Valentine’s Day weekend, my husband and I went on a road trip to the bay area to hang out with some good friends of ours for San Francisco Week. We had many things to celebrate – Valentine’s day was our 1 year marriage anniversary! The day we left to drive north, was my last day at my job where I had been for three and a half years. (I left to go full time freelance as a web developer and yoga teacher). And of course, celebrating the fact that we were visiting my long-time friend Shawna(who I’ve known since I was 6!) and her husband (who loves craft beer as much as Shane).
We left in the evening and planned to pick up something to eat on the way up. Once on the road, I didn’t see many vegan options and Shane was adamant about getting In-N-Out burger. So I got the veggie style burger (aka no meat), with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. It was actually really good!
Once we got up there, it was so late we pretty much went straight to sleep, eager to go exploring the next day. On Friday, we woke up and had some bagels (I used peanut butter on mine) and coffee and hit the road up to the city. First stop was Toronado, one of the places on Shane’s must-visit list. We enjoyed a bottle of Lost Abbey Cable Car, a very special and hard-to-get beer (what beer geeks call a “whale“) – and you can only get it at this pub!
After the beer we went in search of some vegan food, my usual mission when I’m exploring new cities. I have been to San Francisco in the past, but this is my first time as a vegan. Gracias Madre caught my eye as we skimmed a list of vegan restaurants on our phone and I had heard a lot about it, since they opened a location in Los Angeles. We decided to try it out, and it did not disappoint! I ordered the enchiladas with mushrooms, black beans and sautéed kale. The sauce on the enchiladas was the best part. I found the tortillas to be too thick and cakey for my tastes. The beans were amazing and the kale was super garlicky – which I love! – and topped with toasted pepitas, an idea which I can’t wait to steal! Overall, the meal was delicious and hearty. I definitely want to visit the LA location sometime and try some of their other offerings.
After lunch, we headed north to Santa Rosa for the Black & White Beer Ball which was benefiting “Ales for Autism.” We got all fancied up and headed over to the event to, you guessed it, drink more beer! We got try a bunch of great local beers and also some bigger names such as Firestone Walker and Lagunitas. Judging by the photobooth pictures we took, I’d say we had a great time! And they even had a vegan sushi food offering which I was very pleased to discover since we hadn’t technically eaten dinner beforehand.
After the ball, we ended up ordering even more midnight munchies in the form of pizza. Mine had tomatoes, artichoke hearts, fresh basil and TONS of chopped garlic. So good!
On Saturday, we headed out to explore Santa Rosa a little bit. We found a local coffee shop and then headed over to Russian River Brewing to see the craziness that is Pliny the Younger release. We had originally planned on getting their super early to wait in line in order to try some, but once we got there and saw how long the lines were, we were all happy to have just slept late instead. Luckily, they had a shorter line for people who were just purchasing bottles to go. That line was about 15 minutes (as opposed to 4-5 HOURS).
We picked up a few bottles of special beers and I found the cutest shirt for my nephew!!
One our way out of Santa Rosa, we hit up a store called Beer Barn and found a few more beers that are hard to get in our area. Yes, this sounds like a lot of beer but it was for saving – not drinking right away!
We headed down to Berkley to check out another vegan restaurant called Sanctuary Bistro. My friend Shawna had told me about it before our trip and I had fallen in love as soon as I saw their website, which says: “A compassionate environment created for your mind, body and spirit, the animals and the earth.” Also, they donate 5% of profits to local animal sanctuaries. Love it! Even more impressive than their purpose, was their food! Everything on the menu sounded amazing, it was so hard to decide. I ended up ordering the portabello-dilla, which was sort of like a crunchy quesadilla without the cheese. It also had roasted bell pepper, lettuce and tomatoes and was served with roasted potatoes and a delicious steamed kale. Delicious!
After lunch, we headed over to The Rare Barrel, also in Berkley, which ended up being my favorite beer-related spot we visited during the whole trip! The atmosphere there is great – high ceilings, really open with fresh air flowing through. And the beers are delicious, too. They’re all sour beers, which is a style I’m just starting to become familiar with and am really enjoying. If you aren’t sure what a sour beer is, they have a pretty cool video here, which is also filmed in their brewery so you can get a hint of what it looks like.
Before leaving San Francisco area, we hit up one more spot called Cellermaker, where we tried small pours of a few different styles. My favorite was the Imperial Coffee & Cigarettes. I admit that the name sounds weird, but the flavor was amazing!
We headed down to San Jose to check out yet another vegan spot called Good Karma Cafe. I had daal with brown rice and amazing chile verde seitan – whoa! This place was more low key and affordable than the others AND they had an impressive craft beer list which pleased the guys. I really wish I had a place like this down the street from me – I would be there all the time!
Sunday morning was sad as it was time to go home. But we were sure to end our trip with one last delicious meal. I ended up with more pizza – can never get enough! This time it had zucchini, mushrooms and bell pepper – yum! We also checked out a local coffee chain called Philz where they have an amazing coffee selection and are known for their pour-overs. As much as I love coffee, I had never been to a place with that great of a selection to choose from!
We had a great time up north and can’t wait to go back again! I’m so impressed with the vegan food that we ate everywhere we went and the craft beer scene up there was so much fun.