Roadtripping across the United States, CA to MA.  The Southern route.  Highway 10.  The sun splashes the evening sky with an appetizing palette of color, and after a long day’s drive through the desert, my girlfriend, Gina, and I are getting hungry.

Entering the megalopolis of Phoenix, AZ, we scour the internet for local vegan options but our initial searches come up short; Phoenix seems not to be much of a vegan-friendly town.  Nearly giving up, I follow a seemingly disconnected path of links into a remote area of the interwebs and come upon a little place called Green Vegetarian, technically in the city of Tempe.  Perhaps a good sign.  Confused as to whether that was a description of the restaurant or its actual name, we decide to try it.  It’s right off the 202, in true megalopolis fashion.

Passing a few corner-strip-malls in a low-lit neighborhood we initially drive right past it; turning back around, we see how easy it is to miss, tucked away in the far corner of a little shopping plaza.  The sign, in green, says “green RESTAURANT.”  Kinda funky, but our rumbling stomachs cannot be questioned.

Walking in is a pleasant surprise.  Warm, low-hanging lamps lit the deserty color scheme.  Rows of dynamic black and white photos line the walls, an installment from a local artist.  Small racks and shelves sell independent, eco-friendly foods, wares and local art, a touch of the corner store vibe but healthier.  The space is open and lively, filled with people of all ages and social persuasions.  And an extensive, ALL-VEGAN menu.  Not just vegetarian.  We can choose anything.  Amazing.  And the menu shows a dude on a bike.  Points.

Crab Puffs

The place bills itself as “New American Vegetarian.”  Perfect description.  The list of starters has dishes like Artichoke Gratine, Samosas, Spicy Peanut Tofu and Buffalo “Wings.”  Salads like Jerk Tofu and Ranchero.  Flatbread pizzas, pan-genre noodle/ricebowls and po-boy sammies.  A little something for everyone, or any mood you might be in.  They thought of everything.

We decide to start with the Crab Puffs, curious to see how they might approach a vegan crab imitation.  Delivered shortly by a friendly server, the flaky, crispy dough wraps artfully around the warm crabbiness inside.  I dip one in the sweetish red sauce provided and take a bite.  Very good; the mock crab meat and vegan cream cheese are perfectly melted together and deliver a mellow, satisfying taste without too much “fishiness.”  The dish only comes with four puffs; we could have eaten fourteen.

Meatball Po'boy

No sooner have we finished than our entrees are on hand.  We decide to stick with the sandwiches: Mum’s Meatball Po-boy with a side of fries and The Mexicali Burger (already missing home a bit) with a side of slaw.  Slightly lacking in fixings (lettuce, tomato, etc.), the Mexicali is decently sized and super tasty.  On paper, the combo of vegan mayo, spicy chipotle sauce, nacho cheese and hummus seemed like condiment overkill, but the result further confirms that Green Veg has a plan, and that plan is to destroy your tongue with flavor.  The slaw is made with tahini instead of mayo, which prevents it from being drippy and adds a complimentary tang.  Onto the Meatball: probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.  The soy cheese melts perfectly over the tangy marinara, the ample, sandwich-size mock meatballs spiced perfectly with a proper consitency that stick together without being gummy, all on a soft sourdough roll.  It isn’t difficult to savor every single bite.  The fries are shoestring style, crispy and seasoned well; not my favorite kind of fry but great for those who prefer them that way.

PB&J Tsoynami

Perhaps the most interesting and exciting course is our meal follow-up: the strange and beautiful Tsoynami dessert shake.  Essentially a large cup of vegan soft-serve ice cream with ingredients added, the Tsoynami menu is extensive and creative, combining a number of sweet toppings that blend together to make something between a milkshake and a sundae.  There are a number of scrumptious options, including a S’more and a wacky Captain Crunch concoction.  We decide on the PB&J, which is peanut butter, sugary whole strawberries and graham cracker chunks, all whipped together with the soft serve.  Yikes, it was satisfying.  We thought the price was a tad steep until we tried it and totally forgot the $4.50.

