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Six Little-Known Vegan Friendly Restaurants in Berkeley
Most vegans and vegetarians in the San Francisco Bay Area are familiar with some of the more high profile vegan restaurants in Berkeley, like Herbivore and Cafe Gratitude, but if you’d like to expand your options, take a look at these six hidden treats.
2975 College Avenue, Berkeley
It's true that Be Bop isn’t an all-vegan restaurant, or even mostly vegan. But if you love Korean food like I do, you know it can be tricky to make sure there are no animal products involved. The menu explicitly marks a number of items as “vegan" or "vegetarian," making it easy to figure out which dishes are meat or dairy free without having to quiz the server about the ingredients. The vegan selections include several varieties of bibimbap, jeon (a pancake-like dish), and a vegan japchae (noodle and vegetable dish). With fresh, crisp vegetables and a splash of quinoa, their bibimbap is among the best I’ve ever had, both in and outside of Korea. I once asked a server about the inclusion of vegan selections on their menu, and she explained that the owner is vegan. Some of their side dishes, such as the kimchi, aren't vegan (the kimchi contains fish sauce), so be sure to ask if you're not sure. The servers are always happy to answer any questions.
3031 Adeline Street, Berkeley
This small, unassuming taquería in South Berkeley is a 100% vegan restaurant specializing in animal-free versions of traditional Mexican foods, including tacos, taquitos, tamales, pozoles, and huarache. They even have homemade horchata (rice milk) and Mexican hot chocolate! Don’t be fooled by the shack-like outward appearance—the inside is clean, the staff are friendly, and the food is delicious. There is limited seating inside, so you may want to get your food to go (oh, and all their to go containers and utensils are biodegradable). They offer a 10% discount for seniors, veterans, and current members of the military, and if it’s your birthday, you get a free entrée of your choice!
2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley
Gather is another restaurant I wouldn’t have expected to have any substantive vegan options, but as usual, appearances can be deceiving. Though it’s true that vegan selections are limited to just one or two items per menu section, these are hardy dishes like their beluga lentil dish with roasted pumpkin and polenta, or their vegan tomato pizza. Menu items are marked to indicate whether they can be made vegan and/or gluten-free. This a great place if you’re entertaining an omnivorous meal companion and you’re looking for a vegan option more satisfying than a bland salad.
2033 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
Who would think a pizza place would have something for vegans? I never stepped foot in this place until a friend told me about their vegan pizzas, made with their own special tofutti soy-based cheese substitute. I know some people who love this place and others who are lukewarm about it, and to be honest, the pizza is a bit saltier than I’d like. But hey, folks, it’s vegan pizza! Oh--one warning to very strict vegans: their pizza dough does contain refined sugar.
2132 Oxford Street, Berkeley
Of course, we can’t forget dessert… I suppose the owners of Cinnaholic are smart in that none of the storefront signs say anything about its being an all-vegan cinnamon roll shop. The rolls are so well-textured and yummy, I suspect most of their walk-in customers have no idea that the rolls contain no eggs, dairy, or refined sugar. You can design your own roll by choosing from 50 different frostings and toppings, or you can select one of their specialty rolls with flavors like Mocha Almond, Oreo Explosion, or Fudge Brownie Chunk. Yum!
2399 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley
Leave it to Berkeley to have more than one yummy dessert option for vegans! Located on Telegraph Avenue near campus, this ice cream sandwich shop is popular among students, and you'll often see a line around the corner (don't worry, the line moves quickly). They offer several types of soy ice cream and several vegan cookie options, and everything is very reasonably priced--just under $3 for an ice cream sandwich. If you want, you can even have your ice cream sandwich made with gluten free cookies!