Socal Eats: Part Three

This late post is 80% due to the lovelies who have been visiting me on their spring break this week and 20% due to my choice to read instead of blog. As usual, I’ve been throwing down my spending money on veg food (I’ve sadly lost my taste for material objects like clothing and subsequently, good taste) and as usual, forgetting to bring my camera half the time. That means that delicious Whole Foods salads and vegan donuts and a heinous rancid Laotian tofu noodle soup will go undocumented. I think we will survive, as Whole Paycheck is always a safe bet and I don’t like writing bad reviews. Just remember never to go to “Vientiane Cafe” if you are ever in the ghettos of Oakland. After being harassed by pedestrian video hos and drunk drivers in that neighborhood, I didn’t need to be further abused by a bad meal.

Actually I like the ghetto areas I just hate ghetto food.

Which brings me to the perfect segue – as Jay-Z puts it in this amazing song I heard three times in the car today

Back on my home turf in San Diego, I had one plan only, which was Evolution formerly known as Nature’s Express also known as my favorite restaurant to get all forms of vegan food – raw, salad bar, hot bar, fast food, baked goods, you name it. With the change in ownership the place has gone through quite a few other changes, namely in the pricing. The small plates for the salad bar which originally cost under 4 were now 7. My friends also said that the food wasn’t as tasty, but I can’t speak from experience. The bad food, in addition to an awkward relationship with one of the chefs, is reason enough for these omnivores to avoid the place from now on. But I enjoyed my visit a lot!

So this is a ugly photo captures part of my beloved salad bar in addition to the free sample of vegan pizza we got. The pizza had a kick-ass marinara, but making my own pizza is usually half the price and twice the nom-ability

I bought a really affordable broccoli crunch salad (3.5) with fuji apples, onions, toasted praline walnuts, and a creamy tahini-based dressing. Weird savory-sweet combos like this usually put me off and I definitely never try them in the kitchen, but I am not surprised that I enjoyed it because I liked all the separate components. I did sort of save the walnuts to eat last for "dessert". I mean, until I had this chocolate cookie (1.5?) an hour later. Omg moment upon biting into one of the best cookies I've ever tasted. Heavy with chocolate chips and crunchy toasted flaxseeds. It stays moist for days on end, i imagine. It has an amazing aroma of either coconut butter or some nut butter (almond?) but I can't discern what it is. I wouldn't be surprised if it was flourless. I've been looking all over the web trying to find a recipe but no luck. Seriously, who does a girl have to sleep with at Evolution to get this cookie recipe? Actually, my friend knows who.

M got the pesto burger (5) with a side of sweet potato fries (2.5), which we always get. She had some big problems with the parm-less pesto and unappetizing patty, which tasted like a bad boca burger,so she took those off. I felt sad watching her eat a bun with veggies and Veganaise (which always rocks). As you can see, the fries were more like chips this time, and we were not feelin' it. Last year, they were made with yellow sweet potatoes and cut like fries with a crispy seasoned coating. Dunno what this imposter is.

Still, I owe it to Evolution to base my reviews on the food I ate.

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Nature’s Express, Berkeley

When I eat at home and grocery shop it’s easy to be vegan, but when eating out with people obvs don’t expect them to choose vegan places so I usually don’t bother. That’s why I was over-the-moon when I got to choose this 100% vegan place! Mmm, the power of choice.

Cute and welcoming on a beautiful nearly-Spring day. I think they could've done better than a turnip mascot though.

I’ve made the lofty claim that my favorite restaurant in San Diego is Nature’s Express, because I honestly don’t think another restaurant could offer so many of my favorite foods under one roof and support such an admirable food philosophy. So when I recently heard about a new restaurant with the same name (and why is that? I’m not tickled by it) that just opened five minutes away on Solano Ave., I ran over there. I did not really run on foot, but let’s pretend I did take that extra step to improve my cardiovas health in addition to noshing vegan goodies.

suprisingly, everything is vegan even though they don't change the names of popular sandwiches like "BLT" or "Tuna Melt". The fact they had another sandwich called "Tuna-less Tuna" confused me even more. All this means that I wanted to try every single item and will have to come back several more times. Their breakfast burritos sound amaze.

I chose the Express Combo (6) for maximum food sampling, with the butternut squash soup and half a mock-tuna sandwich. I tried a sample of the other soup du jour (veggie cilantro) as well, but both lacked zing. Vegan food usually tastes more flavorful to me because people try to overcompensate, but these soups were both too bland. The sandwich probably had a ton of Veganaise and crispy bits of unidentifiable veggies. Overall, neither component of this combo was winning. Just thinking about this two hours post-meal is bumming me out.

