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Weekend Stay-cation: Souley Vegan

A Portobello Steak Burger - deep-fried portobello mushroom, spinach, tomato, onions, pickles and Souley Vegan's special tartar sauce on a whole wheat bun. (Lauren Soldano)

Are you a vegan looking for an exciting new place to eat?  A long-time soul-food-lover looking for a fresh take on your favorite foods?  Are you just hungry for some close-to-campus lunch?  To satisfy all these hungers and more, I recommend a visit to Souley Vegan, located in Jack London Square.

With late hours, a nearby location, reasonable prices and just about the best mac ‘n cheese ever, Souley Vegan is an ideal place to dine out with friends or impress a hot date.

Souley Vegan has been around in various forms since 2006, originally appearing at Oakland farmers’ markets and then catapulting itself into restraurantdom in 2008.  Its most recent and current location on Broadway features two spacious dining rooms, decorated with murals of famous blues and jazz musicians, kitchy 70’s antiques and a giant glittering disco ball next to the DJ booth.

Restaurant sign of Souley Vegan. (Lauren Soldano)

The menu offers artful re-interpretations of many soul food classics and desserts.  A three-item combo meal goes for ten dollars, but if you want to get more tofu for your ten, split the Everything Plate with a friend. Go ahead and bring your most tofu-phobic pal – more than likely they will have a change of heart.  You’ll both get to try seven different items and will probably have some to take home.  Most importantly, you’ll get a taste of Souley’s mac ‘n cheese – spiced to perfection and unbelievably creamy.  Also, don’t miss the potato salad studded with salty black olives. To wash it down, Souley offers a variety of freshly-made drinks and smoothies, like the spicy lemonade with maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

But don’t let your tofuphobe friend start the “fake” meat speech because owner Tamearra Dyson has higher aspirations.

“Tamearra doesn’t try to imitate meat. She wants to create something new, something totally different,” says her sister Rosie.

Indeed, Dyson has high standards for her restaurant.  She says a founding principle of her project is integrity.

“Aside from keeping everything vegan, I make sure to use the best, highest-quality ingredients.  I feel responsible for my customer’s health.  I want to feed people something really good.  Our goal is not just to be different in the kind of food we provide, but in everything that has to do with the restaurant experience,” Dyson said.

Souley is certainly a special kind of place.

A three-combo platter. (Lauren Soldano)

“It’s different than any other vegan restaurant I’ve been too.  It was a really cool experience,” said Mills College senior Elizabeth Welsh.

Right now, Souley Vegan is working to take their unique experience even further. By next year, they plan to have a full-service juice bar and to open earlier and serve delicious homestyle breakfasts.

Until then, visit them during their normal hours of 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays at 301 Broadway St.  If you go on Friday night, you might get there in time for a performance from a live jazz and blues band.