Since I’ve been unemployed, I haven’t been eating out nearly as much as I once did. Still, there are places my boyfriend and I enjoy visiting from time to time, when I just can’t make myself do something passable in the kitchen…
Burma Bistro – Santa Clara
Burmese food is so delicious and the stuff we love most is impractical to make at home. That’s why I’m so glad to have this cozy, affordable little spot close to home. We usually get the tea leaf salad – though ginger salad is basically the same thing, but with preserved shredded ginger instead of fermented tea, and we like it just as much – and samosa soup, a thin yellow lentil base with shredded cabbage and red onion and chunks of falafel and samosas. It’s my most favorite two things to order. I couldn’t say if this spot ranks among the best, most authentic Burmese restaurants – I don’t really care – but it’s good, it’s veg-friendly, and it’s convenient for me.
Vegetarian House – San Jose
Walking distance from our house, we end up ordering takeout as often as we eat there. It’s vegan food for nearly all tastes. If you don’t like the Supreme Master, skip it, but the food is good. Our favorite things to get include: Sea Fruits Grill (roll-your-own fresh rolls with a crispy fake fish straight from my deep-fried dreams); Healthy Brown Rice, Tasty Glory (the lemongrass alternative to Queens), and Heavenly Salad or Collard Greens; meals-for-one like Spicy Thai Wrap, Smiling Gyro, Spring Roll Noodles, Tofu Club Sandwich, and Formosa Noodle Soup. The menu changes occasionally and sometimes they have specials.
Mudai Ethiopian – San Jose
Everyone has their favorite Ethiopian restaurant; this one is mine. It’s under new ownership, but the menu is largely the same – except that they added a couple mushroom dishes to the veggie menu, and they are killer. Unless we’re eating with other people – and all our family members love this place and often ask to meet here if we’re going out to dinner – we usually just split a veggie combo, which is more than plenty of food. If you want just a LITTLE more, go for a side order of the spicy ater kik. It’s not actually super spicy, and it does have a strong garlic flavor.
8 Elements – San Jose
A ridiculously affordable, comfortable, sit-down Indian restaurant in the deep suburbs that’s actually open past 9pm. Vegan items are noted on the menu and great options for appetizers, curries, Indo-Chinese, and South Indian dosas and uttapam. I love the spring dosa here; the “cocktail idly” also make a great appetizer if you don’t want something heavy. We also like to get chaat samosa sans yogurt. Curries come with white rice or naan, but they will substitute the more vegan-friendly roti for naan.
Curry Up Now – San Jose & elsewhere
A place that makes vegan burritos filled with Indian-style chickpeas and cauliflower is probably the most American you can get. It helps that it’s tasty.
Dish N Dash – Sunnyvale & Fremont
Too many places are described as a “Chipotle of [x] cuisine” because it’s a menu of serving styles, toppings, and sides, but fuck that. Dish N Dash lets you have a falafel (or grilled veggies, or, god forbid, meat) your way – salad, rice bowl, grain bowl, pita pocket, lavash wrap – with all kinds of toppings (I’m a big believer in the staunchly American “California style” with pea shoots and avocado) and sides (this veers more traditional mezze, but hard to go wrong). DIfferent locations have different drink menus, but there’s a lemonade with cucumber and mint at the Sunnyvale joint I cannot recommend more highly. They’re a local mini-empire, starting with the full-service Dish Dash in downtown Sunnyvale, but the takeout-friendly Dish ‘N Dashes are among my favorite places to nosh.
Falafel Bar – San Jose
It’s in a mall. It is 100% vegan and mostly gluten-free. They just serve falafel, fries, and sides/toppings. Ugh, just eat there, it’s great. And if you aren’t full and happy, you can go across the marking lot and eat Veggie Grill.
Oaxacan Kitchen – Campbell & other markets
You can find these guys at several local farmers’ markets and food truck locales. They make tortillas fresh (oh, the intoxicating aroma of fresh masa harina), they serve all kinds of delicious dishes with fresh veggies, salsas, and beans, and their agua frescas are great. This is a big Sunday indulgence for me… and they’ve spoiled me for burritos elsewhere.
For a more special occasion…
Calafia Cafe – Palo Alto
I have no patience for the Palo Alto elite, but the food here is good and fancy-ish. We might come here if we’re feeling like going somewhere “nice” without going too far, and we can squeeze in a trip to Trader Joe’s and Books Inc.
Millennium – Oakland
I’m guessing if you’re from the Bay Area and vegan, you already know about MIllennium. But still, it’s worth mentioning. It’s a real special treat to go somewhere you can order anything on the menu, up to and including a chef’s tasting menu, and trust it’s all on your vegan diet. It’s creative and beautiful stuff.
Ravens – Mendocino
What could be better than a fancy restaurant that’s all on your diet? Staying in a whole damn hotel that is and eating breakfast and dinner there. I dream about this place. I’ve been three times and I WILL go again once this whole no-job thing is resolved.