Amba's chefs take tongues on a Middle-Eastern tour with a menu full of vegetarian and kosher eats. Warm up stomach muscles with a savory bowl of lentil soup ($6), or put hand shovels to work using a pita to scoop up freshly made hummus bowls topped with chickpeas and a drizzle of olive oil ($8.50). Pita pros stuff sandwiches with sabich—a mix of fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs ($8.50)—and falafel, made with fresh herbs and chickpeas recently hatched from eggpeas ($8.50). Diners can set taste buds on fire with the tomato-sauce-soaked shakshuka ($10) and quickly extinguish the flames with a grape-leaf blanket of dolmas ($2). Crisp green salads fill mouths in full ($8) or side sizes ($4), and any three varieties—such as Moroccan carrot, couscous, and baba ganouj—can be fused into one Transformers-style three-salad combo ($10).
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.
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 such as 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 custom creations.
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.
European, Southeast Asian, and American culinary traditions all influence the unique fusion recipes at Vo's Restaurant. Vegetables and rice get simmered in traditional clay pots and prawns and lemongrass are seared in woks; there's even a deep-fried catfish filet with ginger-infused nouc mam, a dip made from fish sauce. The dining room is as colorful as the dishes, featuring warm red walls, bamboo sprouting from tall vases, romantic lighting overhead.
The chefs at Siam Bay Authentic Thai craft an extensive menu of Thai specialties, from fried tofu to garlic pork with steamed broccoli. Generous portions, served in classic blue-and-white china bowls can be shared with tablemates or kept to oneself by building a protective fence of chopsticks.
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."
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.