Our meal is so good from beginning to end that, even though full and finished, we linger at the table for awhile, not wanting to give up the welcoming atmosphere and secretly hoping we will impossibly get hungry again and try more of the offerings.  But alas, it is time to move on; we must make it to New Mexico before midnight.  The temperature is dropping and we’ll be pitching the tent by the light of the full moon.  Fortunately, Green Vegetarian is on our side, keeping our bellies comfy and our spirits high for the rest of the evening.

-Jeremy Pearson

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Native Foods, Palm Springs Photo by jeckmanThe sunny city of Los Angeles is thriving with great vegan eats from classy 5 star restaurants, to vegan drive thrus, and hip trendy spots, but for our restaurant pick we have chosen LA’s Native Foods. Native Foods is actually a small chain of 5 restaurants spread all over the LA area including Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo, Los Angeles, Palm Desert, and Palm Springs. I’ve only had the chance to visit the LA spot in Westwood. Each location has a little different menu, which means next time I’m in the area I will be checking out a few more locations!

native foods Photo by cpandarThis relaxed restaurant overs the full gamete of California style food, only with a vegan twist. This means they offer a wide variety of dishes from around the world and plenty of fresh ingredients! I couldn’t help but smile as I entered the restaurant to a friendly sign that said “Einstein was a vegetarian. Think about it!” That sort of veggie love, warms my vegan heart! But really the restaurant atmosphere is a chilled out cafe far different from many LA hot spots. And that is perfectly fine with me, as I like to feel at home when I am eating a tasty meal.

kids' plate Photo by chinagrrl

Dippity-Do-Dog-Combo with Save the chicken Nuggets at Native Foods

Westwood’s menu has the typical set up with Starters, Salads, Cold Sandwiches, Hot Entrees, Pizza and Desserts. I was happy to notice there was a kid’s menu. This is something I have never seen at a vegan restaurant before. They title their kid’s section “Green Kids Rule!” and provide children’s favorites such as Dippity-Do-Dog-Combo (soy dog chunks or chicken nuggets and brown rice) and ChimpanZee “Cheese” Pizza (cheese pizza with bananas on the side). If you have veggie kids this is a great place to bring them. Or if you have children you would like to introduce to vegan foods, this is a place where they would enjoy the meals and it wouldn’t seem too “weird” to them. Next time I’ll bring along my nephew to do a children’s taste test!

"Save the Chicken" Wings

"Save the Chicken" Wings

But on to the delicious adult sized meals. Perhaps my favorite thing about Native Foods is what they name their fake chicken: “Save the Chicken.” In the Snacks section, you will find the best incarnation of their “chicken”. This is what they call the “Save the Chicken” Wings with “Ranch” on the side. Oh dear, this appetizer is to die for! In fact, I once had a friend drive 8 hours to bring me this very appetizer. Even a little soggy this is the best fake chicken I have ever had! You will find many people talking about this dish, as I believe it may be a favorite among all vegans.  Other great starters include Chili “Cheese” Fries, Native Nachos, Get ‘Yo Greens, and Bindi Bites(veggie samosas). I haven’t had the chance to try them all, on account of my love affair with the “Save the Chicken” wings, but I promise I will branch out next time I am in LA.

Portobello & Sausage Burger

Portobello & Sausage Burger

They also offer a great variety of fresh salads if you shy away from fried foods (although you can get a Chinese “Save the Chicken” Salad). If you are looking for California Cuisine, I suggest your try the OC Raw Chopper, a salad which screams California with avocados, almonds, and sprouts. Also, they offer some pretty tasty vegan pizza. They don’t have a ton of variety as far as pizzas go, but they offer it on an organic wheat crust. I like their pizzas and salads but must say their sandwiches are the way to go. I really enjoyed their Philly Peppersteak Sandwich, but have heard excellent recommendations about their Portobello & Sausage Burger, Chicken Run Ranch Burger, and Ceasar’s Wrap.

Tijuana Tacos

Tijuana Tacos

A trip to California wouldn’t be complete without a bit of Mexican flare! The Tijuana Tacos and Baja Surf Tacos are worth checking out. This fresh take on California Mexican is quite delicious and even includes soy taco meat in the Tijuana and crispy battered tempeh in the Baja choice, a take on California Baja Fish tacos.  They also, offer a variety of hot entrees served in a bowl including Mad Cowboy (BBQ style), Greek Gyro, and the Hollywood Bowl (includes tofu spears). Another bowl worth trying out is the Soul Bowl with includes red beans, jasmine rice, grilled veggies, BBQ “save the chicken” spears, cornbread, and all drizzled in “ranch” dressing!!

