Gracias Madre: great Mexican food that just happens to be vegan

It is human nature to tie sensations to our memories. For example, whenever I smell Tang orange drink I am reminded of the vacation I took with my mom and brother to St. John, Virgin Islands when I was 9 or 10 years old. We drank it all day at the beach in between snorkeling (thus marking my last full-body dip into the sea AKA Giant Shark Tank), and exploring unknown nooks only to find topless lovers hard-core making out. That was a fun one to explain to a 4-year-old, by the way.

“Wrestling. Don’t tell Mom.”

I’ve graduated from shitty powdered fruit drinks, but I’m still a total foodie. When I travel, the first aspect of any culture I want to explore is the food. To me, food is the most exciting adventure.

Coupled with my second favorite hobby, photography, I have a real situation on my hands (Me and half the population with an iPhone, anyway!).

Before our trip to San Francisco, I did my homework. First, I asked my friend Ruby, foodie traveler extraordinaire, for suggestions on where to eat/what to do. Then, with a little help from Google, Yelp!, and a few San Francisco-based blogs, we were on our way.

I expected fantastic pizza (which we had – thrice) and I knew the wine would give the East Coast a run for its money, but Mexican was the unknown treasure of the Mission district. Vegan Mexican was an all out revelation.

Gracias Madre is a little gem in the middle of a seedy neighborhood (technically X’d out on the map by our Inn Keeper – but we live dangerously like that…). It was our second full day in the city, warmer than the day before, and we had our heads a bit more about us. Oh, and we were starving.

I was skeptical about vegan Mexican, I really was. Unlike myself, Steve jumps into food alternatives with both feet and a hungry belly. For this, I envy him greatly. Me, I’m all like “Mexican food needs cheese, man. It just does. Cashew cream? No. I’m not paying for this…” Something like that.

I started with a glass of fresh-squeezed tangerine juice. We ordered guacamole with house-made tortillas (Have I mentioned the boy pretty much hates avocados? I ate um, pretty much all of this.), butternut squash quesadillas with cashew cream, and plantain tacos with black beans.

It’s condiments like cashew cream that really make me nervous – but it really was superb. I feel like me admitting how scared I am of meat and dairy substitutions will help you put more (veggie) stock in my opinions. Does it? It should. Because I could just  about lose my stomach lining over a Tofurky. Some things are just sacred, am I right?

We sat outside under the heat lamp at a picnic table, watching native San Franciscans walk by in fashionable yet comfortable city-wear (jealousy). My favorite aesthetic was the front gate which was iron and made to look like corn stalks. 

There was an amazing wall painting behind Steve (and everywhere else in that damn city) and a really lovely pipe formation behind me. I didn’t care. I was practically comatose. That was some good food, period. I will dream of that meal until 2014 when (fingers crossed) I will return!

Qué guapo!!

Llevo demasiados pañuelos!

I can’t wait to show you pictures of all the pizzas (plural) I ate. I’m practically ruined. As a result of this trip I don’t think I’ll ever love local pizza the same way again.

Speaking of which, I’m looking to open my own pizzeria and need a substantial amount of capital. But that’s another post all together…

Adios, amigos!

– Brit (roll the “r” and it’s Spanish)

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