perks for your palate.
Ancient grains and modern mixes—SF’s 5 best grain bowls
By Virginia Miller
Nourish Bowl at Nourish Café ($14)
Plant-based, raw, organic, and non-GMO foods never feel forced at Nourish Café, the Inner Richmond’s healthful neighborhood café—the kind of spot we wish was in every neighborhood. Whether a faux “tuna” or a falafel salad, these hefty bowls are filling and made with care. The signature Nourish Bowl loads up quinoa with hummus, avocado, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, spring mix, baby spinach, yams, sprouts, toasted sunflower seeds, and beet sauerkraut, in an oil-free, creamy hemp dressing. Order a dragonfruit smoothie to go with and you’ve got yourself one filling meal.
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond MAP
Aloha Bowl at eatsa ($6.95)
High-tech meets healthful fast food (and low costs) at eatsa, which began in SF with two locations and has since expanded to include outposts in Berkeley, LA, DC, and NYC. Place your order on an iPad, and grab your food from a compartment flashing your name when it’s ready—all very Japan. They're offering a strictly vegetarian cuisine and the majority of the menu is vegetable-only bowls that don’t skimp on flavor, with some offerings unique to the East Coast, and others to the West. Riding on the poke craze, the Aloha Bowl is available in all eatsa locations. This Hawaiian “island-style” quinoa bowl is packed with edamame, portabello poke, sesame seeds, macaroni salad, taro root chips, cucumber, lomi lomi tomato, wakame (seaweed), and Napa cabbage, all in an orange miso dressing. This is fast food as it should be.
Neighborhood: SoMa MAP Financial District MAP
Grain bowl at Craftsman and Wolves ($11)
William Werner’s pastries and confections at Craftsman and Wolves are at turns legendary (the Rebel Within), whimsical (pineapple mezcal pâte de fruit), and delicious (drinking caramel). But on the healthy side, the seasonally changing grain bowl is as colorful as it is nurturing, and currently features rainbow carrots, roasted cauliflower, pomegranates, and pecans dotting a quinoa bowl. Thankfully, there are two locations—the original Mission café, and a Nob Hill outpost.
Neighborhood: Mission MAP Nob Hill MAP
Braised pork bowl at Koja Kitchen ($8.75)
Originally (and still) a food truck, Koja Kitchen has also grown into a brick-and-mortar—make that six, in SF, Berkeley, Emeryville, and San Mateo, San Jose, and Fresno—that showcases ever-hip Korean tacos and koja “burgers” in fried rice “buns.” But they also serve bowls with a white or brown furikake-seasoned rice base laden with meats and veggies. We like the pork bowl, where juicy pork is braised in a miso-coconut sauce (reason enough to order), intermingling with spring mix, green onions, a bright lemon and a garlic aïoli.
Neighborhood: San Francisco MAP
Yellow curry bowl at The Plant Café ($12.50)
With eight Bay Area locations—including one at SFO, terminal 2, thank you very much—Plant Café has long cornered the healthy Bay Area cuisine scene with fresh vegetable juices, veggie burgers, and organic, local meats–all 100% organic. From Korean to udon noodles, their bowls are generously portioned while their yellow curry bowl over jasmine rice is vivid and flavor-packed with sautéed seasonal vegetables, and enlivened with ingredients like lemongrass, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and lime.
Neighborhood: Marina MAP
The Plant Cafe