With 22 restaurants, the deliciousness was overwhelming. Each venue served such unique and original menus, it was hard to compare.  So…we had to defer back to our original guidelines for the competition, which included:

1. Create an ORIGINAL featured vegan appetizer, salad or soup, main entree, and dessert (any 3 items) that was NOT already on the menu…not previously offered.
2. Promote participation by encouraging diners to fill out and submit Voting Cards (or vote on-line)


3. Elicit positive feedback/ comments from your diners!

So, with this in mind, as the decisions became tougher, we deferred to overall menu promotion, voter response, & diner comments to make the final selections.

Desserts were a tough category this year! WE are the lucky vegans who had the opportunity to enjoy all of the fantastic options, but how does anyone decide between pumpkin, apple, panna cotta and chocolate?  Once again, we had to defer to diner comments and who “kept going back” for more!!!

1.  Overall Winner for Best Menu and Presentation:   CHEF CLAY PURCELL of  Tower Bridge Bistro

Chef Clay wins First Place for Soup: red lentil coconut milk, forbidden rice, and almond gremolada;  First Place for Entrees: buckwheat soba noodle w/ wasabi miso sauce (“absolutely amazing! could eat it every day! So delicious!”) AND sweet potato, black bean & quinoa cake;  First Place Dessert: honeycrisp apple cake w/ salted caramel sauce (one diner loved it so much that they ‘licked the plate,’ and admitted to this on their comment card! LOL!)

Additional shout-out to Chef Clay for hosting 1000 Vegan Cupcakes for Charity in April, and for his support of the Sacramento vegan community.Due to the overwhelming positive & enthusiastic response from diners, especially regarding his vegan dishes during this year’s Challenge, Chef Clay will be featuring new vegan menu items on a regular basis! He will be rolling out a new Vegan Menu for December. Yay for Chef Clay; yay for us!

2. EVAN’S KITCHEN takes awards for Most Creative Presentation (warm watermelon & tomato salad); Second Place for Entrees (roasted vegetable pot pie & charred corn ravioli w/ basil fondue); and Best Tasting Brunch featuring diner’s favorites coconut milk french toast w/ roasted sesame tahini and maple syrup. Also deserving of mention is his Soyrizo Breakfast Burrito. “This was the first time I’ve ever been to this restaurant, and OMG, the vegan breakfast burrito was amazing!”

We created an additional special award just for Chef Evan: Most Inspired Chef and Most Enthusiastic Menu Promotion (which should definitely be shared with his wait staff!)  Not only did Chef Evan graciously and enthusiastically support the vegan community by agreeing to participate in this year’s Challenge, he created not three, not six, but about 20 different vegan dishes–an entire vegan menu, FRONT and BACK– just for the Challenge! His staff was liberally distributing the Vegan Menus and recommending the dishes to every table.

And on top of all of that effort, he managed to roll out about 10 of those dishes in twenty minutes to be featured on Good Day Sacramento.And, to top off EVERYTHING, he’s decided to offer vegan ALL THE TIME on his menu, creating new rotating dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each month.

Thank you to Evan’s for hosting our awards presentation! (:


3. Chef Jon over at the Porch was No Holds Barred when it came to vegan fried deliciousness! Diners chose his rice & avocado fritters as Best Tasting Appetizer. He also took 2nd place for Entree with skillet-blackened potato cakes with creole mustard, corn & tomato relish. And, the Vegan Buzz was all about his banana waffle with fresh berries, coconut ice-cream, and cinnamon bourbon sauce.

Chef Jon admits to needing to have his arm twisted a bit to finally agree to participate.  Now, on behalf of the Sacramento vegan community, we need to twist his arm a little more to get him to please KEEP vegan options on his menu!  ”Wonderful vegan food! Hope you keep vegan items on your menu!”All together now: “Puh-lease, Chef Jon? Vegan-Waffle-Pretty Please with Coconut Ice Cream and Berries on top?”

4. On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, BEST OVERALL HEALTHY VEGAN MENU goes to Baagan in Roseville. Their diners commented on EVERYTHING on their entire menu!

Their Vegan Challenge menu included: Butternut Squash Panini w/ kale, sauteed onions, red bell pepper, chili pepper flakes, and sage pumpkin seed pesto. Diners also loved the raw chai chocolate swirl cheesecake on almond, date, and cocoa crust. Very inspired! “…I dream of this food! Beautiful!”

…There is ‘vegan,’ and there is ‘healthy vegan:’ For delicious, tasty, creative, and well-presented food with rotating featured soups, salads, and sandwiches/ wraps daily, this is the place to visit out toward the Galleria.


 5. Chef Raphael of Capitol Garage: 2nd Place for Dessert for his spiced pumpkin cake with ginger glaze. Also mentioned were his outstanding curry dish, and his Butternut Squash Mole.

