Trying to Go Meatless? Try These 5 SF Restaurants

The Commissary's Impossible Albondigas.  (Patrick Wong)

There are a lot of reasons why going vegetarian or vegan has become more and more popular. One of the most obvious is the reported overall health benefits of reducing meat in one's diet (like a lowered risk in developing certain cancers), but perhaps just as important is the sustainability of having a plant-based eating regiment.

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As Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods—the two companies arguably leading the American movement towards lower meat consumption—espouse, the environmental implications of raising livestock for an ever-growing meat-hungry world population are many and are dangerous. A quick look at Beyond Meat's website will tell you, a staggering 66 billion animals are killed per year to satisfy the world's diet for animal proteins, which gives way to over half of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Both companies have been thrust into the spotlight, given their line of plant-based products that mimic not only the flavor of meat but the texture as well. In the case of Impossible Foods, their product even mimics the bloodiness of animal proteins, thanks to a molecule called "heme" which gives blood its red color and is found in animal tissue and plants alike. Their products can now be found in grocery stores and restaurants around the nation, including establishments like White Castle and more recently, Burger King, with their Impossible Whopper. Even KFC has announced plans to have an Impossible chicken sandwich in the United Kingdom.

With mainstream eateries adopting ready-made plant protein products into their menu mainstays, it is safe to say that both companies have crafted a convincing substitute, even for the most discerning carnivores. In fact, there are reports that Impossible has had some trouble keeping up with the demand for their product in the aforementioned fast food chains.

Outside of just cooking up burgers, Bay Area chefs have found their groove, using these plant-protein patties in tasty and creative ways to make missing meat a lot less painful.

VeganBurg

1466 Haight St.
San Francisco

The Avocado Beetroot and Creamy Shrooms are two of VeganBurg's crowdpleasers. (Patrick Wong)

After launching in Singapore in 2010, VeganBurg opened its first American outpost in 2015—years before both Impossible and Beyond were publicly available plant-protein options. VeganBurg definitely has its handle on making meat-free burgers, and everything on their menu is vegan (with gluten-free options sprinkled in). Their menu is 95% made in-house, and among that 5% that is not made in-house is the Impossible Burger.

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While VeganBurg's traditional burgers are tasty all on their own, the addition of the Impossible Burger adds another dimension with its "bleeding" heme-filled plant-protein product. VeganBurg's patty doesn't claim to be true meat replacement, rather a tasty alternative to the usual beef patty; with the Impossible Burger, diners may get a chance to enjoy a burger that both texturally and in flavor copy that of ground beef.

Any of the eight burger options (plus the extra seasonal burger) can come with an Impossible Patty instead of VeganBurg's usual vegan patty for a $3 upcharge. Suggested for first-timers are the Avocado Beetroot and the Creamy Shrooms Burgers. And the customization doesn't stop there; highly recommended are the additions of the vegan bacon and adding an order of their seaweed fries or their Chick'n Tenders with Vegan Ranch.

The Commissary

101 Montgomery St. 
San Francisco

Try to get one of the albondigas, some of the bombas rice, and a spring veggie all in one bite! (Patrick Wong)

While Traci Des Jardin's beloved Jardiniere has now closed, The Commissary thankfully remains, nestled in the Presidio serving a full menu of Spanish-influenced Californian cuisine. Included in that menu is the Impossible Albondigas.

Made with the new gluten-free version of the Impossible Foods Burger 2.0 (a recent change in April 2019), the Impossible Albondigas are a convincing alternative to the traditional Spanish, Arab-inspired beef dish. Each serving comes with three of the meatballs, served on a bed of risotto-inspired bomba rice, alongside spring veggies, green garlic, and peas.

With a buttermilk aioli, the Patatas Bravas aren't vegan, but still vegetarian and still very tasty. (Patrick Wong)

They're slightly crisp on the outside and almost unexpectedly moist on the inside. The dish is nicely portioned—it won't leave you feeling heavy or weighed down, and, while there are other tempting meat dishes on the menu, you won't regret ordering this one. If you still have room for more, try the Patatas Bravas. They aren't vegan, but they are vegetarian-friendly and just as delicious as the Albondigas.

Rosamunde

3908, 2832 Mission St
San Francisco (with locations in the Haight and Oakland)

Top off your vegan Beyond Sausage with your favorite toppings, including sauerkraut and hot peppers. (Patrick Wong)

As a destination for sausages and a menu that historically has been heavy on the meat, Rosamunde now has a few options for vegetarians and vegans out there.

Diners can find the Beyond Meat Sausage on their menu, a product that debuted in December of 2017 and claims to be the world's first plant-based sausage—it is also kosher and gluten-free. You'll have two options if you'd like to go for the Beyond Sausage: the Hot Italian and the Original Brat. Depending on what mood you're in, both are fantastic options and you can choose two toppings to accompany your pick.

The Beyond Sausage cooks and sizzles just like traditional pork sausage, and it has a pretty similar taste and texture. Most meat and sausage connoisseurs will be able to tell the Beyond Sausage apart from its real-meat counterpart, but it's not to say the Beyond Sausage isn't worth trying, especially with all the delectable accoutrements that Rosamunde offers.

Hell’s Ramen

2193 Mission St.
San Francisco

The Tokusei Ramen comes with a sizable dollop hot chili paste. Be prepared for some heat! (Patrick Wong)

Hell's Ramen, the sister restaurant to Iza Ramen is Iza's spicier sibling. Its menu clearly listing all of their spiciness ratings and heat agents (chili paste, chili flakes, etc.) that will set your mouth on fire.

There are two vegan options on their ramen menu: a "Special Tomato" and a "Tokusei Miso." Only the Tokusei Miso variety comes with the Impossible Burger that has been thrown into the broth. Traditional ramen broth is usually made using bones, but this broth is fully vegan and uses ingredients like konbu (kelp) and miso (a traditional Japanese seasoning made of fermented soy beans, salt, and koji—a type of fungus). The end result is a super umami broth, especially considering the lack of bones, dried fish, and other traditional ramen ingredients.

The Tokusei—which as explained by the waitstaff, implies "being deluxe"—comes with fried eggplant, sauteed corn, bamboo shoots, and, of course, that Impossible Burger swimming around in your bowl. The Burger is definitely delicious and can break apart a bit too easily in the hot broth, but it's a great protein option for vegetarian or vegan ramen seekers.

Jolene’s Bar

2700 16th St
San Francisco

With plenty of seating, Jolene's Bar makes it easy to enjoy your meal with a beer (or two). (Patrick Wong)

Jolene’s Bar has become a popular and beloved queer destination watering hole, away from the nearby Castro. With a sizeable food menu, you’ll have plenty of options to line your stomach ahead of a night of drinking, including Jolene’s Impossible! Sliders.

The sliders sub out the typical beef patty with an Impossible Burger and come two to an order, with a healthy serving of fries and special vegan sauce for dipping. The sliders also come with your typical burger accessories like lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Though they look small, they’re quite filling and are truly a great substitute for those looking to skip the meat.

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The Sliders are available on Jolene’s non-brunch menu only, with their kitchen open until 1am Thursdays to Saturdays, with plenty of open bar and table space to set-up shop and eat. If you’re looking for a similar offering at another queer-friendly space, Hi-Tops in the Castro also offers an Impossible Burger.

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