What Vegans Eat – Day 236: Special Travel Edition


Breakfast: This was our last full day in California and we decided to spend it walking around San Francisco. We were using some vacation time share points at the World Mark where we had stayed twice before. This time was different. We were accosted as soon as we checked in by some sales people who wanted to sign us up for a sales presentation the next morning. They promised a free, “chef made-to-order” breakfast plus a choice of gift options. I was very aware of these kinds of sales presentations since I started going to them back in the early 1980s and knew what to expect. What I didn’t expect was being pressured as soon as we finished checking in. We were not given a moment to breathe, go to our rooms, relax and unwind. This was a vacation resort, wasn’t it? We agreed to go to the breakfast, primarily to relieve the pressure put on us. I let the representatives know that the breakfast didn’t interest us, we were vegans. But I requested that there be soy milk for our tea in the morning. It didn’t happen. No one knew of our request and there was no soy milk or other suitable non dairy alternative. I made a cup of green tea and put a few pieces of sad looking fruit on my plate. Gary took a cup of Earl Grey and we went into the presentation. We made the best of the time, sharing all kinds of information regarding a plant-based diet with our sales manager. I don’t think he pitched to people like us before and we gave him a lot of food for thought.
Lunch: We walked from our hotel over to Chinatown and then to North Beach. We read a lot of menus at different Italian restaurants but they did not look very vegan-friendly. We were a bit surprised. We thought we’d stop for a tea and try to figure out where to go for lunch. We saw some outdoor tables at Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe and read the menu. We were inspired and decided to stay for lunch. We ordered some sparkling water. No San Pellegrino water but Saratoga water straight from New York! It seemed ironic somehow.
We ordered Mario’s House Salad with hearts of romaine, tomato, red onions and the house balsamic dressing. It was so good. We don’t use olive oil very often anymore on our dressings so when we have it, it’s a treat. And this was indeed a delicious one. Gary said, “it’s like my mama used to make.” He’s a good boy, that Gary.
We were going to go for one of the vegetable foccacia sandwiches but the fabulously attentive server told us he was not sure what was in the bread to assure us it was vegan. He recommended the Grilled Eggplant Sandwich on Panini Bread with Red Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar instead. I loved this guy! The chef came out to serve us the sandwiches. He explained that his girlfriend was vegan as he presented us with our very vegan sandwiches. We loved this restaurant!
We finished our perfect lunch with a perfect cup of espresso. Another rare treat.
Dinner: After a little rest at the hotel, we set out for Chestnut Street. There was a vegan place we wanted to check out, Seed + Salt. The website looked nice and the menu listed clean, healthy foods, made in a “completely plant based, gluten free kitchen,” with “tons of nuts” and a “very small amount of organic tamari, a GF fermented soy product.” It was listed in an article in Zagat as one of the 10 most anticipated fall openings. It took us about an hour to walk there and when we arrive we were ready to sit down to a nice meal. Before I continue, I must say this— I am grateful for every vegan restaurant on this planet. All restaurants should be vegan! But that does not mean I have to like all of them. The disappointment began when we walked in. It’s a bright, white, open, airy little place where you order your food at the register and sit at one of the community tables. We were both imagining a nice romantic dinner and this was the wrong atmosphere for that. I wished the website had been a little more descriptive.
It was early in the evening and there were only two other people there, already seated with food. Gary and I went to the register and we were greeted by a woman who asked us what we’d like. The menu was listed on a giant board behind her as well as on paper menus. I was looking at the board while picking up a menu saying I would need to read the menu. She asked us if we had been to this place before and we said we hadn’t. She told us it was all plant-based and Gary smiled and said, “that’s why we are here.” She proceeded to babble, at a low volume, making recommendations. We didn’t ask for recommendations, we wanted to read the menu. Then she pointed out one item saying it was high in protein. That really irked me. I was not there for a nutrition lecture and I doubted that she really understood the nutritional value of the menu items. Gary ordered the Cobb Salad and a Chai Tea with Soy Milk. The Chopped Cobb consisted of smoky eggplant bacon, chickpea frittata, avocado, tomatoes and spring peas served on a bed of mixed greens with housemade ranch dressing. Reading the menu, the savory items did not appeal to me. Only the Super Alpha Mega Vanilla Shake called to me made with almond milk, coconut meat, banana, hemp protein, flax seeds, Madagascar vanilla bean, cinnamon, lucuma & mesquite. When we were served, there was no milk for Gary’s tea so he went up to ask for it. He was told there was only almond milk and that she would have to charge him for it. This was annoying since we had already paid and she didn’t say anything before. Fortunately the manager told her not to charge Gary for the almond milk.
The shake was very tasty. Gary was curious about the Cobb Salad. He wasn’t sure why there were peas in it since a traditional Cobb does not have any. And since they don’t do soyfoods at this restaurant there was no veggie chicken. He did enjoy the piece of chickpea frittata very much and the dressing was delicious. He described the eggplant bacon as “interesting” but needing improvement.
Another thing we don’t enjoy is being served food in plastic instead of ceramic dishes and metal utensils. My shake was served in Greenware. This is a plant-based plastic which is supposed to be more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based plastic, but it’s still plastic. For $14 my shake should have been served in a tall glass.
All in all, the service and atmosphere were disappointing and did not pair well with the food or high prices. The board on the wall highlighted all the good points.

