Souley Vegan (Oakland, CA)
Souley Vegan is a great restaurant disguised in the veil of a local, vegan fast-casual walk-up joint with moderately-paced eat-in service. Good meatless, dairyless soul food shouldn’t be much of a stretch on the imagination, considering the inherent heartiness of yams, collard greens, baked beans, cornbread, cornflour batter, thick barbecue sauces, peas, lentils, spinach, cobbler. Their house-made lemonade with cayenne pepper and strawberry juice with raw ginger; their ingeniously flavored, pleasantly light potato salad all deliciously help to cut the heft of the main dishes. Pretty much everything we’ve tried has been tasty. I guess okra is always a little slimy?
But this is a true work of craft. Half toasted-and-barbecue-sauced tofu, half deep-fried tofu patty, with veganaise, ketchup, pickle, and lettuce on a whole wheat bun. Like a good aromatic garden burger or a dense, well-flavored walnut patty, you can lie back and forget about beef. The flavors, it follows, must start at the center’s proteins, then go fatty and sweet, then pickly and sweet again, then watery, then crisp, and then fatty and sweet again. Definitely a new favorite Oakland sandwich!