Chocolate Tofu Love Pie

Chocolate Tofu Love Pie

Of course a meal isn’t complete without dessert. And with dessert, Native Foods definitely delivers. You can get any typical American dessert from Native Carrot Cake to Sam’s Native Cheesecake. But they also have their own unique creations like the Key Lime Parfait and the Elephant Chocolate Cake (comes drizzled in cinnamon peanut butter sauce). My favorite dessert is the Chocolate Tofu Love Pie made with Fair Trade chocolate and vanilla and completed by an almond crust. Its a great way to end a California Meal.

Next time you are in the Los Angeles area, make sure you get your self to one of the 5 Native Foods locations, it’s definitely worth the trip.  There is no other great California style vegan restaurant, at least not at this caliber. And if LA is a little too far for you, check out their Native Foods Cookbooks and try some great recipes at home.


San Francisco is known as one of the most liberal and unique cities in the world! People from all over the world and from every background roam these streets. Personally we have spent a lot of time in this city, as one of us from AP grew up in Northern California. This place is brimming with vegan friendly food and pretty much every restaurant has an option! Or at least they will know what the word vegan is and accommodate you!

Most people talk about Millennium (as it is often rated the Best Vegan Restaurant in the US) and Herbivore (always wins for Best Brunch) as top vegan destinations within San Francisco. Both these restaurants are fantastic and some of our favorites, however we at AP would like to highlight a restaurant a little more off the beaten path. So for San Francisco’s restaurant pick, we have chosen Golden Era.

Golden Era is located in between the juxtaposing neighborhoods of the Tenderloin and Union Square. The Tenderloin can be a bit sketchy, but the restaurant is on the outskirts of the neighborhood. We have dined here over the course of 6 years and have never encountered any problem! Golden Era’s menu is pan Asian based and all vegetarian. There are a few items that are not vegan, but like most restaurants the staff will advise you.
Drumsticks

There are not a ton of Appetizers to choose from on the menu, but the quality is superb! The Drumsticks and Steamed Veggie Bun are mouth watering and will leave you craving more! Both the Golden Rolls and Spring Rolls are delicious classics and the Vegetable Fu Young is scrumptious!
Spinach Tofu Soup

They offer both Salads and Soups to start your meal off healthy and are quite tasty themselves. We recommend the Tofu Salad and the Spinach Tofu Soup! These are meals within themselves.
Spicy Mongolian Chicken

There are tons of Entrees on this menu to choose from! They offer Noodle Dishes, Rice Plates, Regular Entrees, Claypot Choices, and Specialties. It must be said that most of these dishes are not run of the mill asian style! They are creative and of course delicious. For instance the menu offers dishes such as Caramelized Chicken, Pineapple Salmon, Vegetarian Lamb Claypot, and Sautéed Jalapeno Tofu. If you are looking for a little more classic dishes, fear not, as you can order Sweet & Sour Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Gourmet Fried Rice, and Pho Noodles. Trust us, dinner here will not be an ordinary event, because even their typical dishes are satisfying with a unique flavor.
Caramelized Chicken

Desserts here are just as exciting as their dishes! There are a couple non vegan desserts, but they are marked clearly on the menu. You can order anything from Vegan Caramel Flan to Egg-Less Cheesecake and our personal favorite Fried Banana w/ Vegan Ice Cream. And don’t forget to order a Vegan Thai Iced Tea to make your meal complete!
Fried Banana & Ice Cream

So if you are a local looking for some unique and creative asian style vegan dishes, hop on over to Golden Era! And if you are visiting, this is a MUST on your trip through the city.

