GREEN PAPAYA SALAD AT HERBIVORE
Let's get to the most salient question: yes, this salad is big enough to fill you up on its own. Its tangy shreds cover the whole plate and rises in a crunchy mound in the center. Next, let's discuss the unfairness of most green papaya salad itself: yes, the Thai custom is to make dish with dried shrimp, and we're not trying to change tradition here, however, it's a shame such a tantalizing dish isn't more often served vegan, when it's just one ingredient that offends. Herbivore's version has crispy shreds of tomato, green beans, red cabbage, carrots, onions, tofu, peanut, and mint, all with a spot-on ginger-tamarind dressing. No shrimp needed.
531 Divisadero, SF (415) 885-7133, www.herbivorerestaurant.com
FRIED OKRA AT SOULEY VEGAN
Just thinking about these tiny fried balls of perfection makes me long for a warm afternoon perched on the outdoor benches next door at Beer Revolution, chomping okra and scarfing vegan mashed potatoes. Everything at Souley Vegan is rich and delicious. But there's something about that spicy fried okra that makes the meal super-special. Twist the lemon slice offered atop, pop one in, then share among friends on the benches. Or keep them all to yourself. No one will judge you.
301 Broadway, Oakl. (510) 922-1615, www.souleyvegan.com
SAHA SAMPLER AT SAHA
Saha has the goods: creamy hummus, smokey baba ganoush perfection, fire-roasted eggplant and tomato spread, and a colorful mix of Mediterranean olives. All of these come in one dish, naturally, the Saha sampler. The cherry on the sampler is the offering of gluten-free pita wedges, every bit as hearty as the kind with wheat, and just as perfect for scooping all that good Middle East-inspired spread.
1075 Sutter, SF (415) 345-9547, www.sahasf.com