Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge

Winners 2016

A Great Big THANK YOU to all of our participating restaurants this year. 25 venues: a new record for Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge!

Chef Matt Masera at SADDLE ROCK claimed First Place for Overall Menu: We are thrilled that they participated with us this year!
**Soup: Cauliflower Chowder with Crispy Vegetables (so tasty, creative and beautiful presentation!)
**Entrée: Stuffed Acorn Squash w/ Wild Rice & Roasted Root Vegetables (absolutely delicious: SVCC Organizers’ favorite!)
**Dessert: Chocolate Cake w/ Caramel Sauce & Sugar Glass (elegant and exquisite)

Nido Cafe (by Magpie) served up a fantastic first year by claiming First Place Soup: Dragon Mushroom & Heirloom Bean Soup and First Place Entrée: House – Made Seitan Bao.  Also popular were the seasonal vegan drinks they added to their menu during October (Hello, Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte and Salted Caramel Mocha!) for which certain Challengers made very frequent runs…

Evan’s Kitchen took home First Place Appetizer: Sautéed Button Mushrooms and Best McCartney Themed Menu, Best Overall Menu Variety, and Favorite Place for Vegan Brunch. Two of his featured diners’ favorites vegan menu items: Coconut Rice Krispy French Toast, Eggplant Lasagna. Chef Evan also received a very special, first-ever Plant-Strong Healthy Lifestyle Award in celebration of his own journey into plant-based cuisine. Thank you for 5 years of partnership (and counting!)


The Porch continued to ride their vegan community popularity wave receiving an award recognizing them for Best Vegan Comfort Food ‘Destination Restaurant’ and the Vegan Traveller Award for Best Entrée: Battered Tofu ‘Fish Fry’ Platter (*per Cyle Zezotarski, who comes up every year from Los Angeles just to make the rounds of the VCC restaurants!) Diners’ Vegan Challenge Favorites continued to be: Frito Pie, Meatless Balls, Fried Beets & Avocado Po’ Boy. And of course, Porch is the ‘go to’ brunch spot for Vegan Waffles!

Besides Chef Jon Clemons, we want to congratulate Pastry Chef Kari Hawley for bringing home Best Overall Desserts: Taste & Presentation~including her Pumpkin Cake w/ Cocoa Buttercream, Olive Oil Cake, Pumpkin Trifle, Coconut Tart, & Brownie a la mode.

These and many other desserts rotating on the Porch menu earned Best ‘Destination Restaurant’ for Vegan Desserts (several of the SVCC organizers *may* have gone over to the Porch *a few* extra times during the Challenge just for dessert!)

Highwater claimed ‘Best New Find’ for Vegan Dining.  Also noteworthy: Diners’ Favorite Salad: Crispy Nori Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad and Diners’ Favorite Sandwich: Deli Lama’s Grilled Veggie Sandwich. In the words of one of our enthusiastic Challenge supporters…“Run, don’t walk, to Highwater to check out their vegan specials–especially Christina’s Butter Cup Sampler!”


Pam Giarizzo, blogged about 16 different restaurants that she visited.

Here are her Sacramento Vegan Awards:

Thai Basil won the Sacramento Vegan Award for ‘Best Overall Menu’: Aloo Gobi Courgettes (Potatoes and cauliflower mixed with Indian spice in masala sauce); Pumpkin-Coconut Soup; Spiced Maple glazed Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Squash; Vegan Hung-Lé Curry (Hodo tofu, baby squash, sweet peppers, kabocha pumpkin, corn, simmered in Hung Lé curry)
Best Entree: Old Ironside’s Baked Ziti
Best Dessert: *a very close tie between her two favorites
Highwater’s ‘Christina’s Butter Cup Sampler’ & Old Ironside’s Peanut Butter Cup


First Place Sandwich went to The Rind for their ‘Imposter’ vegan grilled cheeze: fantastic flavors that really impressed!

First Place Salad went to Metro Kitchen & Drinkery for their ‘Rainbow in the Round.’ Other super-delicious diner favorites: Portobello filled with Deliciousness & their Pumpkin Spice Gelato paired with Ginger Cookies dessert (partnered w/ Conscious Creamery)

First Place Dessert: Thai Basil for their Taro Root, Tapioca, Sweet Black Rice & Mango which was so creative!

