Beloved Café's Green Goddess Bowl ($13): avocado, spinach, dates, ginger, lime, coconut water, topped with homemade granola, banana, fresh berries, goji berries, hemp seeds, chia seeds and maca. This bowl was great for getting energized at the start of a day. A perfect combo of sweet and savory. Wendy Goodfriend
Beloved Café's Green Goddess Bowl ($13): avocado, spinach, dates, ginger, lime, coconut water, topped with homemade granola, banana, fresh berries, goji berries, hemp seeds, chia seeds and maca. This bowl was great for getting energized at the start of a day. A perfect combo of sweet and savory. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Craving Vegetarian/Vegan Lunch in San Francisco's Mission

Craving Vegetarian/Vegan Lunch in San Francisco's Mission

Vegetarian and vegan restaurants are abundant in the Bay Area where people tend to be conscious of the benefits of plant-based diets. Besides potential health benefits there are the ethical issues of eating animals and animal byproducts, as well as spiritual practices that involve abstaining from meat to purify the body, mind and spirit.

As a vegetarian/vegan it is comforting to go to a restaurant devoted to a purely plant-based diet. You have full access to all menu items and don’t need to be concerned about meat coming into contact with your food. There tends to be a greater awareness of the art of vegetarian cooking – combining foods to present a balanced and wholesome meal that doesn't leave you hungry or craving sugar from a lack of protein and carb overload. When eating at vegetarian-friendly spots that also serve meat, there is a tendency to be vigilant to ensure that the few menu items are truly animal-free.

On my walk to the Mission I came upon this sign steering me in the right direction.
On my walk to the Mission I came upon this sign steering me in the right direction. (Wendy Goodfriend)

I was on a mission in SF’s Mission to find lunch at vegetarian/vegan restaurants serving a variety of cuisines.

I found four worthwhile spots:

  • Beloved Café, which I will highlight, is an organic and mostly vegan café that incorporates the concept of superfoods with herbalism, Ayurveda, and a belief that food is medicine.
  • Udupi Palace, a vegetarian Southern Indian restaurant.
  • Cha-Ya, a vegan Japanese sushi and noodle spot.
  • Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant from the folks that own Café Gratitude and Be.Love.Farm.

Beloved Café, Juice & Tea

3338 24th St, San Francisco

The entrance to the Beloved Café.
The entrance to the Beloved Café. (Wendy Goodfriend)

I fell in love with Beloved Café. It reminded me of Angelica’s in NYC – the original location at St. Marks Place – that introduced me to macrobiotic food in the early 1980s. Angelica's was a bohemian hole-in-the-wall that served its signature Dragon Bowl that always made me feel so nourished and full of energy. It was also a community space where I could go to eat by myself and easily meet other like-minded people.

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Beloved Café inhabits a small cozy space on 24th Street near Mission Street. The interior design and décor reflect the creativity and care supplied by artists and friends of the owners. The atmosphere is warm and friendly; the food tastes great and feels healthy, fulfilling and transformative.

The menu displayed as art at the Beloved Café.
The menu displayed as art at the Beloved Café. (Wendy Goodfriend)
The counter and open kitchen at Beloved Café.
The counter and open kitchen at Beloved Café. (Wendy Goodfriend)

I spoke with Amy Vito, co-owner of Beloved Café to get the story behind the restaurant. She and her partner, Kambiz, were looking to open a café in San Francisco and, after a two-year search, found a home in the Mission in 2017.

“We wanted to pour all our love into the space.”

Beloved Café Co-owner Amy Vito.
Beloved Café Co-owner Amy Vito. (Wendy Goodfriend)

They are both yoga teachers and Vipassana meditation practitioners and wanted to create an eatery where people could be nourished in a loving and conscious way like they were doing for themselves at home. Together they source ingredients carefully, follow health trends, and incorporate herbalism and Ayurvedic food practices into their cooking. Although they are both vegetarian they decided to simplify the offerings for Beloved and create a primarily vegan menu for the café (non-vegan items available are honey and ghee).

Beloved's Stuffed Delicata Squash ($14): roasted delicata squash stuffed with homemade superfoods quinoa salad, topped with tahini dressing, spinach salad, avocado, beets and hummus.
Beloved's Stuffed Delicata Squash ($14): roasted delicata squash stuffed with homemade superfoods quinoa salad, topped with tahini dressing, spinach salad, avocado, beets and hummus. I loved this dish! Very rich, flavorful and fulfilling. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Beloved Café makes the majority of their basic ingredients in-house including homemade hummus, coconut yogurt, granola and nut milks from a variety of nuts including: cashews, walnuts, coconuts, pecans. They also make their own chai tea, golden milk and superfood sweets. All juices are freshly made to order.

