Sid Fanarof, inspired by the artists around him, sought to do something creative in the kitchen. ZPizza, which started in Laguna Beach and now has locations across the globe, fills with bustling chefs experimenting with ingredients traditionally associated with Indian, Californian, and Mexican cuisine. A parade of organic vegetables and skim-milk mozzarella from Wisconsin leads into the eateries, and organic wheat flour bakes over open flame to a crisp finish. “If you don’t hear the crunch, it’s not a ZPizza,” Fanarof says of the crusts on his website.
Chefs first slather the crusts with sweet basil pesto, roasted-garlic sauce, or organic tomato sauce. Their hands flutter across, sprinkling on fistfuls of toppings such as MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage, three types of mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and pine nuts. Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts allow everyone to enjoy the pizzas except for those trying to hide the fact that they superglued their mouths closed.
A massive selection of frosting, toppings, and gourmet cinnamon rolls await treat-seeking shoppers at Cinnaholic, where everything is 100% vegan and made with soy, beet sugar, and nonhydrogenated oils. The menu features specialty rolls—including fudge-brownie chunk, mocha almond, and rocky road— or customers can design their own. Starting with a freshly baked cinnamon roll, they can adorn it with frosting available in flavors such as lemon, orange, raspberry, or hazelnut. Then they can pick out toppings such as gingersnaps, jam, apples, or pecans before sampling their creations.
Maoz's menu revolves around a diverse range of vegetables and fresh food prepared from scratch, including sauces and pita bread made in-house daily. Prematurely end hunger strikes with the Maoz sandwich meal deal ($8.20), which tops a white or whole-wheat pita with eggplant and hummus, with a plethora of veggie-friendly options available for additional toppings. Most meal deals come with Belgian fries, access to the salad bar, and a soft drink—a welcome respite for flask-wielders who generally prefer a hard drink. Diners can completely customize a pita with the salad bar ($4.50), or go with the house favorite, the Maoz falafel ($4.95), which is baked fresh daily and stuffed with flavor fillers of your choice.
Opened in 1979, Saturn Cafe blends traditional American diner dishes with a contemporary, forward-looking focus on social and environmental responsibility. The café puts a vegetarian and vegan spin on classic eats, including cholesterol-free veggie burgers and french fries cooked in trans fat-free oils. Whenever possible, Saturn Cafe culls organic ingredients from local farmers, instead of importing them from, say, Saturn.
Souley Vegan's proprietor Tamearra Dyson uses techniques she learned from her family in Louisiana to subvert that idea that healthy, vegan eating lacks flavor. She dredges tofu in a southern-style batter that mimics fried catfish and fashions a menu that appeals to meat-eaters and vegans alike. Tofu also gets dressed in BBQ sauce in burgers and tossed in sweet and sour and green peppers. Tamearra and her kitchen staff put a vegan spin on a roster of Southern classics, such as potato salad with black olives following a family recipe three generations old, as well as mashed potatoes drenched in vegan gravy made like her mom did. The eatery's mac and cheese made with yeast-based, non-dairy cheese earned it accolades from the East Bay Express, which said that it "is so perfect a substitute to its dairy-based kin that it leaves the eater convinced it’s the real thing," while also bestowing Souley Vegan with "Best of East Bay" awards for the past five years. USA Today has also recognized the eatery as among ten great places for soul food in the country.
Brightly painted walls and block-style prints of blues musicians lend a cozy Southern atmosphere to the restaurant, where diners gather around color-splashed tables or cluster on picnic style benches as they share family-style meals or play License Plate Bingo for the last piece of fried okra.
Amba's menu is chock-full of delectable vegetarian and kosher Middle Eastern-style eats made daily from fresh ingredients. Start off with a savory bowl of lentil soup ($6), or put hand shovels to work using a warm pita to scoop up freshly made hummus topped with chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil ($8). Try out a filling falafel pita sandwich ($8), or opt for the hearty sabich pita sandwich, stuffed to the brim with fried eggplant, Israeli and cabbage salad, a hard-boiled egg, and tahini ($8). A variety of crisp green salads are available in full ($7–$9) or side ($4) sizes, and any three options—such as tabouleh, Israeli couscous, and baba gannouj—may be combined into one Transformers-style megadish ($9). Quench palates with a glass of house-made iced tea or fresh mint lemonade ($3 each), or balance your main mouth events with seasonal sides such as Judean flatbread, Greek spinach rice, and Babka cake.