All Reviews by PAL
2124 Center St, Berkeley, USA
Wish I could have liked it more
My husband and I went to Green Earth for the first time with a Meetup group. Frankly, the tired and scanty appearance of the "demo" plates that display many of the entrees, actually put us off trying them, especially the pizza which I had planned to order. While some of the Meetup group seemed to really enjoy what they ordered, we were not very impressed with our bowls of noodle soup. The broth had hardly any flavor. My husband chose soba with his, and it was a bit overcooked, so falling apart. My udon held up better. However, the other ingredients were fairly uninspired. There were a few shreds of something that might have been tofu skin, and a little seaweed; but beside noodles, it was mostly cauliflower and broccoli. Broccoli was fine, but cauliflower is a bland veggie anyway, and did nothing to enhance the bland broth. The portions were just enough to eat at the one sitting, no leftovers. Dishes that cost $9 (or at most, $10) at other restaurants are usually generous enough that we bring some home. Although I like sweets, after looking at all the desserts in the case, I felt that some of them looked rather small for the price, and none of them looked appealing enough to tempt us to try any of them at the posted prices. However, it's obviously an endeavor with a sincere commitment to health and sustainability, and the staff were friendly. I do hope that, as a new restaurant, they will soon be able to adjust their recipes and menu to make it appealing enough to draw us back.
10367 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, USA
El Cerrito Natural Grocery
I have been shopping at ECNG for over twenty-five years, and wish I could still say that shows they are doing something right. But the bottom line, is that, it is three blocks from my home. The one thing I can still say in their favor, is that I discovered that nearly all of their organic produce seems better priced than at any of the local organic farmer's markets. The produce may be slightly fresher at a market, but for me, the offset in reduced fossil-fuel use, more than compensates for the produce being maybe a couple days post-harvest. None of the produce at ECNG ever looks "old and tired" which I do find at a certain big part-organic chain supermarket. Also, the produce area is well-lit, so you can be sure what you're buying. The staff used to be extremely friendly and pleasant; now it is quite hit-and-miss. My husband was treated with an insulting level of suspicion when he took back a moldy pizza crust; I have gotten snide looks for simply asking that something fragile not be wedged into my canvas bag with 15 other items, or to please pack all the frozen stuff together so it won't melt on the way home. Beyond that, for me ECNG has two serious drawbacks. The first issue, which seems unsolvable, is that the store is relatively small, which greatly affects the available selection of packaged and prepared foods. There are many items such as my preferred brands of vegan sour cream and vegan cheeses, which they simply don't stock, which means I do have to shop elsewhere. The frozen food department is particularly scanty: they don't stock some of the best brands such as Gardein, and much of their small set of freezer cabinets is taken up by meat- and cheese-based products. The other drawback to ECNG is a very personal sensory/aesthetic one. They have an actual butcher department at one end of the store, which for me means two unpleasant things. One, I have to be careful not to look at the dead body parts when I get to that end of the store (and the produce reaches down to that end!), and worse, I have to try to not hear people discussing animal parts with each other. Worse yet, my sense of smell is quite acute, and I am constantly aware of that musty, cloying, sometimes almost-choking, dead-flesh "death smell" which pervades the air of the entire store. This butcher-shop issue is, of course, a "fixable" problem, since the store does not have to have it there at all (except, unfortunately, it does seem to attract a lot of customers looking to salve their consciences by eating animals who had, possibly, a few months of "free-range freedom" before dying in the usual miserable inorganic way). I do find that I have to sometimes grit my teeth before I walk in and take that first repulsive breath. But still, I shop there, because it is a very nearby store and has organic produce.
2451 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, USA
Still not working for me
My husband & I hadn't been to Herbivore for some years. We mostly got tired of the rude service, given the prices. But since his parents wanted to take us out for my birthday, & Bkly is closer than Oakland, we decided it was time to give Herbivore one more chance. Unfortunately, my opinion remains the same. It was around 6pm, so the sun was shining blindingly on most of the available tables. I asked the waitress if we could push together two of the two-person tables over by the wall, where it was a bit shadier, & two people could sit on the banquette (I thought it would be more comfortable for the in-laws, in their 80s). The waitress looked annoyed look, but finally said "Well, okay, since it's not busy right now." This seemed unnecessarily rude and unhelpful. How is it any different for 4 people to sit at two 2-person tables, than for 4 people to sit at one square 4-person table? The parents didn't want to "be a bother" so we ended up at a square table in the middle. Those uncomfortable chairs are almost impossible to pull in, on that floor. The meal was just okay; hard to find anything on the menu that didn't include kale in some form. I had lasagne; the flavor was nice, but the thing appeared very overcooked. My husband & his mother both had ravioli. They don't really give you a lot of those, for the price. We all had side salads that came with the entrees; my husband's father had a dinner salad as his whole meal; salad dressing was almost undetectable - the men both asked for more. There were no leftovers. My husband & I are not big-portion eaters, & we're used to eating at vegan places where there is a lot more food for less money; for the same price at an Asian veg restaurant, two of us can always eat till satisfied, & still have enough leftovers for another dinner for two. I also had the house-made ginger ale; flavor was okay, but the glass was so full of ice, that as soon as it quickly melted, there was only half a glass of actual beverage, which was, of course, diluted with melted ice. The waitress made a point of bringing the dessert menus, but those prices were ridiculous - like $7 or $8 for a slice of cake. We stopped by WholeFoods on the way home; got 4 big slices of cake there for $14. Herbivore also had jazz playing in the background, but as I observed at the time, at least the place was so noisy, it mostly drowned it out. We decided we didn't ever need to go there again, since it wasn't any better than we remembered, in any way.
