For years, kale has dominated the vegetable world as the trendiest leafy green you could put in a salad or on a plate. Kale is now found in smoothies, in pesto, on burgers and as a side dish in countless forms. There’s no question that kale remains one of the most popular vegetables and perhaps the single most popular green.
Cauliflower, however, may have knocked this leafy vegetable from the top place in many chefs’ hearts. This blanched cousin to broccoli has developed a passionate following. What was once a hated and avoided vegetable has now become something that people are seeking out at restaurants and the grocery store. It isn’t just the popularity that has changed. The way people cook it has changed as well.
It used to be common to steam or boil cauliflower. That and raw consumption were about the only options you really had for this fairest of plant foods. One way that many people serve cauliflower is riced. In other words, it is broken into pieces small enough to resemble rice when cooked.
Other people swear by dry roasting the veggie, which helps prevent the overpowering sulfur smell associated with brassica vegetables. It has also taken health food circles by storm as a potential replacement for pizza crust.
However you enjoy eating cauliflower, it isn’t just for vegetarians anymore. You don’t always want to cook it yourself. Perhaps you need a little inspiration to make you own cauliflower dish. We’ve hunted down four of the best and most creative uses of this trendy veggie in San Diego eateries.
Location: 5026 Cass Street (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If you’re looking for a healthy meal or vegetarian and vegan options in Pacific Beach, consider a trip to Second Nature for any meal of the day, including breakfast. This restaurant serves up primarily vegetarian dishes, often with creative flair. They do also serve organic grilled chicken, grass fed steaks and organic grass fed burgers.
Their creative cauliflower dish is perfect for those who like to eat on the go. They serve up incredible chipotle lime cauliflower tacos, which are both gluten free and vegan. You can choose to have your cauliflower grilled or fried. From there, they add shredded romaine, guacamole and their special house queso sauce. Cauliflower is also on the appetizer menu, which they serve as orange cauliflower. This dish is meant to be reminiscent of the popular Chinese takeout dish called orange chicken.
Their creativity doesn’t end there. If you miss that smoky, sweet BBQ flavor as a vegetarian, you can order up a pulled jackfruit BBQ sandwich. Jackfruit is a massive fruit from tropical areas that has moderate amounts of protein, as well as plenty of potassium and other nutrients. Instead of buying the pre-made meals at the store or investing in a fruit you may not finish on your own, you can try jackfruit here in a creative and healthy dish.
Location: 2201 Adams Avenue (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m.
University Heights was in need of a solid vegetarian and vegan restaurant, so Grains stepped up to fill that vacancy. Since March 2017, this little place has been serving up a limited menu of truly inspired, flavorful and healthy dishes. Many of the flavors on their menu are Thai or Asian fusion dishes.
Consider their take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich, the bahn mi. Usually this dish has a pork base, topped with spicy peppers, homemade radish and carrot pickles, cilantro and mayo. At Grains, however, they have found a way to specially season a combination of jackfruit and tofu to recreate the flavor and texture of actual meat. Combined with a slice of vegan cheese, it serves as the basis for an incredible vegetarian take on this classic sandwich.
Their cauliflower dish is listed as an appetizer. It is Buffalo cauliflower, meant to take the place of spicy chicken wings. They toss fresh cauliflower with a powerful Buffalo sauce. They cook it and serve it with a vegan ranch dressing, as well as sliced carrots and celery. You can eat something quite healthy and still feel like you’ve indulged in real comfort food. That makes Grains a must-visit dining location.
Location: 3780 Ingraham St. (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday: 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturday: 9 a.m. to midnight, Sunday: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Located in Pacific Beach, Bayside Landing has a clean modern feel and a wonderful assortment of new American cuisine on the menu. They offer creative takes on popular dishes, like macaroni and cheese made with a Gruyere bechamel sauce (also available on top of a pizza) as well as a Kalua pork pizza with Napa cabbage and grilled pineapple.
They offer a fun spin on cauliflower on their appetizer menu. Their dish is a take on General Tso’s Chicken, aptly named General Tso’s Cauliflower. They fry individual florets and serve them up hot with a special sauce that is both tangy and spicy.
Their main menu features plenty of options for people who eat meat, as well as vegetarians. They even turn grilled mahi mahi into grinders with a white cilantro sauce. Those who are incredibly hungry may want to order the Loco Moco, which has a half-pound of hamburger, brown gravy and onion on a bed of garlic rice with eggs and macaroni salad.
Vegetarians will appreciate the multiple salads and meat-free sandwiches on the menu. From a three cheese grilled cheese on focaccia to an avocado, cranberry and walnut Tofutti sandwich topped with soy bacon, they have some truly great options.
Location: 1503 30th Street (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to midnight
Located in South Park, KINDRED is a vegan restaurant taking vegetable dishes to new heights. First and foremost, this place is a bar, which means that they have a wonderful menu of creative craft cocktails to tempt you with. Of course, if you stop at the cocktails, you will miss out on one of the most creative, vegetable-driven menus in all of San Diego.
Their cauliflower dish is truly unique and something worth trying at least once. Their Seared Cauliflower Steak is the perfect substitute for those missing actual meat. They serve it with pureed orange squash, puff pastry, tahini beets and steak sauce. There is a lot of flavor to unpack in this dish, as well as a satisfying texture.
If you’re looking for something to munch on while you enjoy a meal, try their Fried & Pickled snack fish. Not only does it include beer battered dill pickle slices deep fried, it comes with a creative, crunchy and zesty Buffalo pickled cauliflower and ranch dressing.
There are several great salads on the menu here, along with sandwiches filled with soy curls or blackened tofu. They also make a beet risotto and palm tacos. They will surely have a cocktail to match with any dish you order from the menu.