On the Menu: OB’s Plant Power grows its vision for the future of fast food
In January 2016, a triumvirate of like-minded vegans put down roots on scenic Sunset Cliffs Boulevard to launch their revolutionary brand of plant-based eateries resembling the traditional fast-food operation.
Plant Power Fast Food co-founders Zach Vouga (whose name is reflected in “The Big Zac”), Mitch Wallis and Jeffrey Harris sowed the seeds of their vision in a growing vegan community in Ocean Beach that embraced farmers markets, co-ops and plant-based products of all manner.
”This area seemed to be a good match for their mission,” said Haley Boyd, general manager of the original OB location. Plant Power has since branched out to the campuses of San Diego State University and UC San Diego, plus Encinitas and a fifth location in San Diego County coming down the pike in Carmel Mountain Ranch. Plant Power locations also are scattered in Hollywood, Sacramento, Fountain Valley, Riverside, Long Beach, Redlands and Las Vegas.
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“We’re changing the world one burger at a time,” said Boyd, reiterating the ethos of Plant Power. “We know it’s not an overnight process, but touching one guest and then spreading to others, we’re helping to create a more sustainable planet, as plant-based food cuts back on water use, CO2 emissions, animal suffering and assorted health issues.”
Now let’s bring on those burgers. The Big Zac sandwiches two 100 percent plant-based (pea protein) patties along with pickles, shredded lettuce and diced onions, all slathered with the namesake sauce on a sesame seed bun.
The Cheeseburger adds two slices of coconut-based American cheese, and the quarter-pound Iconic Burger swaps out the raw onions for grilled.
For fearless taste buds, try the Holy Guacamole Burger, tricked out with jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and chipotle sauce, while the Western Burger lassoes a couple of onion rings and plant-based bacon (facon), melted American cheese and barbecue sauce on the quarter-pound patty.
For those who prefer the essence of chicken over mock moo, Plant Power offers the sassy Buffalo 66 as a sandwich or wrap, or the Buffalo “Wings” for a boneless, flightless and zesty change-up. There also are the crispy, milder nuggets paired with choice of dipping sauce, including ranch, honey mustard, chipotle or the secret sauce that resembles Thousand Island blended with chunks of sweet and crunchy bread and butter pickles.
Finally, piscivores can sink their teeth into the plant-based riff on Mickey D’s Filet-O-Fish, piling a crispy soy- and wheat-based breaded “fish” patty dressed with shredded lettuce, American cheese, tomato slices and tartar sauce on a bun. Top it all off with the Iconic Fries, “a take on animal fries,” Boyd said, “smothered in melted cheese, grilled onions and the secret sauce.”
Lighter items include the popular chicken Caesar salad tossed with chickpeas, coconut-based Parmesan cheese and an eggless Caesar dressing. To wash it all down smoothly, there’s a slew of oat milk-based seasonal shakes with gingerbread, pumpkin and apple pie kicking off autumn flavors. Traditionalists can indulge in a chocolate shake with a buy-one-get-one-free promo.
While the burgers, wraps and salads come with a side order of ocean breezes for patio diners, the indoor decor treats the eyes to a clean, retro-modern style. In keeping with the restaurant’s sustainable mission, the tables and booths are constructed from renewable bamboo, the chairs from recycled waste and reclaimed wood. The packaging is 100 percent compostable, while the utensils are crafted from cornstarch. Finally, all menu items are GMO-free and organic, where possible.
Though the bulk of Plant Power’s customer base is composed of locals and seasonal tourists of all ages, “our main audience is really anyone looking to try a plant-based diet, anyone already on a plant-based diet, or even carnivores who want to give it a try,” Boyd said.
Expect lineups during the dinner rush from 5 to 7 p.m. and the lunch crowd from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Plant Power Fast Food
Where: 2204 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., Ocean Beach
Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except holidays
Information: (619) 450-6845, PlantPowerFastFood.com
• Peel and dice 1 large, sweet onion into ¼-inch squares.
• Add a small amount of vegetable oil to a pan.
• Heat pan to high heat, then lower it to medium.
• Add onions carefully (to prevent burning).
• Let the onions cook for 5 minutes without stirring so they can caramelize.
• Add salt (to taste) evenly over the onions.
• Stir onions to get them to brown on both sides.
• Leave them to cook for another 5 minutes (to a golden brown).
— Courtesy of Plant Power Fast Food
Homemade plant-based ranch dressing
• ½ cup each of plant-based Greek-style yogurt and plant-based buttermilk
• 4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
• Juice from one Meyer lemon
• 1 shallot, minced
• 1½ teaspoons stone ground mustard
• ½ tablespoon each of fresh chopped chives, dill and Italian parsley
• Sea salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
• Blend ingredients in a large glass bowl and chill.
— Courtesy of Catharine L. Kaufman