Vegans, who eschew all animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy, are well versed in the Menu Shuffle: "I'd like this, but can you leave off the cheese, and substitute tofu for the hard-boiled eggs? Pretty please, with agave syrup on top?" But finding a restaurant where everything on the menu is vegan can feel like stumbling into nirvana.
The menu board at Maggie's Mercantile on Craig Street in Oakland lists the prices for the salad bar, hot bar, desserts and smoothies, and finishes up: "...And yes! Everything is Vegan!"
The menu changes daily, but some perennial favorites are citrus spare "ribs," spicy buffalo "chicken," and barbequed tofu. The mock meats are mostly soy-based, with seitan making an occasional appearance. They're also moist, flavorful and drool-worthy. The texture is so good it can be initially unnerving to someone who hasn't had a mouthful of meat for years. Maggie's also offers one of the city's most extensive raw-food menus.
Much of the food is shipped in from the original Maggie's location in Stahlstown, Westmoreland County, which has been a vegan redoubt for years. The Craig Street location has been open since March, after Maggie's did an earlier stint on Atwood Street in South Oakland.
"We do the raw foods ourselves here, and the wraps and fresh dressings," says manager Lindsey Sipos. "Everything's organic." There's a dehydrator on site as well.
Service is buffet-style, with a self-serve salad bar and a hot bar. You can eat in the big airy space that doubles as a veggie lifestyle hub, with occasional yoga classes, vegan meet-ups and Hare Krisha chanting Friday nights.
Browse the selection of books, such as The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and An Inconvenient Truth, and pick up a hemp coffee filter or fair-trade pot holders, or grab some locally produced raw vegan chocolate from Love Street Living Foods. Or take your vegan grub to go, in compostable packaging made of sugar, with corn-based biodegradable cutlery.
Just don't forget to cruise the baked goods -- cupcakes from CoCo's, pies, cakes and all manner of yummy vegan sweets.
300 S. Craig St., Oakland. 412-621-8200