photo credit: Remy Galvan-Hale
You’ve probably heard of Gracias Madre. It’s in LA, and it’s super trendy. There’s a killer patio and Christina Hendricks and Lucy Hale (Who? Whatever.) eat there. Well guess what San Francisco, we have a Gracias Madre of our own, and it’s the original. It also has a patio and also serves vegan Mexican food. Unfortunately, the similarities end there. It doesn’t feel hip, and the food is more what we imagine you would eat on a LivingSocial vegan retreat in Santa Cruz than food that’s meant to nourish your tastebuds and not just your soul.
The place has many hallmarks of a vegan restaurant: people wearing tunics, simple wooden tables, and waiters who look like they could work at a bookstore that only sells books made of organic, locally sourced paper. Less fitting are the sombrero-wearing violinist and guitarist who sometimes walk around asking for tips, but that’s neither here nor there. Overall, the restaurant’s pretty much always crowded, which is perhaps a testament to the lack of sit-down options for vegans in SF.
As for the food? For the most part, it’s basic Mexican staples, but substituting cashew cheese for regular cheese and mushrooms for pretty much everything else. (If you have anything close to a nut allergy, you will die upon walking in the door. So, avoid.) The roasted potatoes are awesome, the squash quesadilla is solid, but we couldn’t get too excited about most of the other dishes, which felt like worse versions of regular Mexican food. This is not a vegan bias, because there’s a lot of vegan food out there that is awesome. Gracias Madre just doesn’t quite do it for us.
While the San Francisco Gracias Madre may be the OG, it doesn’t quite have the cool kid status of the LA version or the attention to making the food truly great. If you have a pack of desperately hungry vegans to feed, this is the spot, but besides that we’ll stick to our meat and cheese-laden Mexican.
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Papas Al Horno
These are the best thing on the menu. Awesome roasted baby red potatoes with a cashew cheese sauce. Eat them quickly or the sauce gets weird and congealed.
Ensalada De Espinacas
A warm salad full of things we like: meaty mushrooms and nutty, toasted pecans. Unfortunately, it’s pretty overdressed, making it a soggy experience. Not great.
Not special. The red sauce is almost overpoweringly cinnamon-y. Not worth an order.
Enchiladas De Mole
These are disconcerting. You cut into the enchiladas expecting a flowing ocean of cheese (even if it’s cashew) and veggie goodness, but there is none. It’s just rolled up tortillas with vegetables on the side. It is weird. There are beans and mushrooms and kale, but there is not flavor.
Excellent tortillas, relatively flavorless vegetables inside. Mushrooms and eggplant dominate, but they just aren’t particularly exciting. Seven-year-old me probably could have assembled these.
Quesadillas De Calabaza
A squash quesadilla that is one of the better things on the menu. The pumpkin seed salsa is pretty great, and we wish it were on more things. It’s also more of a sauce than a salsa, but we dig it.