I couldn't resist a side order of mashed cauliflower with mushroom gravy (3.5) and good thing I didn't! I don't think anyone would argue that this is the most unappealing colored (and sounding) food one could order, but I've always been curious about mashed caul and am too lazy to make it myself. It was actually a delicious vegan version of one of my fav comfort foods. The garlic punched me and I liked it.

C was very impressed by her Southwestern burger with avocado and salsa and strawberry mango smoothie. Very excited to go back and choose from their selection of 8 burgers

J’s hummus sandwich which looks like it has some kitchen sink version of hummus. I think she said it was satisfactory

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Favorite SD Spot: Nature’s Express

I never explored San Diego that much when I was living there, and certainly not the handful of vegetarian restaurants but! Whenever I visit now I try to fit them in. On my vacation week down there I had so much good veg food, which my pals were sweet enough to indulge me in.

The restaurant has two buildings - one for takeout and hot food, like veggie burgers and delectable sweet potato fries (with homemade ketchup) and the other with the salad bar, desserts, dining area, etc.

The restaurant has two buildings - one for takeout and hot food, like veggie burgers and delectable sweet potato fries (with homemade ketchup) and the other with the salad bar, desserts, dining area, etc.

The location of this place is superb, on 5th Ave. next to Balboa Park near Hillcrest (my regular haunt) and right next to Extraordinary Desserts, which is its own SD legend.

Everything on the menu looks delicious and vegan, if you don’t count certain burgers at the drive thru – and it is EXTENSIVE. Check it: faux meats, vegan soft serve, tempeh, pies and cakes, italian-style veggie bakes, veg indian food, wraps, soups, “chick’n” and gravy, brunch food like waffles/pancakes, etc. etc. etc.

1/3 of the salad bar. The prices are kind of unbelievable. 3 for a small plate that you can pack up to 2 inches (who ever follows that rule) and larger ones for 7.50

1/3 of the salad bar. The prices are kind of unbelievable. 3 for a small plate that you can pack up to 2 inches (who ever follows that rule) and larger ones for 7.50

I don’t know how popular the raw food lifestyle is everywhere else, but it’s had a huge growth where I live and on food blogs on-line. In the Bay Area it’s really hard on the wallet to eat at raw restaurants all the time, but I could not believe how affordable Nature’s Express was. They have an entire section of the salad bar dedicated to raw/live foods, which often takes a lot of intense prep work/exotic ingredients if you’re trying to replicate it at home. I came mostly to eat the raw food, like raw hummus, tabbouleh, zucchini noodles with creamy marinara, sea veggie salad, and so on. But I also tried some sweet potato fries. And a baked spinach square. And gravy. Aaaand chocolate “cheese”cake.

Is this not glorious. I am an engineer of record-breaking towers of food

Is this not glorious. I am an engineer of record-breaking towers of food. It was NOT 2 inches...if you know what I mean.

I loved everything. Every component was its own unique dish, fresh, flavorful, with the perfect amount of seasoning to make it sing. The condiment bar also had amazing raw food staples such as shoyu sauce, nutritional yeast, bragg’s, agave, and so on. I could not have been more excited and I scared myself as well the others inside. The waiter was unflappable though, prob because of all his spiritual enlightenment, which can also be yours if you sign up for classes he teaches on the side. I’m pretty fascinated by this amusing lifestyle they always try to market. I totally believe in the health benefits of raw veganism but I’m kind of spiritually barren and not sure if even an avocado can change that.

raw and cooked desserts! most run for 5 a piece, compared to 8 in my area

raw and cooked desserts! most run for 5 a piece, compared to 8 in my area

I think I took a picture of the chocolate cheesecake I had, but didn’t get it from my friend. I’m not a huge fan of cheesecake, but I thought it was raw so I tried it, but now I’m not so sure it was. Anyway, it was very delicious but I was in a delusional state of rapture and everything I ate tasted like manna. Which I would also be interested in eating. Manna party!

I love the enthusiastic signs. I feel them!

I love the enthusiastic signs. I feel them!

They seriously discount their already cheap food? I am ready to drop out and move across the street from this place. Those bottles you see below this shelf is kombucha! I have mixed feelings about kombucha, but I know if I drank it more often we’d have an addiction in our hands. I don’t know anything else that tastes so nasty/delicious. Maybe it’s like cheese for some folks.

I ate until I could eat no more and then was rolled to Ex. Desserts

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