Gibbs Smith (2004), $12.95
Veg-Out, penned by former San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michele Anna Jordan, immediately won my heart by including details on two of my favorite little-known meatless treats among its 150-or-so capsule reviews of vegetarian, vegan, and vegetarian-friendly eateries: the sublime tofu banh mi at Vietnamese Sandwiches on Larkin Street and the killingly delicious ginger salad (ask them to hold the dried shrimp) at Mandalay Restaurant on California Street. The guide also does a great job describing well-known vegetarian joints -- Greens, Millennium -- as well as more obscure spots -- Hulu House, Golden Era, Berkeley's veggie sushi place Cha-Ya. But I found the book's near-total absence of African eateries, particularly the vegan-friendly Eritrean restaurants (which generally eschew butter in favor of vegetable oil), a little puzzling, since most offer wonderful bean- and vegetable-based stews. And I found the 191-page volume's tendency to pad its length by including separate pages for branches of chain eateries annoying. C'mon, do we really need six whole pages devoted to the San Francisco Soup Co.? Nonetheless, Veg-Out's nifty features -- maps of restaurant locations, an index of cuisines -- and the author's evident love of food and knowledge of local eateries make this a handy, useful pocket guide for epicurious herbivores.