I am happy to report that I am optimistic about this new vegetarian restaurant with a heavy emphasis on vegan food. It’s in San Francisco on Broadway St, just off Montgomery, and probably trekkable from Montgomery BART if you’ve got good leg muscles or are allured by vegan food. The Usual Suspects Cafe, opened by Bob Bosco, is making a splash with local veg folks already. It’s a diner, it’s familiar foods made vegan, it’s great desserts, it’s talented chefs cooking with passion & pride, and they’ve got a commitment to organic, too. (In passing, they mentioned a big percentage of their food is organic; I don’t remember the exact number.)
Just hours after eating there last nite, I wrote the official description review in the Ultimate Guide:
Styled like an American diner, this new face in the SF restaurant scene offers a variety of vegan favorites like pizzas, sandwiches, burger, falafel, lasagna .. and they make their own seitan and sauces/salad dressings/cashew cheese. And, yes, vegan desserts, too. In an interesting twist, there are a few pizzas made with dairy, then it says everything is vegan except items which are marked that can be made vegetarian. Room upstairs available for private parties.
My official review: “The vegan pesto/cashew cheeze is delicious! Mint chocolate cake also delightful. Similar type of food to Herbivore, but better tasting. My 1st visit to Herbivore, it took me a year before I went back to try it again. This place – only day 5 of their being open, and I’m ready to go back tomorrow. My only “complaint” – the menu says 9″ pizza but it’s really barely 8″. Hey, when it comes to vegan pizza, size does matter!”
Okay, I alluded to Herbivore. Let’s compare the vegan offerings side by side: Dinner at Herbivore Berkeley on Sunday 5/25 vs Dinner at The Usual Suspects 5/29. By coincidence , I had the lasagna at both restaurants so that’s an easy enough compare.
- Herbivore: what I noticed was layers and layers of mostly noodles, very scarce filling. It didn’t seem dry but sauce was not really noticeable. It wasn’t a standout but it was okay. Served with a big side salad. Can’t remember if it came with bread, probably did.
- The Usual Suspects: not as many empty layers of noodles, so that’s good. Lots of sauce, good flavor. I thought it could have used a touch more filling. Served with a piece of toasted bread.
- Winner: The Usual Suspects
- Herbivore: Black China Bakery’s Carrot Cake – it was wonderful. Fresh, moist, and lots of frosting. Yumm.
- The Usual Suspects: they didn’t make the cake, but it was a vegan chocolate mint cake. Fresh, moist, loved the mint flavor.
Both really good and I’d have either one again.
1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 1 dessert at Herbivore and at The Usual Suspects Cafe were priced about the same, approx $33 including tax but before tip.
In my perspective as a customer (whose only experience with restaurants is being a customer), and having dined at dozens of vegetarian restaurants, it was enjoyable to talk to chefs at the Usual Suspects who are vegan and know the local veg restaurant scene (and their competition). It was reassuring to talk to the owner who was friendly and seems knowledgeable about the restaurant business and what it takes to succeed. This trio seems the most self-aware and savvy of other restaurants and their shortfalls, and subsequently what to avoid them in their venture. I hope this serves them well because unfortunately the restaurant business is a tough one.
I enjoyed the music at The Usual Supects, and overall experience of dining there. Herbivore has this weird combination of bad acoustics in the restaurant (which makes conversations difficult) and the constant door openings when its cold outside are not always conducive to enjoyable dining. I do have to acknowledge that Herbivore is convenient with its great location on Valencia — easily accessible by BART as well as a nearby parking garage) and if for some reason I get to Herbivore and decided I’d really rather have vegan Japanese food, I can always just walk a couple of blocks to Cha Ya, another great vegan restaurant.
The Usual Suspects Cafe serves up what the Bay Area sorely needs: yummy (mostly organic) food with attentive service in a comfortable & attractive environment. Watch out Herbivore, you’ve got some competition! And, when I talked to the chefs at the Usual Suspects Cafe, they indicated they’re planning vegan brunch, too.
Reviewed by: Tammy Lee
More info & reviews of The Usual Suspects Cafe in The Ultimate Guide