“Do you have any dietary requirements?”
This is a question that can strike fear in the hearts of people with food allergies, vegetarians, and vegans.
Or it does in mine, at least. I get awfully anxious about inconveniencing friends — or being interrogated by an angry person about why I choose to eat the way I do!
Thankfully, I don’t have to worry on this occasion.
We’re at Tradition Bar and we’ve had a couple of cocktails with an old friend Mike.
And I’ve come prepared: I Googled restaurants and cafes in the area around Tradition to see where meat-eaters and vegans could eat together in harmony. With the list I’d prepared earlier, anxiety was gone!
Mike’s protests at my vegan requirements are on the hilarious side, without an ounce of interrogation or anger. He also scoffs at my hand-written list, and pulls up his smart phone and searches the area. He’s a manager at Symantec, so he’s pretty nifty with his technology.
It’s a toss up between Kombu Kitchen and Soul Grove. Kombu Kitchen has burgers for the guys and kale salads for me, but looks awfully fancy and needs reservations. Soul Groove is in the seedier part of the Civic Center, but is casual and does American comfort food for all types of eaters.
We choose Soul Groove. North Nomad is a fan of casual dining. And I wanted something more substantial than a salad, as I’d missed out on lunch that day.
Soul Groove Waffles and Chicken touts itself as serving “world famous international soul cuisine”.
Aside from your normal chicken and waffles, it also serves vegan fake chicken, which I’ve learnt to endure love in America (I don’t know if I’ll eat it ever again when we move back to the southern hemisphere – I’ve had enough of it in the States for a lifetime!).
It’s a cute little diner, small and cosy on the inside. The tables are decked out with red and white checked tablecloths. Much to my surprise (and relief), it lacks the greasy, deep-fried chicken smell that usually permeates diners.
I’m fascinated by the menu. American soul food is so different to Australian comfort food.
There’s the Famous Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Waffles, served with praline butter, the Chicken Fried Soul – bacon wrapped and buttermilk battered chicken breast, with maple waffles, jalapeno coleslaw, and maple BBQ sauce.
For those who prefer pork, there’s braised and shredded pork on corn bread waffles, with jalapeno coleslaw and maple BBQ sauce.
For the vegetarians there’s the Chicken Fried Impersonator – a meatless “chick’n” patty battered in buttermilk and deep fried, with maple waffles, and the cole slaw and sauce.
For the vegans, there’s the Vegan “Chick’n” and Waffles – cooked in a plant based oil separately to the chicken dishes, and served with Earth Balance butter.
North Nomad chooses one breast fillet of the Famous Fried Chicken and Buttermilk Waffles, Mike orders the Chicken Fried Soul, and I’m happy with the Vegan “Chick’n” and Waffles.The chef does a vegan-friendly hashbrown for me as starter, which I’m very pleased with as it’s a breakfast side, and we’re having dinner.
North Nomad and I have “Mexi-coke” with ours. For our Canadian, British, Euro & Australian/NZ readers – coca cola tastes quite different in America because of the high fructose corn syrup they use as a sweetener. We have cane sugar in our cokes, like they do in Mexico.
So normal coca cola to us is put in bottles and called Mexican coke in America. It’s like upside-down world!
The men are as happy as pigs in mud with their chicken and waffles. I have hot sauce with my fake chicken, and it’s pretty tasty. My waffles taste a little vinegarish, which I’m guessing is from either lemon juice or white vinegar in soy or rice milk to make a vegan buttermilk. It’s not an unpleasant taste, just unexpected.
My hashbrown looks like a traditional rosti and is damn tasty! It’s nice having crispy potato rosti that isn’t dripping in oil.
Do you have a favourite soul food diner in America? Or a favourite comfort food restaurant in the southern hemisphere?
Location: 422 Larkin Street, San Francisco CA 94102
Getting There: It’s in between Turk St and Golden Gate Avenue.
Cost: Famous Fried Chicken & Waffles – 1 Piece Breast meat and 1 Waffle – $9.50, Vegan Chicken and Waffles $9 for lunch serving – one fillet, $14 for dinner serving – two fillets, Chicken Fried Soul $8, Hashbrown (I can’t remember, but they didn’t charge much extra for it), Mexi-Coke $2.50 each.
Contact Details: 415 734 7598 – also available as delivery or pick up
Wednesday: 8:00am – 3:00pm
Thursday: 8:00am – 10:00pm
Friday: 8:00am – 10:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 10:00pm
Sunday 11:00 am – 5pm
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica over at Google+.