Mission Vegan: Adventures at Minako

En route to Minako, my friend warned me about the service. “The woman who runs the place is really friendly,” he said. “Cool,” I replied blandly.

“No, but almost too friendly. She talks to you the way your mom might. She sorta crosses a line sometimes.” This turned out to be unassailably true; the proprietor has a distinct personality that establishes itself early in conversation and makes its mark on every nook and cranny of the physical space as well. I like distinct personalities, so I dug this place, though it might not be for everyone. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Minako is the extremely polarized love/ hate reviews it gets on Yelp. Differing opinions? Sign me up.

Minako is unique, and so is the woman who runs the front of the house. There’s no doubt about that. But what the restaurant lacks in convention, it makes up for with delicious soup broth, homemade umeboshi, and clearly labeled vegan and vegetarian options. (When something is vegetarian but not vegan at Minako, it’s labeled “Ovo-Lacto.” WIN.) It also has lots of things for your omnivore friends, so you can take them there when they get sick of you suggesting dinner at Cha-Ya… again.

My soup had lots of seaweed and pickled plums; the latter were prepared by the proprietor’s mom 12 years ago, while I was driving around my hometown in a beat-up old Jetta listening to Weezer.

The twice-cooked eggplant had a beautiful texture – crunchy on the outside, mouth-melty on the inside, like a savory M&M – and came with a little pile of minced ginger, which was a perfect foil for the salty, fried dish.

We also got free agar dessert, which my friend thought was white grape and I thought was aloe. It wasn’t great, but it was free, who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

Drawback: it’s pricey, so save it for a night when you’re a) flush and b) willing to look past it.

Bodhi’s not coming back

I never ate at this restaurant, and now it’s closed.

Vaya con Dios.

UPDATE: Oh and it’s going to be a Burma Superstar, nbd.

Mission Vegan: Burrito from Casita de Carolina

Carolina is my Spanish name.

Yesterday’s post on making your own burritos at home had me practically chomping at the bit to get home from work and make a burrito of my very own for dinner.

I’m totally with D. Jon Moutarde on this: I think homemade burritos are aces! Why?

  1. Customizability. Jon mentioned going to your favorite taqueria and watching them make your burrito, right? Well, what if you like the beans from one taqueria and the rice from another? At home, you can control all the variables and add as much guacamole as you want. (If you don’t have a recipe for guac you’re married to, try this one from the guy I’m married to.)
  2. Flexibility. My burrito tonight featured leftover quinoa mixed with Casa Sanchez salsa in lieu of traditional Spanish rice. I love how burritos accommodate my laziness!
  3. Peace of mind. Vegans, have you ever watched a taqueria employee squirt a dollop of not-on-the-ingredients-list unidentifiable liquid onto your burrito’s veggies while they were cooking? And have you spent the rest of the meal trying to figure out whether you should have asked what it was? And then kicked yourself for turning into Woody Allen? Making your burrito at home helps you avoid this stuff.

Skeptics, I can hear you already.

Your complaint #1: My burrito looks bland/ dry/ unappetizing. My answer: Aforementioned omnivorous husband was eating an al pastor burrito from El Castillito while I was eating my hippie version, and I offered him a bite of mine. His response, “Mmm. This is really good. Really flavorful.” He wasn’t faking, I could tell.

Your complaint #2: My burrito isn’t authentic. My answer: Compared to what?

One last thing: I want to add a tip to Jon’s list… Tip #4: Use the foil. It makes a difference in keeping the whole shebang together.


Mission Vegan: HerbiScore

The first time I ate at Herbivore, I left deeply skeptical of the enterprise. I ate lunch there with an ex-boyfriend (amicable, but still), on a rainy day between two job interviews (neither of which panned out), so looking back, I probably wasn’t in the best state to be critiquing my cuisine. The space was dark and cold, and the most memorable dish I had fell squarely into the category of mediocre. After that lunch, I made up my mind that the only thing Herbivore had going for it was that it was vegan. I was like, “What is this place even doing here?”

I heard they had revamped their menu lately so I decided to give it another shot.

Started with a small green juice, which was good and, at $3.95, was definitely cheaper than Sidewalk around the corner.  (Though I still like SWJ’s a little better.)

I was in the mood for a simple dinner, so I got a salad and a side of hummus.

The salad had lots of fresh greens and perfectly ripe avocado. Thumbs up.

Now, for my money, Old Jerusalem has the best hummus the Mission has to offer, but this hummus was still very flavorful and it came with these adorable pickle crosshatches:

So, here’s the deal: if you have the time and energy and daylight and sunshine to run around to make your own salad and then pick up juice and hummus from different locations, you can probably get better options.

But Herbivore has everything in one place with friendly, attentive yet not intrusive, and remarkably well-paced service. My server ran outside after me when I left my umbrella inside (I do stuff like that a lot). It’s clean and quiet and reasonably priced and no longer freezing.  It’s exactly the kind of thing I want to eat on a Monday night after a boozy weekend, or after getting off a plane.

Glad I gave it another shot. I’m going back and looking forward to it!

Mission Vegan: Deep-dish envy

I was all excited to review Ken Ken Ramen for all you nice people but last night when my friends and I arrived at their doorstep, we found, much to our surprise, that the restaurant was closed. Apparently it’s only open Thursday through Saturday each week at the moment, though they have plans to open for business on Wednesdays soon as well.

What made this particularly maddening was that a) I was so hungry I was almost hallucinating, and b) there were people in there eating pizza, taunting us. Oh, the pain! the suffering!

We decided to take a cue from the Ken Ken employees and get some pizza for ourselves, scooting over to Little Star as fast as our soggy, wet feet would carry us.