Superfood Smoothie: Green Hulk-Strength and Vitality. Banana, apple, nut milk, hemp seeds, maca, dates, spinach. ($11)
Superfood Smoothie: Green Hulk-Strength and Vitality. Banana, apple, nut milk, hemp seeds, maca, dates, spinach. ($11). I felt strong and powerful after drinking this smoothie...and it tasted great! (Wendy Goodfriend)
Fresh Juice: Sweet Potato Lover- Anti-Inflammatory Immune Support. Sweet potato, carrot, apple, turmeric, ginger, lemon. ($9)
Fresh Juice: Sweet Potato Lover- Anti-Inflammatory Immune Support. Sweet potato, carrot, apple, turmeric, ginger, lemon.($9). The sweet potatoes seemed to add more texture than taste which provided a full-bodied drink with carrot and ginger as the dominant flavors. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Superfood Smoothie: Million Dollar Smoothie - Nutritive, Energizing, Sustaining. Banana, nut milk, walnuts, HealthForce VitaMineral Greens, Udo's Vegan DHA oil, coconut oil, Ashwagandha, Maca, Siberian Ginseng, Triphala.($14)
Million Dollar Smoothie - Nutritive, Energizing, Sustaining. Banana, nut milk, walnuts, HealthForce VitaMineral Greens, Udo's Vegan DHA oil, coconut oil, Ashwagandha, Maca, Siberian Ginseng, Triphala. ($14). This smoothie was truly energizing. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Golden Milk: A sultry blend of organic turmeric, ashwagandha, ginger, cardamom, clove, black pepper and vanilla in homemade nut milk with a touch of raw local honey.
Golden Milk: A sultry blend of organic turmeric, ashwagandha, ginger, cardamom, clove, black pepper and vanilla in homemade nut milk with a touch of raw local honey. This drink was like a warm mouth hug. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Vito claims the Quinoa Bowl & Roasted Vegetables ($13) is Beloved’s most popular item. It contains: quinoa, wild rice, coconut oil, roasted vegetables, fresh sprouts, toasted sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, and chipotle aioli. Rhizocali Tempeh based in Oakland can be added as well as avocado or hummus ($2 for each item).

Quinoa Bowl & Roasted Vegetables ($13): quinoa, wild rice, coconut oil, roasted vegetable, fresh sprouts, toasted sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, chipotle aioli. Add avocado, hummus, Rhizocali tempeh ($2)
Quinoa Bowl & Roasted Vegetables ($13): quinoa, wild rice, coconut oil, roasted vegetable, fresh sprouts, toasted sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, chipotle aioli. Add avocado, hummus, Rhizocali tempeh ($2). This dish was a complete meal that was quite rich and satisfying. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Herbal formulations for their offerings are sourced from local herbalists and the herbs are purchased through the Sonoma County Herb Exchange. The Elixirs and Tonics menu provides a variety of panaceas from aphrodisiac effects to stress relief, immune boosting, brain support, and mood balancing.

The shelves at Beloved Café are lined with herbs, teas and elixirs.
The shelves at Beloved Café are lined with herbs, teas and elixirs. (Wendy Goodfriend)

With the exception of the tropical fruit, the organic produce comes from a variety of local farms within 100-mile radius.

Citrus Hazelnut Kale Salad: kale, carrot, sprouts, orange slices, toasted hazelnuts, dried figs, in an apple cider vinaigrette. ($12) Add avocado, hummus, Rhizocali tempeh ($2)
Citrus Hazelnut Kale Salad: kale, carrot, sprouts, orange slices, toasted hazelnuts, dried figs, in an apple cider vinaigrette. ($12) Add avocado, hummus, Rhizocali tempeh ($2). Very refreshing and light but satisfied my hunger. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Dal Soup (cup-$6 | hearty bowl $10) Spiced lentil soup bowl includes quinoa, topped with cilantro, raisin chuntney and ghee.
Dal Soup (cup-$6 | hearty bowl $10) Spiced lentil soup bowl includes quinoa, topped with cilantro, beets, raisin chuntney and ghee. Beloved's Dal is one of the best I have tasted! (Wendy Goodfriend)

The organic tea menu is extensive, and the teas originate from various countries around the globe. The food and drink recipes have been developed and adapted from a variety of sources and experiences researching, cooking and traveling. They encourage their team members to be creative and experiment developing new products – recently, a beet latte was added to the menu from this practice.

