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Jul 8, 2012 09:48 PM

Two vegan meals: Golden Era and Gracias Madre [SF]

I had some visitors in town this weekend, and we ended up eating at two different vegan restaurants. I had never been to either, and I really liked them both.

At Golden Era, we shared the following:

- Vietnamese crepe (banh xeo) - Aside from the lack of shrimp, this was a pretty typical rendition of this dish. The crepe was nice and crispy, and was filled with bits of chopped tofu, bean sprouts, and mushrooms. I thought it would have been fine w/ out the mushrooms, since they were a bit undercooked, but that was my only complaint. Served with lettuce for wrapping, and mint and cilantro and a sweet vinegar dipping sauce w/ carrots/daikon.

-Drumsticks - Fake chicken meat, deep fried. The "meat" was nice and stringy, and the "bone" was a piece of sugarcane. Served with a spicy ketchup which I disliked -- I used the leftover dipping sauce from the banh xeo which was much better. I posted a picture of this here:

-Garden vermicelli - Also very similar to versions of this dish at any other Vietnamese restaurant, but with fake meat (soy chicken) instead of real meat. Vegetables were nice and fresh.

-Spicy Sweet Potato Curry - Similar to a Thai yellow curry, with pieces of fake chicken, chunks of sweet potato, and some other veggies. We ate this with brown rice. Nothing particularly special, but had a nice balance of flavor despite lack of any fish sauce.

-Okras' lover: The menu lists this as "soy protein, okras, cabbage, onion, lemongrass, and coconut milk." The soy protein was in little meatballs, and I thought they were really good. Also spicy, and the most meat-like thing we had in the whole meal. The pieces of okra weren't mushy, but had still absorbed a lot of the flavorful, lemongrassy sauce. A really interesting dish overall.

Various iced teas were good, service was fine, and I thought Golden Era was quite a nice vegan restaurant. Lots of variety on the menu, and our meal had lots of interesting flavors. All three of the omnivores at the table enjoyed it.

At Gracias Madres, I tried the following:

- Horchata - Not too sweet, and not overly cinnamony. Very good.

- Coconut ceviche - Uses young coconut in place of fish, and was served with tortilla chips. Pretty good, but the coconut didn't really add that much for me. It was similar to eating a very lime-flavored salsa. But serving was generous and it was very fresh.

- Sauteed greens w/ chili and garlic - tonight it was kale. It was fine and very fresh, but not that different from kale I make at home.

-Tacos: fried plantain tacos were excellent, with sweet plantains and smooth "cashew cream" Mushroom taco was fine. Black bean puree served with the tacos was excellent.

I also had bites of the escabeche, empanada, and tamal. All were good (thought I thought the tamal was a bit dry). I thought the service at Gracias Madre was excellent, and I liked the overall vibe. The food felt healthy and creative, with lots of good flavors. Again, all of the omnivores enjoyed the meal quite a bit!

I would happily return to either restaurant, and I think any vegetarians or vegans would be quite happy at both places!

Dave MP

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  1. Thanks for the report. Golden Era is a staple for me when I'm in the Tenderloin area. I tried Gracias Madres once, but I wasn't really a fan of the food and also thought it was really pricey. The tacos you had sound good though. If I can tear myself away from Herbivore, I might give this place another chance.

    If you are ever in the OC area, I really like this vegan Vietnamese place called Bo De Tinh Tam Chay. I like almost everything I've ever had here.

    1. I never heard of Gracias Madres. Looks really interesting. Thanks for posting your experience. I hope to try it sometime.

      1. Tried it out Sat 7/13/13 for dinner:

        No FREE chips, it's one of those restaurants.

        Bar area for no reservation folk or communal tables. We picked communal table.

        Guacamole w/ homemade corn tortillas - pretty good, it's $6.75 though. Small scoop of guac & 4 tortillas.

        Nopales entree $15.75 - some chopped up cactus, B. said it was too sour. Scoop of rice & black beans on the plate too. Skip it!

        Enchiladas Verdes $14.25 - some open face enchiladas w/ zucchini & cashew cheese, some kale & black beans too. Bland food, need lots of salsa on the table to make it taste better.

        Kale con chile y ajo $7.75 - just some kale & seeds & garlic - meh.

        Total before tip $48.39. Overpriced & bland food - you decide if it's worth it, I won't be back.

        Separate bathrooms in the back.

        1. I love Golden Era and I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian especially like the tamarind "beef". Love all the choice and the cheap prices.

          Glad to here the service is better at Gracias Madre, between the high price for portion size, the poor service we've always gotten there and then having a server try to a Landmark spiel on us, the veggie spouse refuses to go back there. I always found the food to be unseasoned when we went there.