Best Vegetarian Pho

Golden Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

Vegetarian beef noodle soup sounds like an oxymoron, but it exists in one of Supreme Master Ching Hai's vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants in downtown Oakland. For around $7, you get a steaming bowl of meatless pho, complete with imitation beef neatly lined on top of rice noodles. The place is heaven for vegans and vegetarians in search of tasty food that's not your run-of-the-mill sandwich shop. In addition to pho, the place also serves specialty dishes such as carmelized "chicken," pineapple "salmon," and a tasty sautéed garlic "beef" (all of those run about $10). The entrées are good with brown rice; even better, top off your meal with vegan mocha chocolate cake. The place is operated by Ching Hai, a self-anointed supreme being on the level of Buddha incarnate — some say cult leader — who runs a huge organization with many "disciples." The restaurant has flyers about her as well as the slogan, "Be Veg! Go Green! Save the Planet." That much, at least, many of us can agree upon.

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