The extensive organic tea menu.
The extensive organic tea menu. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Serving tea at Beloved Café.
Serving tea at Beloved Café. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Vito shared that through a healthy plant-based diet (including ingredients deemed “superfoods” like ashwaganda, triphala, maca, chaga, spirulina, turmeric, Siberian ginseng, and more), these high vibration foods support a disease-free body, spiritual development and the process of awakening.

“At some point your spiritual practice and your regular life are no longer separated, it just becomes one unified experience.”

Beloved Café believes in giving back to the community as well as creating community and they donate money to a number of organizations that aim to create economic justice and do positive work for humanity and wildlife throughout the world.

“Our bottom line isn’t about making a profit, it’s about delivering something that we really believe in and that is really healing and nourishing for the body – which is a big paradigm shift from the typical restaurant owner. Food is medicine and we want to educate people in a way that is not pushing this lifestyle onto people.”

If more of us valued Food and Cheer & Song...it would be a Merrier World
If more of us valued Food and Cheer & Song...it would be a Merrier World (Wendy Goodfriend)

Udupi Palace

1007 Valencia St, San Francisco (second location at 1023, 1903 University Ave, Berkeley)

Spinach Masala Dosa - served with Sambar, Coconut, Tomato, & Ginger Chutney ($9.95)
Spinach Masala Dosa - served with Sambar, Coconut, Tomato, & Ginger Chutney ($9.95) (Wendy Goodfriend)

Udupi Palace on Valencia near 21st Street serves South Indian vegetarian cuisine. The no-frills atmosphere is decorated with imagery from Indian culture. Highlights include the dosas and uthappam. The former are thin crepes made from a batter of rice and lentils that wrap around a variety of fillings, and the latter are thicker pancakes made from the same batter, adorned with a range of toppings. There are also a number of vegetable curries to choose from and a good way to sample them is to order the South Indian Thali which is an assorted platter of soup, curries, rice, bread and dessert.

The Spinach Masala Dosa is classic and delicious. All dosas are served with Sambar, a lentil-based vegetable soup that is full of flavor and spice, and three chutneys: coconut, tomato, and ginger.

Spinach Masala Dosa interior.
Spinach Masala Dosa interior. (Wendy Goodfriend)

The Mix Veg Uthappam was crispy around the edges, chewy with medium density and seemed to reside somewhere between a pancake and a pizza. The vegetables toppings are cooked into the batter and consisted of onions, peas, shredded carrots and tomatoes. The three chutneys should all be sampled as each one complements the uthappam with unique flavor.

Mix Veg Uthappam ($9.95)
Mix Veg Uthappam ($9.95) (Wendy Goodfriend)
Mix Veg Uthappam close up.
Mix Veg Uthappam close up. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Udupi's Sweet Lassi was especially creamy and thick and had a floral hint of rosewater which made it a refreshing complement to both the savory dosa and uthappam.

Sweet Lassi ($2.50)
Sweet Lassi ($2.50) (Wendy Goodfriend)
Udupi Palace exterior.
Udupi Palace exterior. (Wendy Goodfriend)

In 2008, Check, Please Bay Area reviewed Udupi Palace in Berkeley. Learn about the background of the restaurant and what the reviewers said about the South Indian cuisine. The segment begins at 18:07 of this episode.

Cha-Ya

762 Valencia St, San Francisco (second location at 1686 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley)

Cha-Ya Japanese Vegetarian Cuisine is located on Valencia between 18th and 19th Streets. According to the menu, the cuisine originated at a Zen temple in Fukui in the mid-13th century. The monks practiced shojin ryori, daily cooking with seasonal vegetables, plants from the mountains, seaweed, soybean curd, and seeds. Cha-ya’s vegan menu is founded on this cuisine and is prepared primarily as sushi, tempura and noodle dishes.

The general feeling of the Cha-ya experience is that you are eating clean, healthy, nourishing food. A go-to vegan comfort food spot that calms the body, mind and spirit. For East Bay folks, the Berkeley restaurant provides the same comfort and quality.

