#280: Vegan Plate

1:10PM, 7/9/2022


This morning I was repeatedly spinning a little random selector wheel app with all the new restaurant options and nothing was piquing my interest until I hit Vegan Plate. I instantly thought about Green Boheme and Baagan Cafe, both of which I enjoyed but ultimately did not end up returning to. Honestly, as a….Meatatarian (Meatasaurus? Man of the meats? Bear with me, I’m still work-shopping this) it usually something that looks particularly interesting to get me to go to these types of places (not counting going for this blog, which is one of the reasons I do it!). For all the obvious reasons (health, environment, animal welfare) I think it is a commendable lifestyle. I just don’t see myself giving up things like BBQ and sushi. I enjoy dipping my toes into this world once in a while and see how things are progressing.

I took a quick look at some photos online of the place and some food items and what I saw felt very ambitious. Sure, I’ve had burgers and cheesesteaks with Impossible’s beef substitute, and they are anywhere decent to pretty good. I’ve heard that chicken nuggets/ground patties can be done pretty well with soy, although I haven’t tried any that I can think of. But it was the shrimp. That’s what I saw that sealed the deal that I would be going here today. I’ve never seen this before and had to know if the taste and texture of a shrimp was something that could be approximated these days.

It was about ten past one when I arrived in the Hobby Lobby shopping center on Douglas at Sierra Gardens Dr. Two things struck me as I checked out the front of this building. I was surprised to see that the Jimboy’s was gone, and I realized that Vegan Plate now occupies the spot where Bo Bo Cafe was, which was just my 6th post ever (over a decade ago now, what a trip), and the first time I’d ever tried Vietnamese cuisine. I snapped some shots of the exterior and headed in.

The space is straightforward, a counter at center back for ordering, with a nice big black board menu that’s easy to read, and plenty of cafeteria-type seating to either side of the walkway that runs to the counter right down the middle of the room. A couple of wooden crate displays have some shirts and snacks for sale in the isle. There were just a few people in the dining room when I entered. The counter was unmanned but someone emerged right away once I got there. I said I was just starting to take a look at everything and he handed me a bound menu and said I could take a seat and come up and order whenever I was ready.

I knew I had to check out the Bang Bang Soy Shrimp (made of potato starch Konjac, Soy Protein Tossed with our house made sauce – 8 pcs)[$9.25] – as a minor tangent, I googled Konjac and it’s a root vegetable native to Asia, but I loved some of the other names it’s known by and had to share = devil’s tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm and elephant yam. I also decided to get the Soy Crispy Chick’n Sandwich (Patty is made out of Soy and Wheat. Veggies: Lettuce, Tomatoes & pickles – side of fries)[$14.95]. Beverage-wise they have a bunch of options as you’ll see in the menu photos. I went with the Tropical Sunrise, which looked like one of the lighter and more refreshing things available (orange juice, lime soda and grenadine with orange slice and cherry topping)[$5.95].

My food was ready and brought out in seven minutes, with the drink lagging behind a few more. After some quick pictures I took the first bite of the item that brought me here, the Bang Bang Soy Shrimp. What this dish seems to try to mimic is a battered, deep fried shrimp. Where most of those have a very light, crispy texture to them, this had a more substantial crunch to it. This first bite was good (insert George Takei “oh my” here), but the rest were even better. The rest of the pieces had something the first oddly lacked, and that was that, somehow, they’ve gone and done it and found a way to replicate the texture of biting into a shrimp. Well maybe not a whole shrimp but at the very least chopped pieces of shrimp within the battered shell. The flavor had a tease of heat right at the start but it never really turned into anything. The sauce was a little bit sweet. This was very good overall and while maybe not 100% convincing, if you were trying to fool me, it’s getting there.

The Soy Crispy Chick’n Sandwich was much more straightforward and exactly what I expected. The patty had a light crisp to it and it had a very convincing texture of ground chicken. The lettuce was nice and crisp, the tomatoes perfectly ripe and juicy, and the sandwich was finished off with some kind of Thousand Island type sauce. The pickles were kind of all in one spot but that’s about the only nitpick I have with this. I really enjoyed the bun, which was encrusted with nuts and was very rustic feeling. It both added a great texture to the sandwich and was strangely interesting to hold. The fries were the flat steak variety, which had me a bit worried at first. They were sliced quite thin which made them very crisp and they turned out to be totally awesome – with ketchup or without!

Last but not least, the Tropical Sunrise was just as tasty and refreshing as I had hoped. This was the only item that felt a little overpriced. It could have been a bit larger for that amount.

So this place totally blew me away. One of these days they’re gonna perfectly replicate a fatty BBQ beef brisket and the day that happens I’ll take that little voice in the back of my head telling me I should probably consider eating less meat a lot more seriously.


