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Plant Powered: 8 Vegan Delights

As a personal chef, someone who champions local food producers, and an herbivore (as of January 1), there's one thing I've learned: Not all plant-based plates are created equal. Here are some that rise above the rest.

Deep-fried noodles depart from the chewy, often overcooked pasta dishes that dominate the vegan landscape in the Crispy Chow Mein at Pho Vegan Asian Cuisine. Biting into some serious crunch is a welcome change in this generously portioned entrée filled with crispy tofu, mushrooms, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, onions, zucchini, and a savory (as opposed to cloyingly sweet) sauce. As the restaurant's name suggests, the entire menu is vegan, with a variety of offerings from all corners and cuisines of Asia, from pho and “shrimp” tempura to pad Thai and pancit. 6661 Stanford Ranch Road, Suite E, Rocklin, 926-259-1588,

Pho Vegan Asian Cuisine


Order “vegan nachos” at most restaurants and you’ll be served tortilla chips with lettuce, salsa, and (if you’re lucky) guacamole. At Zest Vegan Kitchen, their Nachos Grande aren’t only “grande” in size but taste, too. The wow factor lies in the house-blended nacho sauce. As the chef told me, the delicious, melty-orange accompaniment is “a bit of magic.” Made from puréed sunflower seeds, chipotle, lime, and pink Himalayan salt (I’m sure there’s more), it’s a must-try. The nachos are also topped with seasoned black beans, red bell peppers, shredded lettuce, sliced jalapeños, cashew lime sour cream, and avocado or guacamole (if you desire). Several friends recommended these nachos to me, but having never been a nacho fan, I was skeptical. I’m now an enthusiast for life—at least of these! Did I mention the “cheese” topping can be purchased to take home, too? 2620 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1, Rocklin, 916-824-1688,

Zest Vegan Kitchen


If your mouth waters for Mediterranean food, you’ll want to try Zest Mediterranean Cuisine. Vegan or not, you absolutely must try their Vegan Sampler featuring a plentifully portioned plateful of hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, dolmas, tabbouleh, and moussaka with pita bread. New to Mediterranean cuisine? Let me break it down for you: hummus—a creamy purée of chickpeas with garlic and olive oil, usually a dip for pita bread; baba ganoush—a dip of roasted eggplant blended with tahini, garlic, and lemon juice; dolmas—stuffed grape leaves; falafel—fried (or baked) vegetable cakes of ground-dried chickpeas, onions, and garlic with cumin and coriander; tabbouleh—a salad of chopped parsley, mint, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bulgar wheat in a lemon and olive oil dressing; and moussaka—a comforting Lebanese stew made of roasted eggplant, chickpeas, onions, and garlic in spiced tomato sauce. OK, now you’re ready to dive in, right? You won’t be sorry! 1008 Riley Street, Folsom, 916-618-4358,

Zest Mediterranean Cuisine


I love almost anything in a bao (steamed bun)—but the Vegan Buns at RAKKAN Ramen are particularly bao-tiful. The combination of garlic-sautéed mushrooms, fried onions, mixed greens, sesame dressing, and teriyaki sauce, plus the pillowy soft bun is irresistible. Grab yourself a Japanese beer, sake, or their Yuzu Drop cocktail, and you have a winner, winner steamed bun dinner! The restaurant also features many other vegan offerings, such as hand rolls, gyoza, and ramen. 2766 East Bidwell Street, Suite 400, Folsom, 916-496-4475,



A Butternut Sage Crepe with vegan Italian sausage? It can't possibly be good, can it? Wrong. It’s quite delicious, indeed. In addition to roasted squash and “sausage,” you’ll also bite into red onions, mushrooms, and a sage aioli (this is what takes it from good to great). Try the savory crepe at the aptly named Enchanted Forest Dining Experience. The architect of this eggless delight is Sam—the “king of the kitchen,” according to owner Kaitlyn. Go for the crepe and stay for the “enchanted forest dining experience” that awaits. 372 Main Street, Placerville, 530-303-3078,

Enchanted Forest Dining Experience


How about a little taste of the Southwest—vegan style? Nectar Café has what you want with their Stuffed Avocado. Vegan chorizo and beans are topped with spicy chipotle sauce and cilantro then piled onto an avocado and served over a bed of organic brown rice. Author John Houghton Allen said of the Southwest: “This is a hard country, brush country, mean country, heartbreak country. Ugly in summer, drought-stricken, dusty, glaring, but in winter, it is hideous.” He should have added, “But the food is delicious!” Of course, Nectar has plenty of other dishes if Southwest isn’t on your menu for the day. Stop in and try one of their Italian, Thai, or Caribbean-inspired plates—all vegetarian, all scratch-made daily, and all delicious. 948 Lincoln Way, Auburn, 530-820-3314,

Nectar Café


Is there a meat dish you can’t substitute cauliflower for? I’m joking, but cauliflower is so versatile it can take on almost any protein prep. Avatar Indian Bistro applies this philosophy to their Sweet & Sour Cauliflower. Their menu describes the appetizer as “crispy cauliflower, garlic, cumin, coriander, and sweet and sour sauce.” What they don’t say is you may be tempted to bathe in the sauce—or at least devour every last lick of it. You might even get the kids to like this one; I know this kid at heart does! Try some of their other enticing vegan dishes, too, like chana masala, black garam daal, or eggplant bharta. 8657 Auburn Folsom Road, Granite Bay, 916-872-1292,

Avatar Indian Bistro


I don’t know how many carbs are in a fried Falafel Wrap, and frankly, I don’t care—it’s delicious. Wally’s Café, which has landed on Yelp’s “Top 100 Restaurants” list multiple times, serves this Lebanese (and vegan) version of a burrito with an ample portion of their famous falafel in a pita wrap; inside, you’ll also discover lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, and tahini. It also comes with a side; order the onion rings and thank me later. Though it’s perfect hand food for a quick, fresh to-go lunch or dinner, I like to dine in, as Wally himself has been known to throw in a complimentary piece of baklava. 4800 Granite Drive, Suite B-11, Rocklin, 916-824-1201; 2110 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 600, Rocklin, 916-580-0850,

Wally’s Café


Photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup.  RAKKAN Ramen photo courtesy of RAKKAN Ramen. Other photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup.

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