  2 comments for “What Vegans Eat – Day 236: Special Travel Edition

  1. Hi- this is Mo, owner of Seed + Salt. We appreciate you giving us a try and appreciate your feedback. However, I have couple notes:
    -all of our staff is trained to provide information to customers. Most of our customers that come in are not like you- they are just learning about plant based food. We try to be as helpful as possible so that everyone feels comfortable and understands the menu when they come to visit.
    -we don’t serve veggie chicken or any fake meats not just because of the soy but because they are highly processed and to be honest with our customers when we are telling them we are providing whole foods
    -most chopped cobbs are not vegan so we replaced some items with veggie items such as peas
    -we do not use plates and silverware because we are in a drought and this requires a lot of water. We made the decision to use compostable in order to be environmentally concious.
    -we serve whole,organic, sustainable cuisine and our prices reflect that.

    It sounds like most of your food was enjoyable and I really wish you could have focused more on that aspect than knocking us for trying to provide good service to our customers and make honest decisions to benefit them and the planet. I love what you’re doing and wish you the best.


    • Hi Mo,

      Thanks for your notes. I know it is very hard owning and operating a restaurant, and it’s more challenging offering quality organic, plant-food; keeping with your ethics and principles. That’s not easy in this capitalistic, big-food-for-low-cost society.

      I understand that most of your customers are not like us! And being helpful is important. But I think you missed our point. We didn’t need help, didn’t ask for help and actually said we needed time to read the menu. There was no one else in line ordering. There was no rush. Yet we felt a bit pressured, not comfortable and the staff person’s attitude was smug. She also was hard to understand, speaking softly and not clearly. Your staff should be able to provide good service to people new to plant-based foods as well as to the seasoned vegan. I’ve been a vegan for 27 years. I’ve eaten vegan food in vegan, vegetarian and omnivore restaurants all over the world. I want all vegan restaurants to succeed. And good service is essential.

      We agree that veggie chicken is a processed food, not a whole food. We don’t eat fake meats very often at home or in restaurants. I was just making a comparison with a traditional Cobb Salad and your way of veganizing it. The menu clearly listed everything that was in the salad and that’s a good thing!

      Last, you’ve brought up an interesting point about choosing compostable Greenware instead of using water to wash dishes because of the California drought. I just sent an email to http://www.natureworksllc.com the makers of Ingeo, the low carbon footprint bioplastic used in Greenware. I asked them if they have done a water and resource use comparison of manufacturing cups made from their material versus washable glass or ceramic, including water use during the lifecycle of the reusable products. Perhaps in the short term using Greenware might be a better choice during a severe drought, I don’t know. From everything I have read, I believe that washing dishes in an energy efficient dishwasher in the long run is going to come out ahead, with a lower carbon footprint and significantly less water use than single use Greenware. I’ll let you know what I find out.

      I’m the host of the radio show called IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD, now in its 6th year, on the Progressive Radio Network located in Manhattan. If you are interested, I’d be happy to have you come on the show and talk about Salt + Seed and the importance of whole, organic, plant foods. Interviews can take place over phone or Skype.

      As I wrote in my blog post, I am grateful for all vegan restaurants everywhere. I wish you the best too.

      Kind regards,

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