Golden Era is located at:
572 O’Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel: 415-673-3136

Wed-Mon 11am-9pm
Closed Tuesday

Since we were running around Chicago for the music festival, we decided to pop in and try as many vegan and vegan friendly restaurants we could find. This was not a hard task, as Chicago seems to be brimming with creative and delicious vegan spots including the Pick Me Up Cafe (great breakfasts), Amitabul (all vegan Korean!), and Handlebar (great drinks and late night snacks). But since this is our Restaurant Pick for Chicago we are going to have to choose the Chicago Diner as our highlight!

The Chicago Diner is any vegan’s dream who misses good old American style cooking! You can pretty much find every comfort food you had as a kid in vegan form. The restaurant is located in a nice neighborhood fairly close to the famous Linkin Park. It was easy to locate for a bunch of us out of towners and the staff was incredibly helpful and friendly! Although they are not 100% vegan, the menu is clearly marked and most dishes can be made vegan by talking to your waiter. Also, they provide a gluten free menu, for those who choose to avoid it or have an allergy.
Chikin & Steak with Rice

Their menu includes Daily Specials, Brunch (daily until 3:30pm), and the Standard Menu. Some of the favorite American dishes include Mac and Cheese, Shakes, BBQ “Bacon” Cheesburger, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, and Chikin Ranch Sandwich.
Chikin Cesaer Wrap with Mac & Cheese

During Brunch you will find other delicious American style plates such as Biscuits and Gravy, Eggz Florentine, and Eggz Benedict. Also, the Diner has awesome appetizers including Crab Cakes and Stuffed Potato Skins!
Vegan Breakfast

The vegan shakes, including Cookie Dough and Mint and the desserts, such as Strawberry Cheesecake and Banana Poppyseed Cake are AMAZING! As you can tell, their menu provides something for everyone and everyday there is a few different specials to choose from!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

They also will provide catering for special events such as weddings and provide recipes online. The Diner allows you to order cakes ahead of time and also has some cute Tees if you want to support them outside of eating their delectable dishes. So next time you are in Chicago or a local in need of some great comfort food, stop by the Chicago Diner and dive into some American grub!

The Chicago Diner is located at:
3411 N. Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 935-6696

Feel free to share your favorite dishes or experiences at the Chicago Diner!

New York, New York: It’s the Big Apple, the city of dreams, America’s most populated city and was recently voted this years Favorite Veg Friendly City by the readers of Veg News. New York offers a plethora of great vegan eats ranging from around the world. It’s quite easy to eat vegetarian and even vegan within the city limits, but this week we at AP wanted to share one of our favorite veggie restaurants: Red Bamboo!

With two locations, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn, Red Bamboo is a mecca for all vegan residents and visitors alike. Their menu is based on vegetarian soul and carribean food with heavy influences of great American cooking. They have seriously mastered the mock meat market with the variety they offer! Although not their entire menu is vegan, they mark which items are not acceptable and the menu is easy to read.
Coconut Shrimp

We have had the luxury of eating at both locations, although very similar they have minor differences on their menus. The Brooklyn location is also a bit larger and offers brunch on weekends. The brunch is decent, however the lunch and dinner is what you really want to try. The service is always excellent with helpful and friendly staff. Our last experience here was on a blistering 95 degree day in the streets of NY, where we found solace inside the air conditioned Manhattan location and our waitress was on point with the constant flow of water and ice tea!
Bourbon Chicken Dinner

A few sample items from their menu include: Buffalo Barbecue Wings, Coconut Shrimp, Creole Soul Chicken Sandwich or Appetizer, B B Q Steak Hero, and Codfish Cakes with Mango Salsa! With a variety such as that you can’t go wrong! Check out their full menus for the Manhattan and Brooklyn locations.
Soul Chicken Appetizer(Comes in Sandwich too!)

They also have a few vegan desserts on their menu such as cakes and ice cream, although we haven’t tried them yet and can’t vouch for them. However, based on how delicious their appetizers, sandwiches, and entrees are we don’t doubt they are delicious.

So if you are NY native or are visiting anytime soon, be sure to stop by either location and indulge in some seriously delicious soul vegan food!

Red Bamboo is located at:

140 W 4th St, Manhattan, NY (212) 260-7049

271 Adelphi St, Brooklyn, NY (718)643-4806

Feel free to let us know what you think about Red Bamboo and share your experiences or favorite dishes with us!

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