I’ve talked about Souley Vegan enthusiastically with anyone that would listen. On my first visit to San Francisco in 2011, I discovered this place, and never wanted to leave. I went to Souley Vegan three times in a week. This time we just went twice (in one week), but it was great both times.
The front staff has changed a bit (unsurprisingly with two years passing, and increased success) but they’ve got a good and friendly crew from the person that takes your order at the cash, to the serving staff, to the bartender. The clientele is a great mix of different people, when we went on a Thursday evening, it was busy with lots of chatting families, nerdy looking professionals, and several groups of friends.
You walk in and take a look at the menu, order and pay at the front desk, and someone will give you a number on a stick. Food comes out reasonably quickly, even on the night it was busy.
We ordered the Everything plate, as I did the first time I visited, and it was appropriate for two people (though we still took stuff back to the hotel anyway.) It comes with a taste of each of their delicious menu items. Mustard greens, black eye peas, yams, lentils, BBQ tofu, southern fried tofu, potato salad, cornbread, mac and cheese, and southern fried smothered tofu. We added the red beans with rice and the fried okra, and the mashed potatoes with gravy to our order for a few dollars more.
An easy favourite has always been the southern fried tofu and the crispy cornmeal fried okra for me but JC really liked the potato salad (surprise and fantastic ingredient – sliced black olives!) and the mustard greens.
Souley Vegan is the embodiment of what I think of when I think of comfort food, it may be slightly healthier than the original versions of some of these dishes, but healthy is not the angle I’d go in there expecting (at least not when ordering the Everything plate – with everything.) It’s delicious, end of story. If you’re in the area, you should go at least once.
We had aimed to go once, but on the morning we were leaving to fly to Las Vegas, we took a quick early morning BART trip to Oakland for breakfast/lunch. They open at 11 am, and we were the first ones through the door. With the intention of not eating for another 6 hours I ordered some of my favourites – the crispy sandwich, and the fried okra. Crispy sandwich is the southern fried tofu in sandwich form. Crispy fried tofu, pickles, onions, ketchup, topped with a creamy mayo on a whole wheat bun. I think about that Crispy Sandwich sometimes when I’m cooking and dream of the day I can make something so delicious myself.
JC did something different and ordered to Southern Fried Tofu Bowl had a variety of fried tofus, with a lightly spicy okra gumbo on a bed of grits.
We also shared potato salad and a bowl of mac and cheese. The Mac and Cheese is interesting because it’s made with rigatoni noodles (you know, those larger than penne, larger than traditional macaroni tube shaped pasta?) they get so drenched with cheese that the noodles are nice and flat by the time they get to you. The cheese is house made and based on nutritional yeast with a bit of garlic and sea salt. It’s comforting, and not overpowering with any particular flavour.
I’m glad I could share Souley Vegan with JC and I’m glad we made a point to go twice on our trip. It’s easy to get to by the BART and a short walk from the 12th Street Oakland City Center station.
Other stuff: Serve alcohol, and have a large variety of beverages with drink specials on Thursdays.