Hey Little Star! You know what you could do that would make me soooo happy? If you could give us vegans the opportunity to partake in your famous deep dish pizza! As I understand it, the only thing that makes the deep dish non-vegan-friendly is that they grease the deep dish pans with butter. Why they can’t set aside a few to grease with olive oil each night boggles my mind, and every time I go, I always ask them to confirm that this is still non-negotiable. It still is. As they say in Italy, il sigh.

The flat crust is still good though! Lots of flavor from the sweet sauce, roasted garlic, and kalamata olives. See?

Mission Vegan: Sidewalk Juice is rad

Have you ever noticed how when someone else makes a sandwich for you it tastes better than if you made it yourself? Even if your sandwich-making companion puts exactly the same stuff in the same amounts as you would, it just tastes better when someone else does it.

The same principle holds true for juice. I’m a big green juice fan (exhibit A) and I have a Jack La Lanne power juicer (yup) which I use regularly, but I still find myself drawn back to Sidewalk Juice every month or so to partake in the holy ritual of buying a green juice and then walking down Lexington to see if the disco ball is lit up. (It wasn’t today.)

SWJ is so rad. Even since they took down the little drawings of all the employees, I still love the establishment and all the sometimes-stoney employees. Also, they have frequent buyer cards, so you get every 11th juice free. Today José took this photo of me so you can see how happy I am about their continued neighborhood presence.

On the way home I saw this guy in an elaborate camouflage coat having an extremely heated conversation about vegetarian spaghetti sauce.

Mission Vegan: Mexican jumping beans

Remember Mexican jumping beans? Kids on the block used to come home from vacation with them. They’d bring them out to the street and everyone would stop hula-hooping or pretending to be a ninja turtle and gather around in wonder and amazement. Can you get those anywhere in the Mission?

In honor of Leap Day, I tried to think of a vegan food that conjures bouncy images, since obviously frog legs and kangaroo jerky are off the menu for me.

These beans obviously are not real Mexican jumping beans, which are neither beans nor vegan (discuss!), but they are spicy enough to give you a little spring in your step. The amount of chili in this recipe won’t make your life flash before your eyes, but if you tend to like things a little milder, count out 10-15 chilies and leave it at that.

Recipe after the jump:


Mission Vegan: BabyCakes NYC to open Outpost in Mission!

I’m in New York this week visiting Mission expats and had to make a trip to vegan treats mecca BabyCakes NYC. For the uninitiated, BabyCakes has won lots of awards, notably New York magazine’s 2006 award for the best cupcake in New York. Just to confirm: not best vegan cupcake, just straight-up best cupcake. They’ve received countless other blue ribbons, trophies, and fan letters since then.

While I was buying my heavenly blueberry muffin and chewy oatmeal raisin cookie, pictured below, I asked the girl at the counter how long it would be before we got a BabyCakes of our very own. She said it would be awhile, since they are currently opening one in Chicago, but eventually we will get one, and IT WILL BE IN THE MISSION.

There you have it! Straight from the horse’s mouth. I motion we all start taking photos of empty storefronts and sending them to Erin McKenna so she has a new bakery to dream about while she works on her other new project (i.e. the baby she is growing in her belly). Until then, you can check out all their locations here and plan vacations accordingly.

Mission Vegan: Muffin mission

[Caroline has been writing this weekly column about being vegan in the Mission for a few weeks now, and as of today we decided to officially call it "Mission Vegan." Look forward to it every Wednesday!]

Can you tell the difference between the vegan bran muffins at Mission Beach Café and the ones at Four Barrel?

They’re the same shape, size and color; they both contain dried cranberries and yellow raisins, but no nuts. Both are sweet and toothsome, crunchy on top and chewy on the bottom, substantial but not dense. In other words, I consider myself a muffin connoisseur and I don’t think I could tell the difference if you paid me. I tried to do a side-by-side comparison for you, but 4B didn’t get any muffins delivered this morning (!) so you’ll have to trust me I guess.

The nice girl who works the coffee counter at MBC on weekday mornings says the muffins are made for them at a nearby bakery. Hmmm… if it was in the direction she was pointing, it was also near Four Barrel.

Well, Mission detectives, what do you know that I don’t? Same baker or just same recipe?

Pink beer, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Do you know about the nautilus? First it was an amazing aquatic critter with a big ol’ shell, and now it is also a delicious pink vegan beer.

“Vegan beer? Say what? Not all beer is vegan?” you ask? Nope! It is sometimes filtered (“fined”) with weird animal products, and there is basically no way to tell whether beer is vegan by looking at it or tasting it. Example: Tecate and Modelo Especial are vegan; Dos Equis isn’t.

Basically the only ways to figure out if your beer of choice is free of animal products is to ask the brewers*, which I got to do Tuesday at Shotwell’s!

Patrick and Bryan, the brewers from Pacific Brew Lab had a release party for their new beer, Nautilus. It has hibiscus (like Jamaica!), orange peel, coriander, and ginger, my most favorite spice in the world. I’ll level with you: I couldn’t really pick out all the flavors, but it was tastily complex without being like, whoa, what’s all this weird stuff in my beer?

Plus, the boys were sweet as cherry pie and were happy to chat with me about everything from whirlfloc to Washington.

Run over to Shotwell’s before they run out. Hightail it!

*P.S.: You can also visit this sweet database that compiles info from all the nerdy vegan lushes like me who email breweries for fun to see if their beers are friendly to us!

Caroline McCormick

Posts: 23

Website: http://ovooetvous.wordpress.com/

Biographical Info:

Caroline, Mission Mission’s vegan correspondent, loves red wine, baby animals, and stealing her friends’ hats.