5 Bites: Excellent Vegan Eats in Oakland

Californian Florentine
Californian Florentine from Two Mammas' Vegan Kitchen in Oakland.

Need a break from BBQ, or prefer dining on dairy and meat-free cuisine? There's loads of wonderful options in the East Bay, with many restaurants that exclusively serve fine vegan fare in Oakland. Here's a selection of five of our favorites; let us know your top choices in the comments.

Just a few blocks down from Fruitvale BART resides the homey Two Mammas' Vegan Kitchen, run by the partners in life and business Jess and Jules Piovarcsik-Diliberto. Stop in for breakfast, lunch or weekend brunch prepared with local, seasonal and organic ingredients. Try the "California Florentine" with sautéed mushrooms, fresh tomato slices and avocado on English muffins dressed with a curry-infused vegan hollandaise sauce, or a savory crepe stuffed with sautéed spinach, tomato and almond "ricotta" cheese topped with an amazingly rich and creamy basil pesto. Entrees are served with a side salad that includes fresh fruit, nuts and 20-year aged balsamic vinaigrette or roasted potatoes topped with spicy cashew cheese. There's also fresh juices and smoothies made to order, such as the kale, almond, avocado and cocoa smoothie. For diners eschewing wheat, there's plenty of gluten-free options to choose from, as well as homemade pastries and ice cream, too.

Two Mammas’ Vegan Kitchen
3700 E. 12th St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94601
Ph: (510) 606-0596
Hours: Everyday 10am-3pm, Closed Tuesday
Facebook: Two Mammas Vegan Kitchen
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Spot the giant hot pink doughnut parked on the sidewalk on San Pablo Avenue near 60th Street, and you’ll find the entrance to Pepples Donut Farm. This bakery is one of those local gems that will make you skeptical that there's no butter, cream or other dairy-based ingredients used in their rich, decadent confections. And you’ll find no stale doughnuts here; all of their baked goods are prepared fresh daily from organic ingredients. If you’re in the mood for something more substantial, they serve up excellent lunches and weekend brunch, too. Try their breakfast burrito or a bowl of their homemade granola with fresh fruit and your choice of soy or hemp milk. You can also find their doughnuts at select locations in the Bay Area.

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Pepples Donut Farm
6037 San Pablo Ave. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94608
Ph: (510) 338-6319
Hours: Everyday Mon-Fri 7:30am-3pm serving donuts & coffee; Lunch is 10am-2pm; Weekends 9am-3pm serving donuts and brunch until 2:30pm
Facebook: Pepples Donuts
Twitter: @vegan_donuts
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

The organic, macrobiotic menu is no-frills at Shangri-La Vegan, a modest Tibetan restaurant located on the border of Emeryville and Oakland. You choose from their daily specials (posted online on their website) and basically decide how much you want to eat: full, moderate or simple portions (which is also spice / salt-free). But you'll be impressed by their flavorful food, such as the offerings on one moderate plate: steamed mixed brown rice; curried garbanzo beans with leeks and garlic; baked red beets and turnips, rutabaga and kabocha seasoned with garlic and dill; steamed kale and collard greens with a creamy shiitake mushroom garlic sauce; a mixed green salad dressed with pureed beets, basil, vinegar, tahini and agave syrup. There's also complimentary kukicha tea and filtered water for customers, an assortment of vegan desserts (go for the pies over the pastries, which can be a tad dry) and a small outdoor patio area out front if you'd like to dine outside.

Shangri-La Vegan
4001 Linden St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94608
Ph: (510) 547-1842
Hours: Everyday from 11am-3pm; 5:30pm-9pm
Price range: Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

While chef/owner Tamearra Dyson grew up in Louisiana, a state not known for its health-conscious cuisine, her mother raised Dyson and her siblings on a mostly vegetarian diet in an effort to impart the benefits of a meatless lifestyle to her children. Dyson's restaurant, Souley Vegan, is her take on classic Southern and soul food dishes made without refined sugars, artificial ingredients and other additives, and also serves local and organic produce when possible. Check the blackboard for their daily specials, like chicken-fried "steak" or deep-fried seitan, grilled onions and gravy with a baked potato, "butter" and asparagus. Portions are substantial, so if you're going for the "Monster Salad", a garden-sized helping of lettuce, baby spinach, falafel crumbles, 5-spice tofu cubes, avocado, tomatoes and cucumber tossed with with a creamy, Caesar-like dressing -- it's enough to share among 3-4 people, plus it comes with a side of white or whole wheat zapaton bread (Italian for "long shoe"). Ditto goes for the sampler platter, an overflowing smorgasbord of food, and you can add on extra items for a few more dollars. It comes with Southern-fried tofu (fried in a cornmeal crust with a texture and appearance reminiscent of catfish), BBQ tofu, black-eyed peas, lentils, sauteed greens, mashed yams, potato salad, sweet cornbread, mac n' "cheese", red beans and rice and fried okra (accompanied with a vegan tartar-like dipping sauce.) If you have room for dessert, there's an assortment of cobblers, cakes and other treats to choose from, including the strawberry lemon cupcake with grated coconut. Wash it down with local beers, soju cocktails or homemade drinks such as strawberry ginger juice.

Souley Vegan
301 Broadway [map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 922-1615
Hours: Tue-Thu 11am-10:30pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11:30pm
Facebook: Souley Vegan
Twitter: @SouleyVegan
CASH ONLY
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Located in the heart of Oakland's Chinatown near the 12th Street BART station is Nature's Vegetarian, a humble restaurant that specializes in healthy, vegan Chinese cuisine. A pot of hot black tea and pickled vegetables are complimentary starters; pot stickers filled with cabbage, carrots and "pork" and crispy salt-and-pepper tofu with basil, scallions and chilies are tasty fried appetizers. The hearty entree of shiitake and button mushrooms sautéed with sliced celery, bell peppers and mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts and macadamias) is tossed with a rich, garlicky soy sauce. Their signature fried rice eschews the usual ingredients and has morsels of dried goji berries, pine nuts, corn, minced asparagus and raisins. And a popular favorite, General Tso's "chicken," is prepared with textured vegetable protein to simulate its meaty Chinese-American counterpart and served with fresh steamed broccoli.

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Nature Vegetarian Restaurant
1116 Franklin St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 238-9688
Hours: Everyday 10am-9pm
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

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