516 Barber Lane, Milpitas, USA
Lifesaver if stuck at Crowne Plaza Hotel
I attended a weekend convention at Crowne Plaza Hotel, which is about a 3 block walk from this Loving Hut. The proximity of a Loving Hut was the deciding factor for me, in even attending the Con (the hotel has a hopelessly overpriced, pseudo-nouvelle, meat & dairy intensive restaurant). I got my dinner at Loving Hut on Friday night, and the portion ("Broccoli Lovers") was so huge, that I was able to take it back to my room and get my Saturday lunch & dinner out of it. I enjoyed the flavor, although I did find it rather oilier than I like my food. There was a LOT of broccoli - I never did manage to finish all of it. It was a bit too undercooked for me (I find most Asian restaurants hardly cook the broccoli). Having got through Saturday on that one dinner entree, I went back for lunch on Sunday. This time I got the curry fried rice (veg in that dish were cabbage, peas & carrots). It was very tasty, spicy but not painful, and not noticeably oily. I would order that again. Again, it was a very generous portion, and I was glad I brought my own secure-lidded plastic container to take the rest with me. I ate a lot more of it for my dinner, at the Amtrak station, and on the train, and there was still some left. Beside those entrees, I had two other items. With dinner, I got the Thai iced tea, even though I was told that it was made with brown sugar, which of course is usually white sugar with molasses added. (It was delicious.) Normally I don't eat refined sugar, since the origin of white sugar may not be vegan. However, when traveling, I personally find it's easier - even necessary - to be a bit flexible on sugar issues. But I was surprised to realize that a Loving Hut was not so aware. If I were not trapped at a horrible hotel, and really needed some strong tea to get through the conference program that night, I would have passed on the sugar. Similarly, on Sunday I got a vegan flan to go, after lunch. It was incredibly delicious, but probably also made with white or brown sugar. This time I didn't event bother to ask, because again, I needed a bit of a sugar rush to get through the afternoon Con program, and the train trip home. Bottom line: if I find myself in Milpitas again, I would try this Loving Hut again.
1775 E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, USA
My new favorite
We recently vacationed near Palm Springs with our dog, and were delighted to discover that there was a vegan restaurant which had a shady, dog-friendly patio area! Being from the Bay Area, we'd never before had the wonderful opportunity to eat at this great vegan place. We made up for it by having two lunches there, and getting take-out for both our dinners, on the 2 full days we were in the area! Oh wow, the Key Lime Pie! And the Lavender Lemonade! Everything we had was delicious, and extremely generous portions. All the staff were cheerful and friendly. The biggest thrill of all, though, was finding out that they are planning to open a new branch in Berkeley, CA, in 2015! Hooray! We live just a few miles from Berkeley. They haven't even opened, but have already futuristically become my new favorite local restaurant. Where is the Tardis when I need it?
70 SW Century Dr Ste 120, Bend, USA
High point of our vacation!
We were driving round-trip to Spokane from the S.F. Bay Area, and on the 2nd day of the drive (each direction) made it to Bend for lunch. We were REALLY impressed with the menu (all great-sounding, ORGANIC options, & detailed nutritional info!), the tasty food, good-size portions, quick, friendly service, clean, attractive, spacious-feeling interior, and the information painted on the walls, about how seriously eco-friendly the entire business is. My husband had the Next Level Burger both times - 2nd time with added mushrooms - and fries. On our 1st visit I had the toasted cheese sandwich and cole slaw; for my 2nd lunch I had the Tangy Tempeh Burger (with mushrooms) & shared his fries. We both had the phenomenal vegan milkshakes both times (the soy ice cream version). I had vanilla both times, he had chocolate once and vanilla once. I'm not much of a bread-product fan, but I actually enjoyed every bite of the bun that my burger came on (loved the whole burger!). Cole slaw and fries were also as good as hoped. There were a couple ordering glitches on our first lunch, but not serious enough to keep us from wanting to stop on the return trip. (My toasted cheese was supposed to have fresh tomato and red onion in it, but apparently someone hit the "kids meal key" so I ended up with a kiddie grilled cheese, with nothing inside but tasty melty vegan cheese - a wee bit disappointing. Also, my husband requested "no mayo" in his burger, but there was, and "extra pickles", but there weren't.) We got take-out both times, because we were travelling with our dog, so we didn't know about the glitches until we were picnicking by the river, not near enough to deal with them at the time. I mentioned the mayo thing on our 2nd visit, & my server was very sweet & polite about it, & assured me she would double-check that no mistakes were made this time. And there weren't! They also have really big vegan dog biscuits for $2 each, and I got one for our dog each time, so she wouldn't feel left out. She was a bit puzzled by the size, but did finally crunch each one with relish. I am thrilled to know they're expanding to Portland, because I expect to be going to Portland next July!
