Before I lived in the Bay Area, I resided in Brooklyn; first in Williamsburg then Park Slope. When I moved here, San Francisco reminded me of Manhattan while Oakland and Berkeley were perfect West Coast versions of Williamsburg and Park Slope respectively. While Bon Appétit, Travel+Leisure, and New York magazine have heralded Oakland as an up-and-coming eating destination for omnivores, the port city’s vegan scene is unparalleled. Brooklyn may have DunWell Doughnuts, Champs, and ‘Snice Café, but Oakland matches it with apple fritters, artisan tofu, and the best Ethiopian food. In no particular order, here are 11 reasons why Oakland is the new Brooklyn.
1. Timeless Coffee*
Great For: Java fiends
Local Lowdown: This artisan coffee shop is always packed (with an occasional cute pup sighting). The almond milk latte, bevy of vegan pastries, popular Sunday brunch, and friendly staff are just a few reasons why this is the place to be.
Must-Try: If you can snag a coconut caramel bar, grab them before they sell out.
2. Olde Depot*
Great For: Craft beer aficionados
Local Lowdown: An entirely vegan food menu with homemade sausages, a mile-high potato salad that changes daily, homemade pretzels, and Fat Bottom Bakery desserts, plus a craft brew list that would make any beer lover swoon.
Must-Try: The currywurst sausage stuffed in a French roll and topped with grilled onions
3. Souley Vegan*
Great For: Soul food lovers
Local Lowdown: After you grab a pint at Olde Depot, head around the corner to this unassuming, casual restaurant. The staff is super friendly and the comfort food menu is to-die-for. I opt for a three-sides platter (mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens, and barbecue tofu—or any combo you choose), but you can’t go wrong with the gumbo or Southern Fried Crispy sandwich.
Must-Try: The Southern Fried tofu in its many forms (mini-nuggets, sandwich, or as a side).
4. Victory Burger
Great For: Taking omnivores out to lunch
Local Lowdown: The only thing that this little café makes is burgers, but they do it so well. The veg options aren’t a grilled portabello stuffed in a plain bun. You have a choice between a veggie-filled patty inside a sourdough roll or a veggie arepa with a Vietnamese bánh mì twist.
Must-Try: The vegan milkshakes are made with Coconut Bliss ice cream and easily customizable with a vast array of mix-ins (go for peanut butter and Belgian chocolate!).
5. Pepples Donut Farm*
Great For: Weekend brunch
Local Lowdown: The folks at Pepples Donut Farm are responsible for Bay Area coffee shops and bakeries having the best vegan doughnuts. With flavors such as Mexican Chocolate, Sea Salted Caramel, and Matcha Green Tea, it’s hard to pick just one doughnut. An equally amazing weekend brunch offers many options such as the breakfast burrito, bean curd scramble, and pancakes.
Must-Try: The apple fritters are doughy delights. The secret is to go after 11am on weekends after they are freshly made.
6. Hodo Soy Beanery*
Great For: Changing people’s minds about tofu
Local Lowdown: Having grown up eating tofu since I was a kid, I’ve tried a lot and Hodo Soy’s organic, non-GMO tofu is by far the best. HS products can be found all over the Bay Area, including at local Chipotles in the Sofritas option, made with Hodo Soy tofu.
Must-Try: The award-winning vegan egg salad or the spicy yuba (thin sheets of tofu).
7. Nick’s Pizza
Great For: Picking up a gourmet pizza
Local Lowdown: This tiny pizza shop is a hidden gem in North Oakland. The owner and chef Nick Yapor-Cox starts with a sourdough crust and then tops each pie with locally sourced, organic produce. Plus, there’s always one vegan pizza on the menu that changes every two weeks.
Must-Try: Recent offerings were chopped dino kale, pine nuts, and Meyer lemon zest or a sweet corn, caramelized red onions, and cilantro-lime vinaigrette pizza.
8. Hella Vegan Eats*
Great For: Grabbing a bite and drinks with friends
Local Lowdown: The provocateurs behind the Hella Vegan Eats pop-up dinners aren’t just piling on salad greens on a plate. Their inventive menus are part kitschy and part rock ‘n’ roll. At a recent pop-up, they served Hunter S. Tacos filled with whisky maple-glazed tempeh and savory tofu scramble and their signature Doughnut Burger, a cheeky take on the famous Paula Deen burger, using a massive beet burger sandwiched between two sugar doughnuts.
Must-Try: The Lusty Lovers Tacos, a combo of vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and barbecue chicken topped with cayenne-spiced cornflakes, which is hella good.
9. Ike’s Place
Great For: The best sandwich in town
Local Lowdown: Ike’s Place sandwiches are well known and highly sought after in the Bay Area so when an Oakland location opened, East Bay folks rejoiced. With an extensive vegan menu, it’s hard to choose which sandwich you’ll devour, but really you can’t wrong with any choice.
Must-Try: The Vegan Pilgrim (cranberry sauce, Sriracha, vegan cheese, vegan turkey) on Dutch crunch bread.
10. Fat Bottom Bakery*
Great For: Vegan baked goods
Local Lowdown: While this bakery doesn’t have an actual storefront, you’ll find FBB sweet treats all over town. The bakery partners with Olde Depot to offer beer-inspired desserts and during Hella Vegan Eats pop-ups, they often serve FBB’s cupcakes (vegan funfetti was a recent surprise).
Must-Try: The chocolate stout brownie at Olde Depot.
11. Addis Ethiopian Restaurant
Great For: A fun, low-key date
Local Lowdown: Along Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, there are plenty of excellent Ethiopian restaurants with delicious vegan options. Addis offers a great selection of dishes: Gomen, simmered mildly spicy collard greens; Alicha Denich, slow-cooked carrots and potatoes; and Shiro Wot, split peas in a spicy berbere sauce; plus a never-ending basket of injera bread.
Must-Try: The highly addictive Tofu Tibs—a dish with cubed tofu tossed with onions and herbs.
*denotes a vegan establishment
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