Early vegans were faced with the challenge of lassoing an apple off a tree or coaxing a corncob into a bear trap. Hunt a healthy harvest the easy way with today's Groupon: for $12, you get $25 worth of vegan soul food and made-to-order drinks at Souley Vegan, nested inside Jack London Square in Oakland.
Voted Best Vegetarian Restaurant in 2010 by Oakland magazine readers, Souley Vegan cheers on conscious consumers with a menu of classic soul food turned 100% vegan. Guests can kick off with a fruity, made-to-order beverage such as the strawberry ginger, blended with a dab of organic raw sugar ($4), or the spicy, Arnoldo Palmero-approved cayenne lemonade ($4). With a drink in hand, diners can then summon plates from the kitchen such as southern fried tofu, Souley Vegan's answer to catfish ($10), or the portabella mushroom burger topped with a tangy spinach salad ($9). To truly taste the soul of Souley Vegan, owner Tamearra Dyson recommends the light and crispy fried okra, which, like a cocked and loaded T-shirt cannon, pairs well with any meal ($6).
Souley Vegan's popularity is well documented by the Oakland media. Oakland magazine readers named the establishment the Best Vegetarian Restaurant of 2010 and East Bay Express named it the Best Vegan Restaurant of 2010 and the Best Southern/Soul Food Restaurant of 2008. More than 460 Yelpers give the business a near-perfect average of 4.5 stars and 95% of Urbanspooners recommend the restaurant.
- Remember those funky oh-so-local holes-in-the-wall where, when you were a carnivore, you walked right in (no scouring the menu for the single dish your diet might allow) and just chowed down? Well, this is one of those. It even feels a bit like time-travel: the sharp raw honesty of eating in the era before processed food – East Bay Express
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.