Chef Raphael of Capitol Garage earned the coveted McDougall Award for dishing up the most popular oil-free option this year: “Country Dreamer” Hash ~ Roasted sweet potato and local veggie hash, topped with mushroom gravy, green onion scrambled tofu, heirloom tomatoes and avocado. Folks also enjoyed his “Appletree Cinabar Amber” Biscuits topped with Maple Icing. And if you haven’t tried his vegan pancakes for brunch: they are addictive as his delicious vegan truffles! SIX YEARS with Vegan Chef Challenge!

El Papagayo is the vegan community’s top pick for Best Mexican Dining for 5 years and counting! They ‘wow’ed us this year with their Challenge menu of Watermelon & Quinoa Ceviche, Corona-Battered Mushroom Tacos, and a special chocolate-caramel flan.

Pizza Rock brought home the Best Vegan Margherita Pizza award, with house-made vegan mozzarella. They inspired the Davis COOL Cuisine vegan lunch bunch to drive in for a dine-out. AND Pizza Rock plans to continue Meatless Mondays w/ vegan options!!!

Lou’s Sushi kept the creativity coming by adding a couple of new specials for the Challenge; and claims their 3rd year as Sacramento’s Best Vegan Sushi!



Celebrating our Special Events:

*The Sacramento Dining Community was treated to two fine-dining multi-course dinners during this year’s Challenge: Awards for Excellence in Vegan Dining, exquisite taste paired with beautiful presentation, goes to Chef James Herzig of Nectar Cafe for his amazing 6-Course Vegan Fall Harvest Pairing, and to Chef Sylvanna Mislang of The Roaming Spoon for her 4-Course Vegan Rebel Dinner.

*We want to extend kudos of enthusiastic appreciation to Capitol Garage for throwing an AWESOME Vegan Halloween Dance & Karaoke Bash/ Costume Party! Sold out with 60 guests having a fantastic time. So much fun, and great noms by Chef Raphael Kendall. Thanks for 5 years of super-fun spooktaculars, and for creating this now-annual holiday event for the vegan community!

High-Fives to all the venues who hosted Special Events this year: Sun & Soil’s Vegan Juice Cleanse workshop, Classy Hippie Tea Co.s ‘High Tea’s’ in partnership with VEG Cafe!

*For special occasion vegan fine dining (anniversaries, family celebrations, etc.) please be sure to call ahead and make a reservation with Chef Clay Purcell of Tower Bridge Bistro or Chef Chris Barnum-Dann of Localis. Thank you especially to Chef Clay for 6 years of partnership w/ Vegan Chef Challenge, and hosting several special events for the Vegan Community!

*VEG made a great premier showing with a very flavorful menu, including a Diners’ Favorite very delicious dessert: Stone Fruit Cobbler and Coconut Whip. They also paired with Classy Hippie Tea Co. to put on an excellent 3-Course High Tea Pairing (which was really 6-course as diners had 2 options for each course!)

*Thanks to Gabriel Aiello for starting up Meatless Mondays Midtown BEFORE Meatless Mondays even became a Sacramento City Resolution! Gabriel’s monthly pop-up event is the Best Meatless Monday Meal Deal in town, for just $5.

*We were glad to have Orchid Thai back this year, with their marinated tofu & asparagus dish + tofu skewers!

*We love partnering with Baagan to feature their delicious seasonal menus (hello Butternut Squash Panini, Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Cheesecake and White Chocolate Chai Latte!) and Veg Support Mondays.

*ALWAYS glad to have The Green Boheme & as our local vegan raw ‘living’ cuisine (have you checked out their Monday Dine & Demos yet?)

*Excited to be joined by Sun & Soil Juice with their pumpkin-themed vegan menu + Vegan Juice Cleanse event.

*Super fun to have our first honorary food truck, the Culinerdy Cruzer, on board with us this year! Thanks, Keith!

*Thanks to Sage Mill & Nourish Health Bar (Gluten-Free, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Veggie Burgers, People!!!) for joining in this year: let’s keep the vegan love flowing their direction and support their vegan options! <3

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all 25 of our featured restaurant venues for creating an entire month of delicious vegan dining experiences for the Sacramento community. We greatly appreciate each and every chef who contributed their talent, expertise and creativity to serving up our best Vegan Chef Challenge yet! We are setting a vegan dining precedent here in Sactown, and look forward to continuing to partner with all of you moving forward. Cheers and Salut!

Comments are closed.