Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Who: VN Editorial Assistant Lisa Mickleborough + SF Vegan founders Barna Mink and Kathleen Bennett
What: A vegan-venue food crawl
Where: Souley Vegan + Layonna Vegetarian Health Food Market in Oakland, Calif.
When: June 21, 2008
Why: East Bay soul searchin'
The Scoop: San Francisco, a city abounding in vegan restaurants and vegetarian markets, has yet to produce a venue with real soul. Having tried them all—everything from raw to retro-inspired—I've been yearning for a spot that really knows how to barbecue tofu and season collard greens. You can imagine, then, my reaction when I learned that a vegan soul food joint was opening just around the corner from Layonna Vegetarian—a regional veg institution—across the bay in Oakland. Grabbing the first available Saturday I could, I rounded up my dearest friends, hopped the train to our sister city, and made a day out of these two dream-come-true destinations.
Rounding the corner on 13th, a vibrant read awning emblazoned with the words "Souley Vegan: Vegan Soul Food" beckoned, and we ducked into the bare but cozy vegan-owned café blaring scratchy blues, took a look around the place at other patrons' dishes and, no exaggeration, cursed out loud with joy. Grabbing bottles of very strong strawberry-ginger juice to wash it all down, we picked amazingly textured crispy tofu, smoky-savory collards, and creamy and rich mac 'n' cheese from their mouth-watering menu. With all the anticipation, I was amazed these home-cooked dishes managed to exceed my expectations.
Next up, after saying our good-byes and profuse thank-yous to the chef and owner Tamearra Dyson, we waddled over to Layonna's to gawk at the aisles of mock meat—with everything from codfish steak, giant prawns, yeast "jerks," and beef tendon to their widely consumed chicken chunks and drumsticks. As a first-time visitor I was overwhelmed, but I managed to pick a few interesting meatless meats to try. Stuffed and stunned, we explored the city for awhile before heading back to our homes to recover.