Thanks to Living Social, Enrique and I were introduced to Souley Vegan at Jack London Square in Oakland. I bought the deal thinking I would go by myself. I never thought that my carnivore foodie partner will ever eat vegan food. He surprised me by mentioning that he has heard good things about Souley Vegan and would love to try it.
Souley Vegan is very 70's -- from the oldies music, the Soul Train playing on the old-fashioned non-flat screen TV, B&W pictures and paintings of blues musicians. The tables are communal. And the place has no air-conditioning. It is homey, casual and Southern with a diverse group of patrons. As we were finishing our early dinner at around 6pm, the DJ was setting up at the full bar and disco lights started swirling on the walls and the ceiling.
The staff was very friendly. You order and pay at the counter as soon as check in and your food will be brought to your table.
Just like its namesake, Souley Vegan serves vegan soul food. It is possible to order a la carte but for first time diners, I would recommend the "everything plate" at $19 or $25. The only difference between the two was the $25 included a black bean/rice and fried okra.
Here is the breakdown of what we had on our "EVERYTHING PLATES"
1. BARBECUE TOFU: Marinated tofu with garlic and spices topped with barbecue sauce. The barbecue sauce was delish that I did not care that I was not eating ribs. Very good!
2. POTATO SALAD: They were very proud of their salad. See the description on their menu and I can see why. It tasted pretty nice and was so creamy you would forget that it was non-dairy.
3. MAC AND CHEESE: You would not mistake this for dairy mac and cheese but pretty close. SV uses nutritional yeast-based cheese (still vegan) . The result is a creamy mac and cheese without the dairy. Also very good.
4. CORN BREAD: Sweet, soft, nicely textured without the milk and butter.
5. SOUTHERN FRIED TOFU: Instead of catfish, it's silky tofu. The crust was crispy, nice and well-seasoned but I felt like it was missing something.
6. YAMS: Sweet yams still sweetened by agave.
7. FRIED OKRA: Perfectly fried with crisp outside and soft inside but needed more seasonings.
8, 9, & 10 LENTILS, BLACK EYE PEAS, RED BEANS AND RICE: As much as I love any type of beans and really love red beans & rice, these were bland and just plain salty. Even after the next day, I thought the flavors might improve but did not.
11. KALE: The menu says fried kale but we just got steamed kale with the beans. Bland just like the above. Would have loved to try the fried kale on fresh baby spinach, fresh tomatoes and lemon dressing as stated on the menu.
DRINKS ($4 each)
- STRAWBERRY GINGER: Refreshing spicy-sweet freshly made drink. A "must get" for ginger lovers.
- LEMONADE: Also freshly squeezed. I did not try this but Enrique ordered another one to go so he really liked it as well.
CHECK: $58 including 2 Everthing Plates ($19 & $25), 3 non-alc drinks and tax before tip.
The best value in town. Each plate could easily feed 2-3 (except for Enrique who finished his plate in one sitting.) With my leftovers including the red beans/rice and fried okra, I had enough leftovers for 2 more meals.
Some of Souley Vegan's dishes are really worth coming back for. Delicious healthier vegan food minus the lard. Even my carnivore foodie partner did not complain and was satisfied with his meal.
I often do a little soul-searching after eating soul food. Although some of SV's dishes failed to touch my soul as much as I wanted them to, it is still a good dining adventure and experience that is highly recommended.
REMEMBER BEFORE YOU GO:
1. Bring plenty of quarters for difficult street parking or park at Jack London Square Garage.
2. If you go during peak dinner hours, the wait could be up to an hour. We left the first time and went back the following week at around 4:30 pm. No wait but the line started forming.