Where Can I Take a Vegan Friend and a Meat-Crazy Husband?
This morning, I got a series of tweets from @aynsavoy, whom I'd helped out a few months ago:
My (mostly) vegan best friend is visiting this weekend from Texas. My husband is a bit of a carnivore. Where can we go for lunch or dinner Saturday that will make everyone happy? (She prefers not Mexican, coming from Texas.)Ah, the mixed dinner party, the etiquette conundrum of our age. I get this question a lot more frequently than I field questions about anniversary dinners or graduation parties. If we were talking about a group that included meatlovers and ovo-lacto vegetarians, coming up with a few dozen recs would take a minute or two. Scouring menus for dishes without eggs, milk, and honey does slim down the pool of choices.
I spent the morning looking over menus. A few notes: One veg dish and a couple of salads doesn't count as "vegan-friendly" ― more like vegan-tolerant. That said, anyone who sneers at a tapas-style meal of vegetable side dishes hasn't eaten out much in San Francisco, where they can be as polished as the entrees.
The easy solution would be Gather in downtown Berkeley, whose chef, Sean Baker, cooked under Eric Tucker at Millennium and sells a vegan charcuterie plate, along with vegan pizzas and entrees, alongside Prather Ranch burgers and barbecued young chicken. But if you don't want to travel to Berkeley, here are a few San Francisco restaurants that serve more than one vegan-friendly dish. Not surprisingly, they're primarily non-Western:
Out the Door Bush: At the Pacific Heights Out the Door, chef Grace Nguyen's menu includes braised tofu and yuba (tofu-skin) dishes as well as clay-pot chicken and stir-fried squid. Don't shrug off the salads, either.
Ruchi: The dosas, vadas, and uttapams at this SOMA South Indian restaurant are all vegan ― though you'll want to check to make sure the potatoes in the masala dosa aren't fried in ghee ― and the meat dishes include chicken chettinad, lamb curry, and the wonderful tamarind-soured Nellore fish curry.
Burmese Kitchen: Texas doesn't have many Burmese restaurants, whereas S.F. has quite a few good ones, so you may want to consider introducing her to the cuisine. Burma Superstar, Pagan, and Yellow Pa Taut all have their boosters, but I'm still trying to eat my way down the menu at this Tenderloin restaurant. Your friend could try the ginger salad, split-pea tofu, and sauteed bamboo shoots while your husband goes for the pork curry or beef with lemongrass.
Other non-Western options: Minako Organic Japanese, Panda Country Kitchen, Spices II.
If the "(mostly)" in your tweet suggests your friend will eat cheese or butter ― or is willing to ask the kitchen to omit it ― add Flour and Water, Barbacco, Alaturca, Frances, and Kokkari to your list. All have a broad enough selection of vegetarian dishes, including one or two vegan plates, to give her multiple options.
By all means, if anyone has another suggestion, leave a comment.