#219: Dr. Bob’s Donuts & DoYos

On Saturday morning I headed over to old town Roseville to check out something new.  This is Dr. Bob’s Donuts & DoYos, and it’s not your typical donut shop.  They are located on Lincoln Street near Boxing Donkey and Pacific Street Cafe.  Dr. Bob’s focus is on organic, gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free donuts and frozen yogurt.  When I first heard about this place, about a month ago via Reddit, I was pretty skeptical.  Nevertheless it went on this list and here I was to cross it off.  I think this is the only other truly vegan place in Roseville aside from Baagan.  Thinking back to that visit I recall feeling much the same way before eating there.  Unsure of what I was about to walk into, probably a little bit nervous.  My friend Dan commented about the “fish out of water aspect” of the post, which looking back was actually pretty fun.  With all this going through my head again I stepped through the front door.

Up front is all the seating.  About 2/3rds of the way in you get to a little counter with the register on your right and drinks to the left.  Just past this is where you get started.  When I got to this point there were a few people, first-timers much like myself, who were just finishing their walkthrough by the owner Tasha.  She greeted me and pretty much ran me though the same thing.  She said that on Saturdays most of the customers are coming in for their first time, so she probably does a lot of explaining on this day.

You start with a vanilla or chocolate SteamFresh donut.  These are made fresh throughout the day as opposed to deep fried donuts that are made in a giant batch for the whole day at a traditional donut shop.  From there you move to a station with sauces and glazes to add some flavor.  Some of these include bourbon-vanilla glaze, chocolate glaze, coconut glaze, Himalayan salted caramel and a Nutella-like sauce.  From there you move to the fruit station where you add fresh fruits like blueberries, bananas and grapes to add some natural sweetness.  As one woman next to me mentioned, as she sampled some of the sauces, the chocolate graze actually wasn’t that sweet, so the fruit helps add the sweetness you might be looking for.

Next to the fruit is a frozen yogurt machine which dispenses non-dairy froyo.  They call it a DoYo when you add this to your donut.  Past the fruit and yogurt are chia puddings.  I don’t know anything about chia puddings other that what I just read online about them, being essentially chia seeds, unsweetened almond milk, pure vanilla extract, maple syrup and a pinch of salt.  I didn’t explore them this time but I think I will when I return.  Last but not least is, what I would call, the texture station.  Here you can add lots of different types of crunchy items from almonds, hemp seeds, flax crunch, granola and fruits like dried cranberries and raisins.  If you need any more sweetness you can also find at this station a variety of sweeteners including a few different types of honey (Note: u/exit143 on Reddit pointed out that this is not vegan, which makes sense, although the topic does seem to be a bit controversial, at least in my initial reading.  Something to consider.), a vanilla flavored syrup and also a little shaker of something called Bob’s G*Sweet, which is labeled “6 time sweeter than sugar.”

If all of this is a little overwhelming, and it certainly was for me, you can start out with some pre-made donuts.  I went with the Bourbon Vanilla Blueberry.  Tasha suggested I add a drizzle of some of the fresh warm bourbon vanilla glaze.  I did so and also added some warm chocolate glaze as well.  Not really sure how strong any of these flavors were I tried to go easy on them.  Next I added a few more blueberries and some slices of banana to the size.  I finished it all off with a sprinkle of hemp seeds for a little added texture.  This is pretty much one of the creations listed on their website that I looked at in advance and thought sounded good.

The prices are based on weight, so I placed it on a scale by the register and she rung me up.  I grabbed a chocolate almond milk from the cooler behind me as well.  All together it came to $4.88, which actually surprised me, I had expected for some reason to be paying more like 6 or 7, especially with the drink.  So not crazy, but certainly more than your average donut+milk.  I took a seat and dug in.  I found both the bourbon-vanilla glaze and the chocolate glaze to be much less rich than I would have guessed by looking at them.  They also didn’t leave a sugary coating in your mouth leaving you in a Got Milk situation (a good thing).  Indeed, my chocolate almond milk (which was delicious by the way) was not really needed that much and I drank most of it on the way out.  The fruits were both good and were the primary source of sweetness in this creation.  The bourbon-vanilla glaze definitely did contribute some of it’s own however.  The blueberries were nice and juicy.  As for the donut itself, it is much more dense then a typical donut.  I thought it might have a grainy texture but instead found it to be softer like a cake, maybe like a flourless cake due to the density.

Like my experience with Baagan, I was pleasantly surprised here at Dr. Bob’s Donut’s & DoYos.  One thing that I think helped out with the initial impression in both instances were the extremely friendly and helpful owners.  I think that’s key for keeping anyone that’s not familiar with this type of food (e.g. me) from thinking “this is weird” and turning around within a minute of walking in.  I also happened to meet Dr. Bob himself during my visit who like Tasha was super nice and happy to see me experiencing their donuts for the first time.  I recommend this place, interesting stuff.

Here were a few creations made by customers while I was there.

