterous.com
Reader Mike from Santa Cruz sent this photo of his giant, gorgeous pizza made with homegrown zucchini, artichoke hearts, and Daiya. “The crust is a wonderful made-to-order vegan crust from the Grateful Bread Company in Sacramento.”
It looks so good, I want to put it in my face, like, yesterday. Thanks, Mike!
Want to share your pretty food with Vegansaurus? Of course you do!
Benefit for bunnies at BOTH Saturn Cafes on May 11! »
Because Jesus’ resurrection is all about the bunny rabbits, ridiculous people are like “Hey it’s Easter, I know, let’s get a pet I don’t really want because that will be hilarious!” And then oh, say, two-and-a-half weeks later they’re like, “Screw this, I didn’t realize bunnies made poop” and they give up the adorable little guy. Then the rabbit rescue people are like, “OMG I love bunnies there are so many of them now! What do we do?”
Well, if the rabbit rescue people are from either the House Rabbit Society in Richmond or The Rabbit Haven near Santa Cruz, they convince the bunny-allies at Saturn Cafe to host a fundraiser for them. Because nothing says “let’s rescue rabbits” like a giant plate of vegan nachos and a tofu breakfast burrito.* Hooray!
All you have to do to help is EAT! Bring a copy of the flyer (Berkeley | Santa Cruz) to either Saturn location anytime on Wednesday, May 11, and 10 percent of “all qualifying purchases” will go to helping the bunnies. Berkeley is open from 11 a.m. to midnight, and you can get your eat on in Santa Cruz from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Not only that, if you play your cards right, you may get to talk to real live bunny-rescuers. From their keyboards to your eyeballs:
Meet representatives from the House Rabbit Society. Rub elbows with the Rabbit Center staff, founders of HRS, supervisors, educators, and other bunny enthusiasts. We’ll be there to meet and greet from 6 to 9 p.m. Sign up for our reserved tables and dine other bunny people. Or just drop in. Bring in a copy of our flyer. For more details visit, www.rabbit.org/rabbit-center or call (510) 970.7575.
This will be an OUT OF THIS WORLD event for our bunnies! Rabbit Haven volunteers will orbit in and out during the day to say Hi and thank you! Bring family and friends and make this a great fundraiser for the Rabbits of Santa Cruz County! Bring in a copy of our flyer. For more details, visit, www.therabbithaven.org or call (831) 600. 7479.
Mark your calendar! Eat food! Don’t forget the flyer! Because you read this far, more cute pictures (props to C. Parshall who took the photos of HRS bunnies from a rescue in Sacramento)!
*Those are my own personal favorite menu items, since you were wondering.
Saturn Cafe! »
Berkeley is no longer just a blight on the urban map of the Bay Area. For so long it was just a place for terrible students and terrible rich hippies (the worst kind of hippie!) and was only to be suffered if you really had to have delicious vegan brunch at Fellini. Well, it’s still all those things! But now it has taquitos! And cinnamon rolls! And Saturn Cafe!
Saturn Cafe is an import from Santa Cruz and it’s an important one. First of all, in a city that goes to bed at 6 p.m., it stays open to the unbelievably late hour of midnight. Kudos to them for making that happen because I can’t imagine the amount of city bullshit that they’d have to deal with to make that happen. Bureaucracy win! Secondly, it’s all vegetarian and that’s fucking awesome. It’s always nice to know that your tofu scramble won’t get cross-contaminated with bacon surprise (surprise! your breakfast had a mother!). And then there’s the decor? Saturn bills itself as a “Space-Age Diner” to which I say, “Space-Age?! More like GAY-AGE!” This place makes Pink Saturday look like a klan rally. Seriously, I brushed against a glitter-covered column and I swear, I’m still finding silver sparkles in my crap. All in all, LOVE. More glitter! Glitter for ALL! Life is a rave, pass the glow-in-the-dark Mickey Mouse gloves and let’s do the damn thing!
So already, Saturn Cafe has my heart. BUT THEN, my mind kicks in! That pesky thing that keeps me from being happy. Seriously, stupid people have it the best. And my mind tells me WAIT A MINUTE WTF IS THIS??? For a vegetarian restaurant, it’s sure slim pickings for the vegans. There are several areas in which they fail. I will now detail them because that’s how I do CONTROVERSY WHAT!
- No vegan cheese options. If you order something that regularly has cheese on it, the vegan version comes with this insane tofu spread that’s basically mashed up tofu with some chives mixed in. This grainy mixture is their stand-in for both cheese and sour cream. It’s very odd…not altogether bad, just odd. And when you consider the leaps and bounds vegan cheese products have taken in even the past few years, maybe the folks at Saturn just need to get on testing vegan cheeses. Might we suggest Daiya, Teese and Cheezly? We might!
- The veg chicken patties they use aren’t vegan. Dude, there’s GARDEIN. No excuse!
- Stuff like pancakes aren’t vegan. I don’t get it; pancakes are like the easiest thing to veganize. Let’s do this! Also, while you’re at it, please veganize the biscuits and gravy! There isn’t ONE place in the entire San Francisco Bay Area that serves this and I’m telling you, that alone will make Saturn famous. With my pants. And what is underneath my pants. That’s right, my vagina. I could go further but children read this blog! Also, if you are a child PLEASE STOP READING AND CALL CPS, your parents should be held responsible!
- Two options for vegan ice cream! You’re in the land of Maggie Mudd now, broker a deal with those fools! Let’s see some PB&J! And Apple Pie! I will pay for it, in both money and hella points for gluttony! This is kind of a throw-on request because I like to shoot for the moon. It’s really nice that they offer vegan milkshakes and I don’t want to push my luck.
All in all, Saturn Cafe, I love you. But please come through for the vegans! We count on our brothers in arms (or, in arms-ish. oh and that’s you, vegetarians! hi!) to have our backs in this big bad world of restaurant dining. If you could pull through for us on the front of vegan options, we will repay you in a never ending supply of our cold, hard vegan cash. And we’re by and large very rich*—how else would we shop at Rainbow all the time!? Shit.
OH ALSO: Maybe if they receive lots of very polite email from vegans letting them know there’s a desire for more vegan options, we’ll see some action! Maybe not! But, as always, it’s worth a try! Go forth, mighty (and polite!) vegans! Go forth, and spread our mighty (and polite!) message!
We’re enjoying the local climate* in Santa Cruz at the moment, including these homemade barbecue riblets from the hot food bar at Staff of Life. <3 <3 <3
*local climate = hella bountiful vegan food, honies in bikini’s lookin’ fly (and mad shirtless bros. Hotness of peeps in Santa Cruz outnumbers hotness of peeps in SF, 5 to 1), and delightful chill attitude (extends from richest yuppie transplant to nastiest homeless dudes). Minor complaint: What’s up with the dogscrimination here? Hazel has been kicked out of hotels, the boardwalk and Pacific Avenue. Please to explain, Santa Cruz! My dog is super chill and looks amazing topless…why you hatin!?