1019 Camelia St, Berkeley, USA
Hope They Succeed and Thrive Forever
I discovered Sanctuary on HappyCow, and it being closer to our home than any other vegan place, tried it out for brunch at the first opportunity. It was love at first bite! Since then, we've been back for dinner three times (with my husband's non-veg parents who are in their 80s). We've all enjoyed everything we've ordered, every time! My father-in-law is already addicted to the Salade Nicoise, particularly the dressing. I keep wanting to try it, but keep being seduced by Braised Moroccan Tofu; my husband has ordered the Tofu Scallopini twice in a row. Usually we are all too full for dessert, but one time my husband and I shared a slice of their cheesecake, and it was incredible. The little complementary 'starter' hors d'oeuvre is always delicious too! Beyond the excellence of the food (including presentation), the whole experience is always really enjoyable. The space, though small, is super clean & very attractive, including the big window that lets you see the big beautiful tree growing out at the curbside; it's on a side street, so there's very little street noise; and the staff have all been really lovely, warm, friendly people who make you feel that they're actually glad to see you! (Unlike a few other vegan places I could name.) I have listed 'pricey' under 'Cons' but want to clarify that we do think that the food quality is WORTH every penny; just happens to be a bit out of range, for OUR income. We do go anyway, for any special occasion. Only other drawbacks, not really the Bistro's fault, are that one time we couldn't get a Saturday res, because the place (being small) seemed to be fully booked out all night on that date; also if loud people show up, the brick walls help bounce the noise. But loud people seem rare there. If only we were a bit wealthier, we'd be eating there three times a week! For us, it's doubtless the best all-around veg dining experience we've ever had (and I've been veg since 1974, my husband, since 1979, both vegan since '99). It's already his omnivore parents' first choice, as well!
10344 Fair Oaks Blvd, Fair Oaks, USA
I've only had the opportunity to eat here once - while in the area in September 2012 for Pagan Pride Weekend. It seems I am in the minority as a vegan Pagan - and being stuck at my author table all day Saturday, with no decent food options available on-site, made the long, hot day even longer. So when I was at last able to escape and make my way to Sunflower, which I only knew about from Happy Cow, I was starving and desperate! I can't even remember everything I ordered, but besides getting some dinner, I got enough items for breakfast and lunch the following day, and it all tasted fantastically delicious, and felt like it saved my life. I know I loved the vegan potato salad; being able to get a vegan toasted cheese sandwich was fantastic, and there was a basic beans & rice item which was tasty & generous enough that it lasted me 2 meals. It was fairly late when I got there, and the place was busy, but although I was hungry and exhausted, the food seemed to come reasonably fast. The person taking my order was very friendly. It also seemed reasonably priced - but then, I live in the S.F. Bay Area, where even vegan food is usually overpriced.
20687 Tracy Ave, Buttonwillow, USA
Good food amidst the culinary wasteland
We were vacationing near Palm Springs, and changed our route homewards at the last minute, to I-5. We had no Internet access, so no way of finding out if there would be any findable vegan food either on the drive or on the Monterey Peninsula once we arrived there rather late. So we were thrilled to see a couple of billboards advertising the option of vegan Indian food. the billboards went by pretty fast, so we didn't quite see the location, but it turned out to be right off the freeway at Buttonwillow, where we were planning to fill the car up anyway. We did spot the signage on the restaurant roof as we approached the off-ramp. We got the food to go, so that we wouldn't have to hunt for dinner in Pacific Grove (a smart decision). However, I did succumb to the temptation of a VEGAN mango lassi to drink in the car, & which was delicious. The food travelled very well for the remaining hours of the trip, and was really satisfying. We had a large order of basmati rice which was perfectly cooked, an order of saag aloo (mild) which was extremely tasty, and an order of (2) very large samosas, which were spicy, but not too spicy for my sensitive mouth, and also tasty. It was a good Indian meal, very affordable & plenty for 2 of us (we're not "American style" eaters) - would have been about $18 without the lassi. The older gentleman who served me was very sweet & charming. I assume the restaurant is oriented to Northern India, and in my experience, it is pretty impossible to find an all-veg No. India restaurant. The all-veg ones tend to be So. India cuisine, and serve a lot of dosas. So I really appreciate the fact that this place has an extensive veg menu, and a specific, separate vegan menu, with a reasonable assortment of choices. Particularly being located on the I-5 corridor of endless unhealthy chain eateries. Now that I know it's there, I will always stop there on every future trip to So.Cal!
