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.
Burgers, Mexican food, and Asian food couldn't be much more different, but at The Happy Bamboo, they share something vital in common?they're all vegan. Using organic produce from local farms, chefs craft comfort-food meals that run the gamut of comforting global flavors, from soy chicken burgers topped with saut?ed mushrooms to combination pho with soy ham, soy beef, tofu, and veggies.
The Happy Bamboo's owners are particularly pleased with their vegan Mexican selections, not commonly seen in the area. Customers can try the veggie carnitas tacos or any of the gluten-free options, which are prepared in a special area to minimize the risk of cross-contamination, and can accessorize any meal with a sweet treat like caramel flan.
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.
At Asteria Grill, the chefs go beyond Greek cuisines iconic shish kebabs and pita-wrapped dishes to include traditional Greek recipes featuring featuring mousaka, dolmades, spanakopita, lamb chops, fresh fish, and daily specials. Chefs stuff colorful peppers with herb-sautéed lamb and beef or serve tender pieces of grilled octopus in a red wine and olive oil sauce. Herbs and olive oil infuse almost every dish, including the house’s signature fries which come served with their kalamatiano dip.