Pokez (San Diego, CA)

One thing I know to be true about San Diego vegans: You are either a Rancho’s person or a Pokez person (plus a few Liticker’s punks). Me, I give all my marbles to Pokez. One of the few quantifiable reasons I can understand people preferring Rancho’s is their vegan cheese. But a dusting of unmelted Daiya isn’t going to sway my heart—especially when I can bask in the warmth of Pokez’s Potato Flautas ($8.79).

What do potato flautas have to do with vegan cheese? Well, if you’ve ever been online you’ve probably seen a million links to vegan “potato cheese.” People swear by the gummy, oozing, texture of warm, zealously-whipped, hot potatoes—and when you take that concept and roll it up in a deep-fried flour tortilla and top it with guacamole, pico, and iceberg with a side of rice and beans, you get my favorite San Diego Chicano dish that is not a burrito stuffed with tofu, potato, and mushrooms.

The Tofu, Mushroom, Potato Burrito ($7.75) at is where my Pokez’ affection began. Charred chewy bits and pale hearts ngari-firmed San Diego Soy Dairy tofu clump together in creamy potatoes with chewy sauteed button mushrooms. Wrapped with crisp iceberg and pico, the heft is smothered in (an optional) gravy-like Rancho sauce. Served with a signature scoop of Pokez’ cabbage salad—a crisp collection and simple and mysterious ingredients that gain infamy to all who try it.

 

The Tofu Fajitas ($11.75) are another frequent visitor to my table. Yes, both these plates above make up the single dish. Smoke singles arise from the sizzling cast iron platter of seared tofu with tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions dripping with a glossy, almost teriyaki-style, sauce.  The second plate holds the “garnishes”: guacamole, salsa fresca, the infamous cabbage salad, yellow rice, refined beans and a roll of seamed corn or flour tortillas. There should definitely be leftovers when ordering this dish, if not, I think there maybe something wring with you because no human should be able to consume this much good food in one sitting.

 

Apparently Machaca ($7.25) is a classic thing people ate growing up, or growing out, and still get really excited about. The blend of sauteed onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and crushed tofu is more akin to a scramble in my eye—and as a vegetable laden scramble, it is quite successful.

Every so often I wild flame runs through body and I order something new to me Pokez. I’ve yet to be dissatisfied with any—ANY—choice made. Such as the time I ordered this Tofu Burrito ($7.50)—a girth of refried pinto beans, rice, San Diego Soy Dairy tofu, a cool swath of guacamole, salsa fresca, and lettuce.

One day I was feeling “healthy” and so ordered the Tostada Tofu Salad ($8.75) which I now think is the unhealthiest menu item. The deep fried flour tortilla bowl is layered with beans, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa fresca, and guacamole then topped with a fan of seasoned tofu. Despite feeling engorged before ordering it, I loved the quarter of the bowl that I managed to devour right after this photo was taken and the 3/4 of the bowl I ate for lunch the next day.

Intellectually I understand that there are people who don’t like Pokez–the vote tally on Vegan in San Diego’s Best of SD made the majority opinion all too clear. For those who don’t care for sticker laden bathrooms, kind but non-pandering service, and sharing a dining room with people putting Mitski and Misfits on the jukebox, it’s awesome that San Diego has other vegan friendly Mexican joints for you. But for those of you who value food that tastes good, I’ll see you in one of Pokez’ wooden booths soothing our hunger with cabbage salad and smothered our souls in Ranchera sauce.

Pokez
947 E St.
San Diego, CA 92101

pokezrestaurant.com

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