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Sage Cafe's "Bacon" Burger.
I live right up the street from Plum Bistro and thoroughly enjoy their spicy vegan fare, so it took a sizable

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Sage Cafe Is A Shadow Of Plum Bistro, And It Owns It

sagecafe1.JPG
Sage Cafe's "Bacon" Burger.
I live right up the street from Plum Bistro and thoroughly enjoy their spicy vegan fare, so it took a sizable force of will to walk by its doors on route to Sage Cafe. The much-smaller, sandwich-centric cafe--and one fourth of the Makini Howell-owned Hillside Quickie franchise--is more limited in terms of space (containing only four, two-person bar-style tables) and operating hours (closed Sundays and at 8 p.m. weekdays), but if you're looking for a quick afternoon vegan bite, this is the place for you.

Let's talk options--Sage Cafe's got 'em. I know I'm constantly harping about what we veggies can and can't have, but the more I hit the cold, hard Beet Street (pun always intended), sometimes I'm just amazed that there are joints with practically nothing for someone like me to eat. I'm not vegan, nor do I have any food allergies, but there's no way I can eat around a duck-fat saturated french fry. So, when I roll into a place like Sage, with build-your-own-sandwich options, crepes, and tons of different burgers--even if some items are far better than others, as they often are in conventional restaurants--having such choices makes be beam with vegetarian pride.

My boyfriend and I stopped in on a recent weekday to sample the menu. There was no line when we approached the counter to order, but the tiny space was near full with three tables occupied so we nabbed the last one and settled in to wait. Our waitress/cashier was very personable and stopped by with a carafe of water, two glasses, and was already one step ahead with place settings provisioned with extra napkins (extra napkins being the defining factor of a Howell establishment, indicating sloppy, over-stuffed burgers are on the way).

Our food arrived--we both bordered burgers--each accompanied by a modest portion of a Spanish style rice/farro pilaf. I had the Bacon Burger--smoked tofu and seitan with caramelized onions, potato salad, and all the fixings--and it was good, but tasted like a gourmet Boca Burger, nothing like the unhinged flavors of the Crazy Jamaican Burger or the El Besito Caliente I habitually order at Plum. My boyfriend had the Venice Beach, a towering pile of baked tofu, smoked tempeh, zesty guacamole, caramelized onions, and vegan pepper jack cheese. I wanted to trade, but after half of my sandwich, my boyfriend inherited the remaining half. It would seem, from this first visit, Howell's burgers are as universally filling as they are napkin-inducing.

We left stuffed and satisfied, but feeling like we had just scratched the surface. The vegan desserts in the pastry case looked amazing, and I'm definitely going back to try the Fremont Philly. Sage might not have the distinguished elegance of Plum, but as its hearty little cousin, it does a fine job of filling the body in the spirit of keeping things simple and very, very vegan.

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