#23: Baagan Fresh Healthy Vegan Cafe

I headed out last night with a direction but not a destination.  I was driving over towards the Walmart by 65 where I knew some of my choices were The Habit, India Oven and Pho Hang.  I did a quick pass down Vernon to see if there was anything interesting and noticed The Place was open, and packed!  I’ll go there another night, I’m excited to see what they are all about.  Eventually I drove past the Habit/India Oven shopping center and turned in where Pho Hang is.  I peered in the windows and it was lightly occupied.  Before deciding for certain I coasted further into the shopping center in the corner by AAA.  I didn’t think anything was actually there but then saw the sign for Baagan.  I recalled that it was on my list but I could not remember what type of food it was.  Once i got closer and parked I could clearly see into the windows and saw the rest of the sign: Healthy Alternatives… Powered by Nature.  “Oh boy” I thought, “it’s the vegan place.”

Sure, I probably have some unfair opinions about vegans, but they’re not exactly strong opinions, I would consider them to be humorous (the opinions, that is).  I’ve never spent enough time with someone that was a vegan to be properly exposed to the lifestyle in order to appreciate and respect it.  So, here goes nothing.  When I walked inside I was actually a little confused, I wasn’t so sure all of a sudden that they had much to offer in terms of food.  They place had a coffee house thing going on with the design and seating.  There was an area with a couple of lounge chairs and a couch.  I immediately noticed smoothies, teas and ice cream on the menu.  The menu that I apparently skipped over did, however, list soup, salads and sandwiches.  An employee come out from the back and greeted me while I studied the menu and probably looked like a deer in headlights.  Another person came out, one of the owners, and after I told her I was completely out of my element and asked for suggestions she started going over my options.

I knew I would have a cup of the Indian Lentil soup, it sounded great and I’m pretty sure it was the first thing I smelled when I came in.  When I asked about the sandwich options she told me she was about to make the last curry panini of the day and I said I’d take that.  I wanted to try a little bit of everything to make sure I gave it a fair shot, so I also chose the tuscan kale salad and a tea.  She told me their most popular tea was the Be Slim Satva, which she described as a little like chai after listing off some of the things that were in it.  I went ahead and ordered one of those.  With the panini, salad, soup and tea it all came to around $20 which seemed like a lot, but in hindsight I think it was a fair price.  The quality and freshness was fantastic, and it was quite a bit of food.  With the ordering taken care of they both went into the back to work on my food and I took a lap or two around the cafe to take photos.

Much like a coffee house they have lots of things to buy from yoga supplies (mats, bags, cousins, etc) and blankets to tea pots and infusers, and lots of organic snack items like kale chips.

My Be Slim Satva tea and Indian Lentil soup came out as I was finishing my rounds.  I was shown the sweetening options, raw agave nectar and coconut sugar and given a taste of the latter, which I ended up using.  after sweetening my tea I sat down to take photos of the soup and salad (which I was given right at the register).  My Curry Panini was delivered right on time as I finished those up.

The Tuscan kale salad was fresh kale with a sweet honey mustard dressing, persimmons, pomegranates and chopped almonds.  This was the most dense salad I’ve ever eaten, and possibly one of the tastiest.  Very sweet from the dressing and pomegranate, and the persimmons were ripe and juicy.  I ended up taking half of this home and eating it with lunch the next day and it was still great.  My poor refrigerator didn’t know what hit it, it probably hasn’t seen a salad since my vegetarian roommate moved out a couple years ago.

The Indian lentil soup was great, I already like lentil soup as it is.  This version had a great heat that built up over several spoonfuls.

The tea was as she described, a lot like chai, though it seemed much more mellow than other chai’s I’ve had.  This wasn’t a bad thing, it was tasty and very soothing.  It is a blend of three kinds of tulsi, turmeric, licorice, black pepper, green cardamom, fennel, ginger, clove and cinnamon.

The Curry Panini was the big surprise.  The “meat” if you will (ha), in this is a spread they make with potatoes, cauliflower, chana beans and some other things I missed.  It was one of the most unique textures I’ve encountered.  I should really work on my vocabulary, because I can’t think of how to describe it, but it was awesome.  The panini was warm, which caught me off guard despite the toasted bread.  I guess whenever I think about a vegetarian sandwich I think cold, crisp vegetables.  In addition to lettuce and bell peppers it had a creamy cilantro sauce on it and was served with a mint chutney on the side which was a great pairing.  I think I kind of fell in love with this sandwich, I could come back and eat one of these every week and I don’t think I’d get tired of it (of course I say that about a lot of things I then proceed to burn myself out on, but I think this would have more staying power than most).  I HIGHLY recommend it.  It’s actually not technically on the menu, at least not yet.  They’re trying it out right now, so you might have to ask if you can order one.

As I said, this was a lot of food.  I left full, but not that heavy burger-full that has me wanting a 2 hour nap.  It was a very satisfying meal all together.  I never thought I would be giving a vegan place a perfect score, but this was an amazing visit and introduction to how good vegan food can be.  The owner (actually both, the 2nd one came in while I was eating) and their employee were all super nice, helpful and patient as I asked questions.

Website: http://www.baagan.com/