FEAST: 9 meat-free marvels

Pub date April 26, 2011
SectionFood & Drink


The sandwich, like the wheel, is an timeless invention that keeps us rolling. But if you be a vegetable lover, or just someone who fantasizes about two pieces of bread cradling things other than animal carcass, you must plan ahead — or risk finding yourself stuck with a woefully dull cheese and lettuce number. Lucky for us, here in the Bay we celebrate all sandwich orientations — some with brassy beets, others laced with sweet and spicy barbeque sauce, all ample reasons to raise our veggie flags high as we chow down.



Best. Sandwich. This Mission District locale constructs an incomparable veggie BBQ sandwich. Somewhere in this combination of spicy, moist, toasty tastes full of coleslaw and some mysterious sort of thrillingly breaded veggie “chicken” is an addictive chemical. I’m not willing to rule out crack. I love this sandwich. The end.

800 Valencia, SF (415) 282-5255



The veggie hoagie sandwich here is well worth the longish wait that can ensue after ordering at the tent-covered backyard grill. This monster mouth-filler is boldly served with multiple small Morningstar veggie patties. But fear not the brand-name base — the Lounge stakes a proprietary note on this sandwich with its own pesto mayo, sautéed mushrooms, and degree of toasted perfection. The two beers you’ll drink while waiting will not make this hoagie any less delicious.

2600 San Pablo, Berkeley. (510) 548-2080 www.missourilounge.com



I challenge you to find someone in this city without a sworn affection for banh mi — with snazzy purveyors of the Vietnamese sandwich nuggets opening up on the swanky section of Fillmore Street, they’re all the rage these days. But the Tenderloin’s Saigon Sandwich makes a down-to-earth yet killer tofu chay banh mi. Crunchy, sweet, and spicy, it’ll leave first-timers and experienced banh mi handlers sparkling — but the best thing reason to twinkle? The price — $3.25!?!

560 Larkin, SF. (415) 474-5698



Don’t be fooled by the name — Jay’s is not your everyday cheesesteak dealer. The Mission and Western Addition locations carry a variety of seitan sandwiches that will dazzle your palate no matter how you (mis)pronounce the meat substitute therein. Those unfamiliar with seitan might be interested to note that this wheat gluten-based product has the meat-like qualities of chewiness and savoriness — all without the killing animal guilt. Jay’s is saucy, so prepare with napkins along with your appetite.

3285 21st St., SF. (415) 285-5200; 553 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-5104, www.jayscheesesteak.com



Hummus is like the Benjamin Franklin of vegetarian sandwich ingredients. It has humble chickpea roots, yet it’s prolific and given to illustrious ideas and inventions. Of these, let us focus on Cafe Mattina (formerly Cafe Intermezzo)’s hummus sandwich. If you can get past the flocks of university-style chaos on Telegraph Avenue, this very Berkeley sandwich will be waiting for you in all its honey-wheat-and-sprouts glory, the respected founders of meat-free sandwiches.

2442 Telegraph, Berk. (510) 849-4592, www.cafemattina.com



Sun-dried tomato pesto, artichoke spread, fresh basil, lettuce, tomato, red onion, carrots, cucumber, and pea sprouts, all drizzled with lemon-oregano vinaigrette on telera bread. Estela, we thank you for your veggie muffelatta.

250 Fillmore, SF. (415) 864-1850



This unassuming Potrero Hill joint makes its own amazing falafel — crunchy and crisp on the outside with a soft herbaceous center. Folded into JB’s warm pita wrap, the falafel balls are supported by the tang and crunch of tahini and lettuce. This Middle Eastern lunch is big enough to satisfy even the hungriest of veggie-sauri.

1435 17th St., SF. (415) 626-7973



You can find a lot of great food here. Eggs, hashes, and good old diner fare are among the specialties, but Bette’s simple veggie sandwich hits the mark with its simplicity and freshness. With avocado, roasted red bell peppers, marinated cucumbers, baby greens, and vinaigrette on a baguette, you’ll be enchanted by this no-frills knockout.

1807 Fourth St., Berk. (510) 644-3230



There are times when even I, an ardent vegetarian, mourn the loss of ruebens. Chewy, hearty, a gut punch of protein and sauce — thank Gaia, then, for Plant Cafe’s veggie rueben. Who cares what it’s made of — the zinger is smothered in sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and that creamy cure-all: thousand island dressing.

Various locations, SF. www.theplantcafe.com



The super-healthy beet sandwich here will tolerate no beet phobia. Accented by kale and vinaigrette on chunky whole wheat bread, its heft and fuchsia weight promise health and happiness. But you have to go to great lengths to procure one: namely, braving the Atlas Cafe’s roomful of smarmy hipster-people staring at laptops (maybe you — quit spilling beets on your shirt, dammit).

3049 20th St., SF. (415) 648-1047, www.atlascafe.net