111 Central Ave, Pacific Grove, USA
End of an era?
We hadn't been to the Monterey peninsula for years, but decided to stay there overnight on the way back from SoCal. Wanted to have lunch before getting on the road, & did not have computer access, so browsed a city-produced "dining out" pamphlet & were happy to see that Tillie Gort's was STILL there. ("Vegan" seems to be a dirty word in the gourmandish peninsula.) We drove there with our dog in the car, & had to take turns going in to look at the menu to order, got the food "to go" & ate in our car - since I was told that it was "not legal" for us to sit at one of the OUTSIDE tables with the dog. Weird, since a few miles away, Carmel goes out of its way to be dog-friendly. I did ask to use the rest room, & was astonished to find that there is no hot water in there - just hope the staff have their own rest room which DOES have hot water running! Was also very dismayed to discover that there are all sorts of meat items on the menu. Normally, I won't eat food made in a kitchen that also has meat around (too many bad past experiences) but my husband was getting very hungry, & said he didn't care, so we did order food. My 'tofu scramble' was heavy on the rice & black beans side-dish. The tofu was in large cubes. There were a few pieces of mushroom, some runny tomatoes & a fair amount of spinach. There did not appear to be any seasoning in anything. The only tastes were the ones that come directly from the ingredients. All my husband got was rice & beans (with 2 small corn tortillas & a small container of salsa), & he shared my small tofu 'scramble." "ALL" that for $20?! While waiting for my order, I studied the photos near the front door, recording the social evolution of the place since 1974. The staff & friends back then were sure a bunch of happy looking hippies, posing with an assortment of kids & dogs - their faces seem to radiate enthusiasm, idealism, and commitment. The woman who took our order today was about as un-hippie as you can get. I suppose it's not possible for the same people to still be there working hard 40 years later, & probably there came a time when the original owners decided it was time to retire & sell. Maybe it would have been better for them to close it outright, or if they needed to cash out, specify in the contract that the name and purported "veggie" association be dropped, and only the actual facility change hands. Sometimes it's better for a business's era to end, than to limp along, a pitiful caricature of its former self.
1025 Gilman St, Berkeley, USA
Not particularly vegan-friendly
I used to have to drive much farther, to the south end of Berkeley, for the old, smallish(Telegraph Ave) Whole Foods. I do most shopping at a small indie natural foods grocery near my home, but they don't have the greatest selection of products, beyond all-organic produce. Whole Foods has some things I can't seem to find anywhere else, so I shop there once or twice a month, despite the high prices (I look for whatever's on sale). Almost as soon as this one opened, I switched from the Telegraph WF, because driving here uses a lot less fossil fuel. HOWEVER! I was very quickly disappointed in the new one's spacious Deli section. The old, small one on Telegraph had pretty much closed its Deli, but I've been to WF's in Santa Monica CA, and Madison WI, which had GREAT vegan deli options. After 3 tries to find just a couple of vegan dishes at the Gilman St one, I gave up and don't even browse it now. That's not all. In my experience, many vegan products are shelved either out of reach on top shelves, or almost unseen, on bottom shelves. The worst aspect of their stocking policies, in my opinion, is that the long, two-sided freezer aisle, is completely unsegregated. Meat & dairy based frozen entrees and products (including burgers, burritos, etc) are shelved side-by-side with any vegan analog products. This is annoying, time-wasting, and frankly, disgusting, to have to keep looking at products touting which animals they are made from, while desperately seeking a package of Gardein burgers, a vegan holiday roast, or a few burritos for my husband's bag lunches. Frozen vegan products are outnumbered at least 3 to 1, by items containing meat, dairy, and/or eggs. The same is true in most other departments. I found one can of vegan "tuna" in the middle of a 3-shelf display of canned fishes. I have therefore concluded that the manager of this particular store, seems to actively HATE vegans, resent our patronage, and has instituted a policy of making the store as unwelcoming as possible to us. Two final (non-dietary) annoyances: the parking lot has THE narrowest parking spaces of any lot I've ever had to park in - carts WILL NOT FIT between parked cars. And the presence of a uniformed guard by the big open front doorway, suggests that the management apparently assumes a lot of their patrons are thieves. But then, why put a whole lot of products BEYOND the checkout counters, right by the front door?