For soul-food lovers, soulful food lovers and especially solely vegan foodies in search of inspired eats in the SF East Bay, we strongly urge you to check out Souley Vegan, the brainchild food dream of Oakland native and ecocentric chef Tamearra Dixon, renowned for her unique blend of soul and spice.
Yeah, you heard that right: Vegan Soul Food -- as in Southern fried yummy-ness with no lard, no chicken fat, no eggs, no BUTTER -- no kidding. So, maybe you’re like me and don’t even know there’s a big ole hole in your life where Souley’s cornbread, fried tofu, greens and mac and cheese are supposed to go, but still … take heart, take charge and/or take out like Carrie and I did on a recent lovely Friday afternoon.
Carrie (who discovered Souley Food at the Grand Lake greenmarket) was raving about these eats from the moment we first began to brainstorm this ecocentric blog. For me -- a formerly strict vegetarian and now “occasionally still practicing when the mood and stomach strike” type of locavore -- I was intrigued, to say the least. After Souley Vegan left its first spot on 13th St. earlier this year, reportedly due to “structural issues” and the prohibitive cost of a much-desired remodel, Dyson and crew, including her brother (smiling in front of the blackboard menu at right), have found a new home just three blocks from Jack London Square.
Now happily ensconced at 301 Broadway, Dyson is back with Souley Vegan and turning those veggies and carbs (and I DO mean carbs) into some of the most original, filling and inspiring soul food available. Carrie and I were crazily making the rounds one recent Friday and so had to forego a sit-down meal and settle for takeaway orders around 3pm.
I opted for the combo 3 items for $10 plate (pictured above) – mac and cheese, collard greens and the “how does she get tofu to do that” southern fried tofu. If you check out the local foodie blogs, most of which have not quite caught up with the fact that Souley Vegan’s open again, you will see many consistent raves, none more so than the reactions of awe to this crispy skinned, silky moist, cornmeal-crusted concoction. And let me tell you that back in the day, for me, tofu was NOT love at first taste. Carrie went for the lentils, potato salad and greens with cornbread $1 extra, and was literally shimmying with expectation, at least I think that’s what she was doing.
I could go on and on about how brilliant all this food is, how great it feels to support the most local and innovative of purveyors, struggling to make it after a hard break or two, but really the reason to go is that this food is freakin’ delicious, and FILLING. Sure, these days $10 is a lot for a plate of food with nary a dead eyeball on it, but I was ravenous and I could only really plow through half of my plate; the other half was shared by me and my better half with just some soup as supplement. He, decidedly prideful omnivore that he is, found it surprisingly spicy but also gave it two thumb’s up and that was the nuked-from-the-fridge version two days later.
But beware, it’s cash only and there’s no booze (but the homemade ginger strawberry juice is insane, according to Carrie, who was kicking herself for forgetting to order it at our recent visit). Also, early reports about the new digs are you wait a bit for the sit down food (our to go order came out quickly enough), but it’s not too long and well worth it. To add to the enticement, Souley’s offers up live music every Friday night from 5pm to 9pm.
Vegan Soul Food turns out not to be a contradiction at all.
Oakland, CA 94612
Oakland, CA 94612