And Finds a Goldmine of Delicious Dishes


When I received the assignment to research restaurants for the Oakland Vegan Trail, I didn’t expect to find and visit over 20 vegan restaurants and businesses. Whoa, really? Yes! We aren’t talking about vegetarian restaurants that have a vegan option for some of their dishes—these are completely vegan businesses. Even San Francisco would be hard-pressed to come up with that many dedicated vegan spots, and certainly doesn’t have the range of cuisines that Oakland is repping.

Oakland’s ever-expanding vegan scene stretches all over, and is anchored by longstanding spots like the Ethiopian Cafe Dareye, Vietnamese Golden Lotus, macrobiotic Shangri-La Vegan, the upscale (and globetrotting) Millennium, and Two Mammas' Vegan Kitchen has been serving down-home sandwiches and the best vegan Benedicts for brunch since 2014.

Delicious dish at Millenium in Oakland California
Vegan dinner and cocktail at Millenium

The latest wave of vegan restaurants includes a couple popular Black-owned spots (and trucks) that offer a healthier and planet-friendly alternative to fast food with crave-worthy portions, like Instagram-ready Malibu’s Burgers (even the milkshakes are plant-based) and the hearty fried chicken sandwiches and tenders from Don’t be Chick’n. There’s an enthusiastic fanbase for a couple spots serving vegan soul food, like the ample plates of vegan BBQ from Vegan Mob—with some Mexican and Filipino influences in their Fusion Meals—and the flavor-packed, Louisiana Creole-style dishes at Souley Vegan (chef-owner Tamearra Dyson has expanded to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and even beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network!).

Different dishes of food at Vegan Mob in Oakland CA
Variety of dishes at Vegan Mob

A number of places are creating their own plant-based proteins, like the house-made diced Louisiana hot links at Souley Vegan, and Taqueria La Venganza is making plant-based carnitas (with shredded soy skin marinated in a smoky citrus brine), pollo, and even chicharrón. Señor Sisig Vegano uses a marinated and char-grilled soy protein to make their pork sisig, chicken sisig, longanisa chorizo, and tocino. With these housemade, seasoned proteins, all the authentic flavor is there. Even Bare Knuckle Pizza has a quality lineup of Neapolitan pizzas with some of the best vegan melty, creamy mozzarella you’ll ever taste (from local vegan deli The Butcher’s Son). 

Plate of food at Golden Lotus Vegan Restaurant in Oakland California
Spring Rolls at Golden Lotus

Something I really appreciated about the mother-daughter duo at Hella Nuts is they developed their own ground walnut meat since they want to avoid soy in their cooking; they use it in their old-school, Taco Bell–inspired lineup of dishes, and you won’t miss the beef. Something I noted about their cooking is how fresh everything tasted—you can tell they really love to eat (and prepare) their vegetables. Roasted and Raw also has a healthy, vegetable-forward focus in their dishes.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imani Greer (@chefmanig)

Imani Greer, Chef and Owner of Roasted and Raw

As a meat-eater, there’s always something in the back of my mind that says, “It’s good for a vegan substitute…” but the question remains: would I eat the vegan version instead of a beef burger or cheese pizza or fried chicken? One place where this doesn’t even enter my mind is the outstandingly creative Lion Dance Café, with the most flavor-packed, seasonal, Chinese-Singaporean dishes—and their shaobing sandwiches are simply amazing sandwiches, period.

Have fun exploring the Oakland Vegan Trail—there’s a unique story at every spot, and so many well-made, creative dishes worth traveling across town for.