Best Vegetarian Restaurant San Francisco 2002 - Golden Era
Vegetarians often joke that their meatless lifestyle has made them poor decision-makers. After all, herbivores rarely need to decide what to eat when they dine out: It's either the chef salad (minus the ham) or the ravioli (minus the Bolognese sauce). Which is why this well-run, unpretentious, and friendly Pan-Asian establishment has become, for many vegetarians, a little piece of heaven. Not only are there more than 70 vegan dishes to choose from, but they're all affordable and absolutely delicious. A good place to start is with Golden Era's signature appetizer, the Buddha Bun, a steamed, doughy concoction filled with vegetables and soy protein. All the entrees are superb, but the best are the "fake meat" dishes, like the sweet fried lemon chicken; the barbecue garlic beef; the zesty Mongolian chicken; and the spicy pineapple salmon. They are all made with soy protein or seitan (wheat gluten), and hard-core veggies can be assured that the meaty names are suggestive not of the food's taste, but rather of its savory, tougher-than-tofu consistency. You can even get a soy Thai iced tea here (or one with regular milk), not to mention vegan versions of desserts like flan and mocha chocolate cake. The Tenderloin location tends to keep crowds to a minimum, attracting mainly locals. And although they don't like to admit it, carnivores love the food here, too.