Souley Vegan (Oakland, CA)

Flush with Gold Rush fortune, in 1857 Theophilide St. Germain built herself an opulent wine shop at 301 Broadway in downtown Oakland. Stalwartly as the city evolved around it, its perseverance makes it the oldest building in Oakland.  Now, it’s outfitted by the equally indomitable Tamearra Dyson who quit her day job to follow her creole roots into the kitchen. It was a high risk move from which we all benefit.

Colorful tiles adore the surfaces of the large, double dining room interior. A long dessert counter turns into a wine and beer bar—although anyone seeking a deeper selection of brews can head next door to outside-food-welcoming Beer Revolution.

We started with the classic 3 Item Combo. A little pre-reading proved the Mac n’ Cheese and Southern Fried Tofu both strong recommends, so I ran with those. For the third, a vegetable seemed appropriate so I ordered the Collard/Mustard Greens. The ensemble is finished off with a sweet slice of cake-like cornbread. This platter is really more then one person should eat at a sitting; so bring a friend… or tupperware.

For those skimming, here’s my breakdown of the platter:

Mac n’ Cheese: I was hesitated about ordering this. I’ve exhausted my tolerance for the endless stream of mediocre noochy noodles but the guy taking my order reiterated that is a must and so I caved. Being such a popular item, I imagine the kitchen has a huge 30 gallon vat of this stuff constantly simmering 24/7—or at least that is what it tastes like.

Southern Fried Tofu: This is another dish I’ve been constantly disappointed by (sorry Doomie’s and Southern Fried Vegan) but Souley’s pulls through. I loved this crisp cornmeal shell filled with a tender slab of tofu. Served with a tangy tofu-based tartar sauce, this definitely lives up to expectation.

Collard/Mustard Greens:  This turned out to be the best item on the platter. Savoy greens stewed—but not over cooked—with a hint of sweetness from the tomato. We were fighting over the last bite!

For dish two, the Seitan Chick ‘n’ Waffles sounded irresistible.  But the leathery sheet of battered and fried seitan atop a crisp waffle is better avoided.

A few days later we met up with friends at Beer Revolution so you know what that means… take out from Souley! The BBQ Tofu seems the next appropriate protein to try. It’s a saucy winner. Tamearra Dyson is a master of tofu! On the side I revisited the Collard/Mustard Greens because it’s kind of the greatest.

I also ordered a classic Biscuit and Gravy. It is fine… like just okay… but why anyone would choose this over the luscious cornbread is a mystery to me.

Souley Vegan
301 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607

Instagram:  @SouleyVegan
Twitter: @SouleVegan
Facebook: Souley Vegan

Wheatsville Food Co-Op (Austin, TX)

The Instagram community amazes me. While frolicing thought Austin, reccomendations came pouring in. There are a few particular Instagrammers whose recommendations I always heed to, such as Alex Estrada (of Silver Snakes). Thanks to Alex, I hopped a bus up Guadalupe St and entered Wheatsvile Food Co-Op just in time to duck out of a passing downpour. The goal: Popcorn Tofu.

I entered the Co-Op with only those two words to guide me. After meandering through aisles, past generously stocked grab-and-go cases and a hot self-serve bar, I spotted the words at the Deli Counter.

The Deli offered two types: Popcorn Tofu and Buffalo Popcorn Tofu. Since it is impossible for me not to order vegan buffalo anything, I got a half and half pile of both. KFC’s Popcorn Chicken wasn’t a thing that people regularly ordered back when I was an omnivore, so I’ve never tried the popular original. Still, on its own merits, this is good stuff!

The tofu is frozen, thawed and pressed removed as much water as possible resulting in a denser/drier interior than most maybe use to. The chunks are coated in a wet (instead of the 2-3 step wet/dry process of dredging for a fried cutlet) seasoned cornmeal batter and deep fried for a firm bite of subtlety spiced favors.

Eating this big paper tray of relatively dry tofu may seem monotonous… and it was. But still delicious and totally worth going out of your way to try. I only wish my Instagram friends had told me before gorging myself on Mt. St. Tofu that the best way to consume Wheatsville’s Popcorn Tofu is inside of a Po Boy. Or at least with a side or their vegan Blue Cheez or Cashew-Tamari dressings which I had no idea was an option until I was far far away from Austin. Ahhhhh! Next time!

Wheatsville Food Co-Op
3101 Guadalupe St
Austin, TX 78705

Maggie Brown (Brooklyn, NY)

Tending the Bar

After a few unnoteworthy dinners at Maggie Brown I pretty much dismissed her as a viable food option, but at my friend’s insistence we met here for brunch. Although I had recently made the resolution that drinking with brunch is a waste of money (except in the case of an unlimited glass) the awkwardness of sitting at a bar and not ordering a drink prevailed.

Hot whiskey... I wish it were tea

The warm mug of Bette Sue’s Apple Cider (whiskey spiked cider) was a pleasant restitution for breaking my own rule, but I later regretted loosing that $7 for a feeling that could have easily been recreated with simple hot tea.

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