When we were initially weighing the options of a weekend getaway destination, our top two contenders were Las Vegas and San Diego. None of us are gamblers and it’s mighty hot in July, but Vegas has Ronald’s Donuts. It’s a donut shop that has a large selection of vegan donuts. I’ve never tried them, but I’ve heard rave reviews. San Diego is closer in proximity, and it has Stephanie’s Bakery and vegan cinnamon rolls on the weekends. Yes, I’m inclined to make travel plans based on pastries. So be it.
Therefore, it was with much eagerness that we made our way that Sunday morning… ahem, early afternoon… to Stephanie’s Bakery in Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach has a strong beachy vibe, and locals were riding bicycles, walking their dogs, and meandering the streets in swimsuits. When we arrived around noon, what we found was a nearly empty case in Stephanie’s Bakery. I looked at the menu and thought surely these were just some display options.
“Is this all you have?” Leah asked the dusty blond man behind the counter.
“Yes, that’s it,” he said. “We were already cleaned out once today, totally refilled, and were cleaned out again.”
“Oh,” Leah sighed, “we came all the way from L.A.”
The young man took pity on us and said, “Well, if you’re really interested, we can make more of a couple of varieties, but it will be a twenty minute wait.”
Of course, after a two and a half hour drive, twenty minutes was no big deal. They did have a few remaining items in the case, and we each picked from those options while we waited. David and I split a cinnamon roll, and Leah and Patrick also got one of their own. The cinnamon rolls have crisp outsides and chewy insides. As a fan of gooey cinnamon rolls, they were tasty but not exactly what I’d been envisioning. They taste like cinnamon rolls your grandmother used to make, if, you know, your grandmother actually made cinnamon rolls.
I got a blueberry strudel, which was delicious and featured thick and rich blueberries oozing from the fluffy strudel. Leah and Patrick shared a broccoli strudel with homemade vegan cream cheese. I was having some food envy, because after a bite, it was my favorite. The savory, warm broccoli was enveloped in pillows of cream cheese and surrounded by soft pastry.
After twenty minutes, we received two samosa strudels for David and myself. As the name would suggest, they were filled with Indian spices, potatoes, peas, and carrots. They were a little oily for my tastes, but still good. Moral of the story, hit Stephanie’s early for the best picks of the day.
I’ve heard their pizza is also amazing. Vegan pizza seems to be all the rage here in LA these days, and so I have lots of options where that is concerned. However, I’ll want to check out Stephanie’s pizza the next time I find myself in San Diego.
After walking around Ocean Beach for a bit, we jumped back in the car to make the short trip to All Vegan, which is a small store in San Diego that sells everything any fun and fashionable vegan could need. They have a large variety of cute and stylish shoes for women and men, belts, purses, cookbooks, a wide array of vegan and animal rights-themed shirts, and much more. The size of the store is deceptive, because what it lacks in size it makes up for in its significant offerings. The proprietor, Joy Zakarian, made friendly chit-chat with us while David purchased a wallet, and told us about more vegan and vegan-friendly eateries in the area.
Next, we made our way to downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter. We discovered once we got there that it’s more of a nighttime location. There were lots of restaurants and some chain stores, like Urban Outfitters and Borders. We passed Pokez heading into the downtown area, which has a large sign over their restaurant boasting “A Vegetarian Mexican Eatery.” The dive-y restaurant has an eclectic array of paintings and a punk vibe.
Patrick asked the server how they made their chicken, and a flash of confusion passed across the server’s face. Their chicken is made with chickens. Although the sign outside says that it’s a vegetarian eatery, they also serve meat. However, they did have all of the vegan and veganizable options clearly marked in their menu, which I appreciate.
David and I split the Veggie Burrito on a whole wheat tortilla, filled with beans, rice, salsa fresca, lettuce, and guacamole. The burrito was a bit on the bland side but inoffensive. We also split the Veggie Tacos, which came with rice and beans. The shells of the tacos are deep fried, which makes them puff a bit. They were quite good in the way that greasy junk food can hit the spot sometimes, and they reminded me somewhat of the Tasty Tacos I grew up on in Des Moines in my pregan days.
The restaurant is certainly affordable with most offerings costing around five dollars. All in all, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to seek out Pokez, but if you happen to be in downtown San Diego and want to go somewhere with a lot of vegan offerings for not much money, it’s not a bad choice.
After being immersed in the concrete jungle, we yearned for pretty surroundings and seascapes. We made our way to Point Loma to visit the old lighthouse. The cliffs and beach around the area have stunning views, and we also walked through the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which is unlike any cemetery I’ve ever visited. This quiet but expansive cemetery overlooks the ocean, and is poignant and beautiful.
As we walked along the cliffs and watched surfers ride waves, the sun began to set on our San Diego weekend. It was one of those refreshing weekend getaways that really makes you feel like you’ve had a chance to unwind and recharge even though it was only a matter of days away. We’ll be back.