We would like to take an extra moment to thank Chef Raphael for hosting several outstanding vegan dinners throughout the year since last year’s Challenge: Vegan New Year’s Party w/ appetizers & truffles; 4-Course Beer Dinner, Margarita Dinner, Hawaiian Luau, and most recently the Vegan Murder Mystery Dinner which was To Die For! Seriously. Just like his Spiced Pumpkin Cake.

We mentioned to our chefs present at today’s ceremony that we have a very special ‘prize package’ to offer this year’s most celebrated chefs: Veg News will be featuring several of their winning recipes in the on-line edition of the magazine! Thank you to Colleen Holland and her staff for offering this amazing opportunity, which will also promote the idea to other communities. (:


6. GRANGE wins the award for Best Salad (Taste & Presentation) for their Baby Beet Panzanella. It was beautiful, tasty, creative, and delicious! Thank you to Grange for stepping up to include wonderful vegan options on your menu!

7. 24 K, also new on the Sacramento vegan radar, wins the award for Best Presentation for Brunch; and also a 2nd Place Award for their salted chocolate and caramel tartlet.

8. EL PAPAGAYO receives Special Awards for Highest Diner Turnout; Enthusiastic Menu Promotion; and Most Voter Comments. “Great variety, fresh creative dishes, love the vegan options, and friendly, nice staff.” Additionally, several diners commented about how El Papagayo has the most ‘authentic’ & greatest variety of vegan options for Mexican dishes in Sacramento. Over 200 voter cards, covered in comments, were returned. Thank you, Rosa & Brandon!

9. Andy Nguyen’s rose to the Challenge with Outstanding Overall Presentation. Thanks to Andy’s for participating, and for spreading the vegan message!

10. Dad’s Sandwiches receives an award for Best Vegan Sandwich, taste & presentation, for their vegan ‘meatloaf’ sandwich. “Delicious! Better than mom used to make!”

Please note: we created a separate category for sandwiches based on several cafes competing this year, that primarily offer lunchtime fare. The competition included a foot-long Vegan Fried Avocado Po’Boy at Porch, the tasty portobello at Juno’s, and Baagan’s delicious Butternut Panini. Each so different; each so delicious!

11. Michelangelo’s deserves Special Mention for Lauren’s Mushroom Risotto (best risotto ever tasted by one diner!), her creative and delicious pumpkin square, and a side note for their chocolate coconut gelato. Which is worth going in for~ all by itself!

12. Green Boheme: With a rotating menu of original, delicious ‘raw vegan’ options throughout the month, Green Boheme gets Special Mention as Best Raw Vegan Selection in Sac! Thanks, Chef Brooke, for joining the Challenge. We hope many folks were inspired to venture out your direction to sample your beautifully creative dishes!

13. The Plum: Best Vegan “Comfort” Food in Sacramento, with featured diner favorites including their lentil loaf plate with sweet potato mash, organic baby greens salad, and one of any varieties of brownies for dessert! (Have you tried their chocolate raspberry? Or, S’mores Brownie? or the mint one? Gluten Free options available!) Check out their new heated back patio while you’re there. Now featuring mimosas with their weekend brunch!

14. Thank you to 58 Degrees & Holding, Co.: F.J. did an outstanding job of combining flavors & presentation: Best Vegan Tapas in town. Go sample if you get a chance! (still on his fall menu to our knowledge!)

15. Hot Italian: Second year in a row, they receive the diner’s choice award for Best Vegan Pizza in downtown Sac. “I ate one piece, a second piece, oh, good heavens! Just give me the box! Yes, I ate it all in one sitting.”
16. Special mention to Dad’s Kitchen, another of our Featured Participating Venues. While Dad’s had to ‘bow out’ for the 2nd half of October, it was because…they were overwhelmed by vegans ordering their mushroom cous cous! They were selling out daily. So, now, they have promised to add this to their fall menu. Thanks, Dad’s!
17. Juno’s is another great ‘find’ for vegans over in East Sac: their house-made bread makes for a very delicious sandwich. 37th & J. Thank you for participating!

18-22: Thank you to our Featured Participating Venues: Aioli Bodega Espanol, Habesha, Kathamundu Kitchen, Kupro’s Bistro, & Bombay Bar & Grill. Thank you all for ‘rising to the occasion’ by participating in this year’s Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge! We appreciate that you offer delicious vegan options to the Greater Sacramento Community, and many of our diners were very thrilled to have ‘found’ your restaurants as having tasty, vegan-friendly fare!

On behalf of the Greater Sacramento Vegan Community, Sacramento Vegan Challenge, and the dining community at-large, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to everyone who participated in this year’s Vegan Chef Challenge. 

“Peace, love, and kale!”


January 2013
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