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Best Place to Eat Vegan Without Realizing It 

A Taste of Africa

Malong Pendar's one-time Cameroonian popup turned East Oakland brick-and-mortar restaurant doesn't advertise itself as a vegan eatery — and, in fact, most of the plates he serves up are topped with a scoop of tender stewed chicken meat or some fried tilapia filets. And yet, the fact remains: The foundation for each of A Taste of Africa's wildly popular combination plates consists of five or six vegan side dishes. And, really, who needs meat when the vegetables are as gorgeous and full-flavored as this: well-seasoned jollof rice; toothsome black-eyed peas; gingery, coconut-infused mashed yams; and crisp-edged fried plantains. Best of all is the ndole, the peanut-spinach stew that is Cameroon's national dish — a kind of vegetable slurry that adds a juicy savoriness to everything else on the plate. And Pendar's house-made habanero hot sauce alone serves as a fiery rebuke to anyone who has ever made the mistake of thinking that vegan food is supposed to be bland.

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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