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5 Bites: Fantastic Vegan Eats in Berkeley and Albany

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Socca Cakes
Socca Cakes: chickpea griddlecakes with roasted butternut squash, housemade cashew "cheese", scallions and cherry tomatoes at Sanctuary Bistro in Berkeley.

As a follow-up guide to "Excellent Vegan Eats in Oakland," here's our recommendations for wonderful vegan fare in Berkeley (and one in Albany). And please let us know your favorites in the comments.

Looking for a refined, upscale vegan dining experience? Sanctuary Cafe, Executive Chef Barry Horton and Jennifer Jones Horton's newish establishment (they opened their doors this past August through a successful Kickstarter campaign bolstered by their thriving catering business), serves exquisite dishes using 100% organic, local and seasonal ingredients. Their prix-fixe lunch menu can be customized for one, two or three courses. Rotating daily specials are highlighted on their chalkboard, including kombuchas on tap. A recent selection included a floral lavender drink from Ventura-based Bu Kombucha and Health-Ade's Pink Apple flavor. The soup of the day, a rich cream of broccoli soup garnished with crisp porcini mushrooms was an excellent starter, along with a romaine lettuce, avocado and Eatwell Farm cherry tomato salad tossed with tempeh croutons and macadamia miso dressing. A vibrantly-colored entree, chickpea griddlecakes or "socca cakes", were accompanied by roasted butternut squash, a tangy cashew "cheese" reminiscent of crème fraîche, scallions and cherry tomatoes. An ample serving of savory "crab-less" cakes were prepared with oyster mushrooms and Old Bay Seasoning-flecked remoulade. The self-described "decadent chocolate parfait" was indeed a deliciously indulgent dessert, with chocolate mousse, coconut whipped cream and an almond butter cup as a finishing touch -- and paired well with the single-serve drip coffee made fresh to order. Check their website for sample brunch and dinner menus. And in reference to their name, 5% of their proceeds go to a Bay Area animal sanctuary.

Sanctuary Bistro
1019 Camelia St.[Map]
Berkeley, CA 94710
Ph: (510) 558-3381
Hours: Mon, Wed, Thu-Fri: Lunch 11am-3pm; Dinner 5:30-9pm; Saturday: Brunch 8:30am-3pm; Dinner 5:30-10pm; Sunday: Brunch 8:30am-3pm; Closed Tuesday
Facebook: Sanctuary Bistro/Local Love Catering
Twitter: @SanctuaryBistro
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Flacos is the place to go if you're craving tasty, organic vegan Mexican food (and if you go on your birthday with a valid ID, you can have a free meal!) Choose from the selection of "full plates" which feature taquitos, tacos, pozole, tamales and huaraches. Each entree comes with a side of beans (black, pinto or refried), brown rice, salad and avocado salsa (hot, mild or "mixed", which is a happy medium of spiciness) which you can enjoy in their large outdoor seating area. You can also buy tortillas and corn masa/hominy to go, housemade horchata and agua frescas and an array of desserts. (And there's a Fresno location, too; check their website for these and other details about weekly specials and discounts.)


3031 Adeline St. [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94703
Ph: (510) 981-8081
Hours: Tue-Sat 11:30am-9pm; Sun 12-6pm; Closed Mondays
Facebook: Flacos
Twitter: @Flacosvegmex
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

While many diners may find it hard to imagine Japanese food without seafood or meat, Cha-Ya's cooking may help revise your preconceived notions about this cuisine. With their wide assortment of vegan sushi rolls, noodles, rice bowls and other flavorful dishes packed on the menu -- you may not miss hamachi nigiri or pork tonkatsu. Their classic "Cha-Ya Delight" is a heaping bowl of brown rice topped with a beautiful arrangement of freshly steamed vegetables, mushrooms, tofu and seaweed. Dengaku, a miso-glazed entree of eggplant, portabello mushroom and tofu is another delectable and artful Japanese entree. More elegantly presented steamed vegetables with a tofu-sesame dressing comprises the shira-ae starter, and the pan-fried gyoza, or dumplings, are an irresistible appetizer. You can order beer, wine, sake and tea to go with your meal, and their lunch and dinner sets are a great bargain. There's also food available for quick and easy take out from their deli cooler.

1686 Shattuck Ave. [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94709
Ph: (510) 981-1213
Hours: Mon-Thu 12-2:30pm, 5-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 12-10pm; 12-3pm
CASH ONLY (ATM machine in restaurant)
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Chef Tenzin, a fifteen-year veteran of Shangri-La Cafe in North Oakland, prepares a similar organic, macrobiotic cuisine at Potala Organic Cafe, his own Tibetan restaurant. You choose from their daily specials (also posted online on their website) based on portion-size: large, medium or a la carte; simple portions are also spice and salt-free. A recent medium plate featured baked kabocha squash, steamed collard greens with beet-carrot-onion sauce, black beans, a mixed green salad with mint dressing and steamed brown rice. There’s also complimentary kukicha tea and filtered water for customers (plus you can buy organic beer or wine), as well as an assortment of vegan desserts for sale.

Potala Organic Cafe
1045 San Pablo Ave. [Map]
Albany, CA 94706
Ph: (510) 528-2375
Hours: Everyday from 11am-3pm; 5:30-9pm
Price range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

As you can guess from its name, Cinnaholic is a bakery that caters to cinnamon bun fans -- especially those that seek a vegan version. With a gigantic list of toppings and frostings, you can choose from the suggested combinations in their display case -- such as almond frosting garnished with fresh strawberries and almond slivers or Irish Creme frosting with crushed Oreos -- or create your own customized treat. And if you move away from the Bay Area or want to send someone a box of buns, they can also ship cinnamon buns to select locations.

2132 Oxford St. [Map]
Berkeley, CA 94704
Ph: (510) 647-8684
Hours: Everyday 10am-7pm except Mondays
Facebook: Cinnaholic
Twitter: @Cinnaholic
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)

This post was updated on September 9, 2015. The Source Mini location in Berkeley that was included in this list is now closed.

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