Herbivore is one of those restaurants that you’d have figured we would have tried ages ago, as it just screams “weirdcombinations!” This is an unpretentious vegan restaurant on Valencia in the Mission District of San Francisco. Their web site charmingly describes the idea of the establishment as follows:
The food is enjoyed by both vegans and non-vegans due to the quality and method of preparation, and the variety and richness of our menu. Our philosophy is that plant-based foods with the right preparation and spices can provide an enriching eating experience.
I totally get it though frankly have to wonder why in this day and age a vegan place has to explain itself at all? I never hear of steakhouses explicating their raisons d’être, do you? I just cannot believe that “vegan” is that obscure of a concept any more. Or that it need apologize for itself.
Anyway, Herbivore is vegan. There it is. The food is meat and dairy-free. Their beers and wines tend to be organic, and low-sulfite in some cases, too. Otherwise, the menu is an international sampling of classic dishes.
We tried a bottle of the affordable 2008 Reinking Zinfandel from Sonoma, which was fruity and light—so not typical zin but it went well with our meal.
Of course, we hadn’t eaten here before so weren’t sure what to expect. As a result, we didn’t take the relentless pictures of all our plates like we normally do. Plus the few pics we did get are from our smart-fones, so not as clear as we’d normally like, which translates into not much visual stimulation today. That said the food was certainly a taste sensation. We started with crispy vegan tacos with soy protein, pinto beans, tofucotta (that was cheese-like), guacamole, with a tomato chipotle salsa. Yum.
Next we enjoyed the somewhat traditional quinoa tabbouleh. Just like “regular” tabbouleh with quinoa instead of bulgur, this was something that we might make at home. The portion was gigantic, but we rose to the challenge.
We shared the lavash pizza with tomato sauce, black olives and some other toppings. It had something on top labeled “cheese” in the menu that did in fact seem cheese-like. This was an inspiration. Hegui is already thinking of lavash pizzas at home.
Finally we enjoyed the phillo dough pie stuffed with spinach, artichokes, tofu and more “cheese” as well as other veggies. This was really good! The crust was flakey and light. I suppose they must have used olive oil instead of butter here. Further, it was presented on a thick pool of a scrumptious roasted red bell pepper purée. Mmmm!
I couldn’t resist trying the “chaos cookie” for dessert. Shelley, this is something that you’d enjoy, I think: probably you too, Barbara. Sort of a vegan chocolate chip cookie with pecans, cranberries and coconut, it came as a single piece somewhat crudely garnished with grapefruit wedges. I loved it.
So that’s it. “Herbivore” should be the new word for a person eating “vegan.” Maybe then it would make more sense to folks and appear more natural, which eating a plant-based diet obviously is, rather than some confusing thing somehow mixed up in politics, hippies and “denying” yourself good food, all obviously myths. They’ve three locations now: two in San Francisco and one in Berkeley. Check them out.