Being a vegetarian in Oakland is just about the easiest thing to do. Nearly every restaurant has extensive vegetarian options (except Flora, which makes me crazy), and even if they don’t, chances are that they can alter menu items to make them vegetarian. But there are only a few completely vegetarian restaurants in Oakland, and many of them happen to be downtown. Unfortunately, we just lost one – Souley Vegan – but dto510 says they’ll be back soon in a new downtown location.
Golden Lotus is a vegetarian’s dream. They have an extensive Vietnamese menu with options including vege meat, tofu, an just about every vegetable. Though I’ve tried nearly everything on the menu over the years, the main reason I go back again and again is the chicken curry vermicelli soup. It’s perfectly spicy, filled with noodles, vege chicken, and potatoes, and is incredibly warming and filling. It is the perfect antidote to a cold. My only complaint about Golden Lotus is the slow service if you eat there, which I almost never do anymore. If you’re in a rush, order take out, as they’re extremely quick with to go orders. And if you’re looking for the best deal, show up between noon and 1:30 on a weekday to take advantage of their lunch line – you can fill up for $5-6. Another plus for Golden Lotus is that they’re one of the few places downtown that is open at night and on weekends so you can check them out anytime.
Though it’s only been open for a year and a half, the Breakroom Cafe feels like it should have always been in the DTO. It’s a very small space that’s focused primarily on serving sandwiches – they also have soup, salad, pastries, and espresso. If you can find a free table, eat there and enjoy the sun shining in through the large windows. My favorites there are the club sandwich on rye and the turkey bacon. And sometimes when I’m in the mood for something sweet, I stop in just to grab a vegan donut (made in Oakland). If you don’t work in the DTO though, you might never get to check this place out because they close at 5pm on weekdays and I’m pretty sure they’re also open for limited hours on Sundays.
Somehow, I haven’t been to New World Vegetarian for over a year, but that’s mostly because it’s a bit of a far walk from my office. The main thing I remember about New World though is that their menu has an incredible amount of variety – Asian, Mexican, Italian – you can find just about anything there. And somehow they pull this off, serving hight quality vegetarian food. The ambiance is also very nice, and the restaurant is big by downtown standards so you’ll always find a table. Another bonus – they’re open at night and during the weekend.
I know, I know – Rico’s is NOT a vegetarian restaurant by any means. But they do have an extensive, separate vegetarian menu so I’m including them here. What’s not to love about Rico’s? The service is quick and friendly, and the ambiance is exactly what it should be – the license plates covering the wall are a great touch. But there are two real reasons I go there – the vegetarian pulled pork sandwich and the milkshakes. The pulled pork sandwich is so tasty that even my omnivorous friends order it. And the milkshakes, well, where can you get a milkshake (or ice cream of any kind for that matter) in the DTO? And they have more than a dozen flavors, though the peach is by far my favorite. If you haven’t been to Rico’s, go, today. But get there before 3pm because they close and don’t reopen for dinner.