At Tillie Gort’s Cafe, the ingredients matter. This special emphasis is not a culinary ploy but a decision to serve people who want fresh, healthy fare that accommodates vegetarian, vegan, and wheat-free diets. The strategy has drawn flocks of hungry patrons and even inspired the Monterey County Weekly's Best of Monterey County to award Tillie Gort's with 17 consecutive nods as the area's Best Vegetarian Restaurant.
The house specials spotlight the cuisine’s discretion. On the middle-east combination plate, scoops of homemade hummus brush against spanish-saffron rice, a tabouleh salad, and the diner’s choice of grilled chicken or soy strips. With vegan cake alongside smooth, rich flan, this conscientious consideration extends to the dessert menu, from which vegetarians sate their sweet tooths and vegan clowns order materials for pie-in-the-face gags.
After a breakfast frittata, diners with french-roast coffee venture beyond the façade’s floor-to-ceiling windows to the outdoor patio. Red-clay roofing tiles cast cool shade over tabletops that await elbows, books, and post-brunch kisses.
Burgers, breakfasts, hot dogs, and other classic diner dishes get a vegetarian spin at Dharma's Restaurant. The kitchen staff stocks the pantry with as many organic ingredients as possible, including grains, fresh vegetables, and soy-protein products that have not been genetically modified or ever seen by cows. For breakfast, organic tofu is scrambled with thai curry spices, kalamata olives, or pesto. Whole-wheat buns embrace burgers formed from tempeh or spicy tofu and topped with vegan cheese and soy mayo. Chefs create a map of international flavors by sautéing baked tofu with thai peanut sauce or salsa, or simmering the cubes in curry and serving with papadam. Most items have vegan alternatives available, and a separate menu highlights gluten-free recipes.
Owner and chef Ayoma Wilen took the reins at Pearl of the Ocean in 2010, and that year, the restaurant was named Best New Restaurant by both the Santa Cruz Weekly and Santa Cruz Good Times. Focusing on fresh, organic ingredients, Ayoma oversees the vegetarian-focused menus that outline delectable arrangements of locally sourced ingredients, including some culled from the area’s farmers markets, and Sri Lankan spices. These arrangements are manifested in dishes as colorful and complex as a 20-sided Rubik’s Cube. Pearl of the Ocean’s staff also pours a variety of libations and non-alcoholic beverages, such as the spicy chai tea, and their signature drink, Kiss of the Island Princess, is composed of Montresor Prosecco, hibiscus flower, and love potion.
From a business started in 1979 inside a tiny house on Mission Street, Saturn Cafe has grown into a green-certified restaurant filled with decorated tables, colorful booths, and a retro feel. Every night chefs whip up local and organic ingredients into vegan and vegetarian versions of traditional American diner staples.
In the kitchen, cooks prepare award-winning fries in trans-fat free oil that they recycle into bio-diesel fuel, and craft a BLT on sourdough with fakin' bacon. Skilled hands assemble omelets with organic eggs, red onions, and red chard, and whip up vegan and vegetarian milkshakes to wash down wheat- and gluten-free bites.
At Lucy’s Lair Fine Ethiopian Cuisine, traditional East African spices infuse a menu of authentic Ethiopian eats prepared for all diets. When not savoring an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet, vegans can customize the vegan delight platter with injera—traditional ethiopian flatbread—and four animal-free dishes such as collard greens or red lentils. Meat-eaters can opt for yebeg alicha, a mild lamb-and-green-pepper dish, or an extra-spicy doro wat plate with chicken, fresh ginger, and boiled eggs.
At brunch, Lucy’s Lair prepares other traditional Ethiopian dishes, including crushed fava beans and jalapeños, as well as Lucy’s special omelet with feta and salsa. Diners can even quench their thirsts in authentic Ethiopian fashion—chai tea and imported African beers are a few of the options.
The winner of Palo Alto Weekly's Best Breakfast award for more than 20 years, Hobee's remains a Silicon Valley institution where night owls and early birds flock together over generous portions of home-cooked delectables in a cozy, casual atmosphere. Browse the menu for a breakfast of three sweet-potato pancakes ($6.75), any of six hash-brown varieties ($7.97), or the Hi Hat Ommie—a combination of diced ham and jack and cheddar cheeses, with country-style hash browns hidden inside like human dignity inside a San Diego Chicken costume ($9.75). Otherwise, prop up eyelids with a simmering cup of Hobee's famous cinnamon orange tea ($2.35) paired with its equally famous blueberry coffee cake ($2.50). Late arrivals to Hobee's can still tickle their taste buds with a bouquet of options such as the honey-pineapple teriyaki salmon ($10.95), the grilled chicken with tropical fruit salsa ($10.95), or the Very Gouda BBQ burger piled high with caramelized onions, rich barbeque sauce, and a Wisconsin's worth of gouda ($9.25).