The Vegan Breakfast/Brunch Guide to the Inner Sunset
By Geraldine Tran
My restaurant connoisseur brother and experienced “foodie” friends all assured me that eating vegan in San Francisco would be easy and that restaurants are used to customers with dietary restrictions. “There’s always something vegan on the menu, Geraldine,” they said. “Come have brunch!” they said.
Based on my experiences so far, it’s difficult to find a decent vegan breakfast or brunch in The City. No matter how much I love oatmeal, I’d rather not pay $6-plus for a bowl of “decadent Irish oatmeal topped with house-made organic granola,” when I can buy 10 pounds of old-fashioned Quaker Oats from Costco for $9. I’m not cheap; I just want to spend my loan money on something special.
Honestly, it’s just sad when you bring a spoonful of mushy oats to your mouth when your friends are joyously savoring their French toast with caramelized bananas, or their beautifully poached eggs Benedict. When you say that your oatmeal is great, no one is convinced. So, for vegan readers, readers with vegan significant others, or for the vegan-curious, here are my top morning meals in the Sunset.
Sweet Aha Bake Shop
Seventh and Eighth Ave., Irving and Judah St., San Francisco CA 94122, (415) 839-2138
This bakery is owned by Peiru, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable resource about healthy vegan and vegetarian eating. It is open during the Inner Sunset Farmers’ Market on Ninth and Irving Streets every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sweet Aha is a growing foodie favorite and has gained a loyal following because of its delicious vegan muffins and desserts. All the baked goods are not only 100 percent vegan, but also organic, free of artificial products, and contain reduced sweetener content. Peiru creates classic and creative flavors and pays great attention to the presentation and beauty of her products.
For breakfast, I recommend Sweet Aha’s lemon poppy-seed and ginger spice muffins, both farmers’ market favorites. The first time I tried the lemon poppy-seed muffin, I was surprised by the taste of fresh, real lemon.
Because Peiru crafts her muffins with reduced sugar content, you can really taste the quality of the ingredients she uses. Also, her ginger spice muffin contains chunks of organic ginger and tastes amazing.
Sweet Aha’s muffins are light, fluffy, full of flavor, and most importantly, they are consistently delicious. Each Sunday, I stop by the Inner Sunset Farmers’ Market after my run to gather groceries and see what Peiru has in store.
1331 Ninth Ave., San Francisco CA 94122, (415) 566-3137
This co-op and beloved neighborhood bakery has great specialty items for a decent price. Its vegan muffins are commendable and come in banana walnut and lemon poppy-seed flavors.
The banana walnut muffin is one of the best muffins I’ve ever had. The top is baked to a slight crisp, while the bottom stays soft and full of walnuts. I’m currently obsessed and will continue to eat this muffin for breakfast until I’m sick of it, or my jeans get too tight … whichever comes first.
The lemon poppyseed muffin is inferior to Sweet Aha’s version because of the lack of real lemon zest. These muffins are dense, hearty and could easy pack enough calories for a moderate breakfast. Also, their sourdough English muffins, for only 75 cents, are wonderful, because they are lightly toasted on the outside, while the inside texture stays soft with a bit of chewiness.
1307 Ninth St., San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 661-1255
You know what’s hard? Finding a coffee shop that doesn’t charge extra for soy milk. Peet’s, Starbucks and Palio Caffé all charge a significant fee for soy or almond milk on top of an already over-priced drink. However, Beanery on Ninth Avenue serves organic coffee and allows you to pour your own soy milk.
Arizmendi also serves soy milk free of charge, but uses a very sweet variety, whereas Beanery provides Soy Blenders vanilla, which is low in calories and fat and doesn’t add too much sugar.
4001 Judah St., San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 661-6140
Now for a real brunch meal! Being the hipster hotspot that it is, Outerlands would definitely have something vegan. It serves brunch on Sundays, starting at 10 a.m.
Here, I was able to eat an entirely vegan meal with no substitutions. My meal consisted of a refreshing avocado and winter citrus salad, hot ginger lemon apple cider and organic loose tea. It also serves levain toast with Meyer lemon marmalade.
The bread is supposed to be very satisfying, but I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. The salad consisted of sharp mustard greens, three varieties of grapefruit, ample avocado and toasted almonds, tossed in light sherry vinegar.
Outerlands pairs unexpected flavors, and the results are delicious. Other than alcohol, these are the only vegan items on the menu. This place is madly popular, so come early or expect to wait.
Outerlands does not take reservations, but puts out a waiting list one hour before opening. Come early to sign up, and have some coffee at Trouble Coffee Company, another trendy morning stop. However, don’t come close to closing time, because they will be full and will not seat additional customers.
The best thing about Outerlands is the atmosphere. Inside, you are housed in a warm, slow-paced, wooden cavern and protected from the growing crowd and hungry customers barricading the entrance.
So next time you have a breakfast or brunch date, take your companions to the Farmers’ Market to try Sweet Aha Bake Shop, or visit Arizmendi’s Bakery, Beanery or Outerlands. Please share your favorite vegan breakfast or brunch locations with us.
Geraldine Tran is a first-year medical student.