Ten vegan junk food dishes you should be noshing on this summer
VEGAN DISH Sure, vegan junk food has been visited in the past, but restaurants and changing menus come and go in this town. New fake meats, cheap sweets, and truffle-drenched treats are beefing up our veg options all the time.
And remarkably, there are still some casual diners out there unaware of the veg takeover — or at least, uninformed of the fact that you can find great tastes and high junk food art without dairy or meat:
BENDER'S: SATAN'S PHILLY CHEESE-FAKE WITH A SIDE OF FRIED PICKLES
This is a decadent dish — shouldn't all Satanic sandwiches be of that flavor? Bender's version ($9) is piled with house-made grilled seitan, onions, and peppers on sliced sourdough. Make sure to order it vegan by doing away with the cheese and adding the creamy "godless" dressing. Then add a side of barfly-favorites like the veganized fried pickles, or you could just lean into the stoney pub food goodness of it all and get the damn fried tots.
806 S. Van Ness, SF. (415) 824-1800. www.bendersbar.com.
GRACIAS MADRE: GORDITAS WITH CASHEW CREAM
I'm going to be real honest here and admit that my first tastes of gorditas were modified from the suburban teen angst of a Taco Bell drive-through. This is not a Taco Bell gordita. The Gracias Madre version ($8) is an elegant, vegan stack of grilled potato-masa cakes topped with salsa verde, avocado, and the sauce de résistance, the delicious cashew cream. It's not even that bad for you — that's how good vegan junk food is. Especially compared to the far greasier alternatives.
2211 Mission, SF. (415) 683-1346. www.gracias-madre.com.
HELLA VEGAN EATS: DOUGHNUT BURGER
The adorable couple behind Hella Vegan Eats — Tiffany and Sylvee Esquivel — crisscrosses the Bay weekly to offer up inspired vegan takes on classic American and Mexican dishes. But here's the tricky part: They've yet to open a brick and mortar location. So you can find tastebud-seducing treats like the Hella Vegan Doughnut Burger ($10) created out of a succulent beet burger (which is then plopped between two moist and sugary vegan doughnuts) at their many pop-ups. They regularly show up at Dear Mom in the Mission and Timeless Coffee in Oakland, and soon will be in Dolores Park on a more regular schedule of weekday lunches and weekend brunches, Thu.-Sun. The Hella Vegan ladies also whip up ingenious items like the seitan Autobanh Mi and Lusty Lovers Tacos (that would be mac-n-"cheeze" and barbecue "chicken" tacos), but that beet-doughnut burger — usually topped with a tangy secret sauce, greens, and pickled onions — seems to be the most consistent offering. The Doughnut Burger even looks cute, often topped with one of those colorful cocktail umbrellas.
Follow their Facebook page (Facebook: Hella Vegan Eats) and Twitter (@HellaVeganEats) for updates.
Various locations, SF and Oakl. www.hellaveganeats.com.