George and Julia's Vegan Underground

Advice From People You Don’t Know

Surviving Napa Continued…Most of you know us at least a little.  We have our strengths and weaknesses but you trust our opinions are somewhat objective and never paid for. This an ongoing debate with Julia and me. In my opinion, an online comment on yelp or message board is not reliable information. The person could be paid (going rate is 5 bucks per) or it is penned by the restaurateur. anonymous is as good as nothing yet we all read and make decisions based on what these strangers report.

He who does not live by his own creed,  gets burned. When happycow.com brought up zero vegan restaurants in Calistoga/Napa Valley, I looked to the online community for help. One avid patron proclaimed that vegan dining was a simple if you go to a place called “Pacifico.”  The eater/writer explained that they were talented in turning any dish into a vegan delight.  The place sounded perfect so Julia made the reservation.

The place was standard rustic-festive, complete with gratis chips and timid salsa and margarita pushing signage. It was the Mexican restaurant you could find in Connecticut, New York, Wyoming, anytown, USA.  The menu seemed strict but I recalled the online advice we had received from a person we did not know.

Our waiter wasn’t friendly or mean. His enthusiasm was toll booth attendant level. I can appreciate that controlled level of effort. It’s comfortable.  He steered us clear of the vegan impossible dishes and we settled on a cheese-free veggie burrito for me, and soft tacos, no meat or cheese with black beans for Julia. There were no questions about our order, just a friendly nod.

Something didn’t seem right. Julia thought I was being to hard on the place.   Was I?  I discovered halfway through my burrito that there were traditional refried-in-lard beans in the mix. It was really just a bland hunk of heavy dough.  Julia’s tacos were better but seemed like less than something we might make at home. I feel that in this case too much subtraction with no addition. No cheese, why not add more vegetables, rich and spicy veggies. No meat, let’s turn up the heat.  Black beans are bland so let those chiles burn up the place.

Accommodating the pain-in-the-ass vegan is easy but you need to try a little.  Stock some Daiya cheese and gimme lean sausage in your freezer. Ask Pizza Plus in park slope how they doubled their business offering the “premium-priced” soysage and vegan cheese to their customers.  Flavor those veggies with the spice you normally reserve for the steaks and chickens.  Here’s the kicker, it saves you money!  Most people are not vegan but it’s amazing how many restaurants are passed over because of respect for and wanting to include a vegan buddy.  Think about it Pacifico! Think about America!

Pacifico is located at 1237 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga CA

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