Hana Gomoku: Seasoned sushi rice bowl. Shiitake, green beans, carrots, lotus root, tofu puch, yam cake, hijiki. ($13)
Hana Gomoku: Seasoned sushi rice bowl. Shiitake, green beans, carrots, lotus root, tofu puch, yam cake, hijiki. ($13) (Wendy Goodfriend)

Cha-ya offers sushi in the form of specialty rolls ($10) as well as Hosomaki (thin rolls $5), Nigiri sushi (2 pieces, veg resides as topping on rice mound $4), and Uramaki (medium rolls or inside-out rolls, rice on the outside and nori on the inside $7). Brown rice can be substituted for sushi rice ( $2 for specialty rolls, $1 per item for other types).

Cha-Ya Vegan Roll: The traditional "futomaki" roll vegan style. Spinach, atsuage tofu, cucumber, broccolini, shiitake, kampyo, yamagobo and ginger. ($10)
Cha-Ya Vegan Roll is a specialty roll in the traditional "futomaki" roll vegan style. Spinach, atsuage tofu, cucumber, broccolini, shiitake, kampyo, yamagobo and ginger. ($10) (Wendy Goodfriend)

For the noodle options, the menu offers three types: Udon (flour), Soba (buckwheat blend) and Harusame (clear potato starch +$2).

Sansai Noodle Soup: Soba noodles, wild mountain vegetables, bracken, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, enoki. ($12)
Sansai Noodle Soup: Soba noodles, wild mountain vegetables, bracken, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, enoki. ($12) (Wendy Goodfriend)
Sansai Noodle Soup: Soba noodles displayed along with wild mountain vegetables, bracken, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, enoki. ($12)
Sansai Noodle Soup: Soba noodles, wild mountain vegetables, bracken, bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, enoki. ($12). This noodle soup is truly comforting and warms the body as well as the spirit. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Cha-ya interior.
Cha-ya interior. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Cha-ya exterior.
Cha-ya exterior. (Wendy Goodfriend)

Gracias Madre

2211 Mission St, San Francisco

According to the website, Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Café Gratitude and Be.Love.Farm could not find organic vegan Mexican food in the Bay Area so in collaboration with Chandra Gilbert, now Executive Chef at the LA restaurant, they opened Gracias Madre in the Mission, the home of Mexican culture and cuisine in San Francisco.

For this guide, I focused on the three bowls offered at lunch. My favorite was the Bowl Dos which had a flavorful mixture of savory and sweet elements that worked well together.

Bowl Dos: Braised lentils and mushrooms with peanut sauce and spinach served on a bed of coconut brown rice. Topped with pico de gallo, spicy pineapple salsa, and avocado. ($15)
Bowl Dos: Braised lentils and mushrooms with peanut sauce and spinach served on a bed of coconut brown rice. Topped with pico de gallo, spicy pineapple salsa, and avocado. ($15) (Wendy Goodfriend)
Bowl Uno: Tempeh chorizo, black beans, guacamole, brown rice and pico de gallo served on a bed of romaine and topped with nacho cashew cheese and pepitas. ($15)
Bowl Uno: Tempeh chorizo, black beans, guacamole, brown rice and pico de gallo served on a bed of romaine and topped with nacho cashew cheese and pepitas. ($15) (Wendy Goodfriend)
Pozole: Traditonal hominy stew in a spicy red ancho broth with avocado, cabbage and cashew crema. ($14)
Pozole: Traditonal hominy stew in a spicy red ancho broth with avocado, cabbage and cashew crema. ($14) (Wendy Goodfriend)
Gracias Madre Smoothies: Madre Green - Spinach, cilantro, mint, avocado, pineapple, and sea salt. Tropical Green - Mango, pineapple, spinach, coconut milk, ginger, and sea salt.
Gracias Madre Smoothies: Madre Green - Spinach, cilantro, mint, avocado, pineapple, and sea salt. Tropical Green - Mango, pineapple, spinach, coconut milk, ginger, and sea salt. Both of these smoothies were flavorful and satisfying. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Gracias Madre outdoor patio.
Gracias Madre outdoor patio. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Gracias Madre exterior.
Gracias Madre exterior. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Gracias Madre signage.
Gracias Madre signage. (Wendy Goodfriend)

In 2016, Check, Please Bay Area reviewed Gracias Madre. Learn about the background of the restaurant and what the reviewers said about the vegan Mexican cuisine.

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