Meet Sanctuary Bistro, an Entirely Vegan, Gluten-Free Restaurant in Berkeley

If you’re vegan or gluten-free, you know that a visit to most restaurants requires peppering the server with questions to find out what unwanted component might be in the dish you want. The otherwise vegetarian soup could be made with chicken stock, or the meatballs may be made with breadcrumbs.

[jump] If you’re in either of those two categories, Berkeley’s Sanctuary Bistro – opening tomorrow – is a place where you don’t have to ask. Everything is vegan, and the only items with gluten on the entire menu are some locally-crafted microbrews (and yes, there are plenty of gluten-free beers as well). Everything is local and organic, to boot. And while raw diners will find what to eat, the restaurant suggests calling in advance if a group of raw enthusiasts wants to come in, as larger-scale raw preparations are more labor-intensive.

Sanctuary comes from a husband and wife team Barry Horton and Jennifer Jones Horton who met while he was a chef at Raven’s at the Mendocino eco-resort, Stanford Inn by the Sea, and she was the resort’s event planner. The restaurant converted from vegetarian to vegan under Horton’s watch as the couple went vegan themselves (Jones Horton also has Celiac disease). In 2009, they moved to the East Bay and launched Local Love Catering, a vegan catering company. They plan to continue catering under the Sanctuary Bistro name.

“We did a lot of weddings in which the bride or groom was vegan, but the rest of their community wasn’t,” said Jones Horton. “It’s really important for us that our food is accessible to non-vegans.”

My husband and I are neither vegan nor gluten-free, and we found the food on its soft opening more than just accessible, we found much of it delicious. Highlights included a caramelized leek and spinach soufflé that was light and airy, just as a soufflé should be; a lemon-peppercorn “chevre” made of cashews; a spinach salad with olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake “bacon” and a strawberry cashew “cheesecake.” Most importantly, in these dishes, we didn't miss the dairy at all.

It goes without saying that the produce is all seasonal and organic and from within 150 miles, with much of it coming from Dixon’s Eatwell Farm. The one exception is Horton’s signature dessert, Bananas Foster.
“I incorporate flavors from around the world, like Indian, Latin and Italian, but with California flair,” said Horton.
At some point, the pair plans to offer brunch (with such items as tofu scramble and gluten-free waffles) and cooking classes. Five percent of all of their proceeds will go to the Animal Place in Grass Valley, a haven for farm animals, and they will hold regular events for other animal-related charities as well.

They have two kombuchas on tap, and many of the (vegan, of course) wines on offer, like Donkey & Goat and Shoe Shine are made a few blocks away.

Sanctuary Bistro is at 1019 Camelia St., Berkeley.

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