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Vegan upgrade

By Laura Hooper Beck, Photograph by Mitch Tobias | December 23, 2010 | Story

There was a time when starving vegans roamed Bay Area streets looking for a twig or spare tire to gnaw on. We pieced together unsatisfying meals from salads (hold the dressing) and side dishes (hold the butter) and survived parties on nothing but champagne. Actually, the champagne part wasn't so bad, but a crazy thing has happened to the vegan food scene since then, particularly in the East Bay: It's gotten good. Really good. Here's a sampling of our favorite new meat-and-dairy-free or vegan-friendly restaurants.

No Worries
The last time we encountered Filipino food, even the green beans were made of pork, so brand-new vegan Filipino restaurant No Worries is a triumph, serving its own version of classics such as crispy lumpia and savory pancit. 1442 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-444-4466, filipinovegetarianfood.com

Cinnaholic
Oversize, fully customizable cinnamon rolls straight out of a Willy Wonka acid flashback are the specialty here. Caramel frosting with graham cracker crumbs is our current favorite combo, but that changes as often as the shop's options—which is to say, we just changed our mind. 2132 Oxford St., Berkeley, 510-647-8684, cinnaholic-berkeley.com

Saturn Cafe
If you want real food to cushion the Cinnaholic sugar bomb, start next door at Saturn Cafe. Three words: vegan huevos rancheros. 2175 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-845-8505, saturncafe.com

Souley Vegan
The vegan fried tofu (their version of fried chicken) is crisp and delicious, and the red beans and rice are seasoned with garlic, herbs, and spices. Bonus: You can eat your food next door at Beer Revolution, which has one of the best craft-brew selections in Oakland. 301 Broadway, Oakland, 510-922-1615, souleyvegan.com

Encuentro Cafe and Wine Bar
Millennium's Eric Tucker brings us this tiny, haute-vegetarian neighborhood gem, which serves vegan specials ranging from daily soccas and market-fresh salads to artisanal chocolates and nondairy cheese plates.
200 2nd St., Oakland, 510-832-9463, encuentrooakland.com

Patxi's, Amici's, and Escapefrom New York Pizza
Pizza is still pizza, but these places all offer pies made with the glorious new Daiya vegan cheese, which actually melts. Multiple Bay Area Locations; patxispizza.com, amicis.com, escapefromnewyorkpizza.com


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