A vegan breakfast sandwich, with plant based eggs, sausage, and cheese, plus air-fired hash browns and maple chipotle sauce
It wasn’t long before the pandemic started that I first heard of Spoiled Vegans. At the time, the small business had been a pop-up business, serving plant-based breakfast sandwiches and waffles within an East Village coffee shop on weekends. A late morning attempt to try it left me empty handed, because the vegan fare had sold out. How often does that happen? I remember thinking. Before I could return to find out what the buzz was about, the pop-up ended, the coffee shop closed, and then the whole city shut down.
440 16th St,, San Diego
Spoiled Vegans would show up on my radar again in June, when the Black Lives Matter protests were surging nationwide, and it appeared on lists of black-owned local restaurants that were passed around in a show of consumer solidarity. The business had kept going as a pop-up and bridged some of this pandemic year as a sort of ghost kitchen, selling pre-ordered vegan breakfasts for pick-up. And still likely to sell out.
Apparently, ties to its original pop-up location in East Village would remain — though the coffee shop is long gone, a Spoiled Vegans Cafe now operates a permanent storefront at the same address (440 16th Street). It’s take-out only at the moment and still sticking to its Monday-through-Sunday business hours. But, it wasn’t sold our this time, so I finally had a chance to try the vegan world’s answer to Egg McMuffins, ordered and paid for online, through its web site.
Now if you’ve been to this stretch of 16th Street, East Village, south of Market Street, you already know: it’s in the thick of San Diego’s skid row. As I parked in front of the tire shop across the street from Spoiled Vegans, an indigent, partially undressed older man stepped in front of my car to glower at me and grumble disjointed profanities.
By contrast, the Spoiled Vegans Cafe occupies the commercial ground level of a brightly colored, luxury apartment tower, erected a couple years back as part of a broader East Village redevelopment plan. If a black-owned business selling vegan breakfast sandwiches from the base of a luxury high rise surrounded by shopping cart pushing homeless people doesn’t perfectly encapsulate the conflicting political realities of 2020, then I don’t know what does.
Spoiled Vegans Cafe, configured for pandemic-safe take out, makes the pop-up's East Village address permanent.
With indoor dining shut down, the power of Spoiled Vegans — and surrounding food and beverage businesses — to revitalize this area will suffer a bit. But, in the meantime, the vegan café has a smooth, contact free take-out operation going for it. A small table, plexiglass shield, and shade structure are set up outside its front door. All I had to do was walk up and give my name, and a bag containing my order was handed over to me.
In other words, if you feel any distress about picking up food at this location, you probably needn’t worry. The entire stop took less than three minutes, and that included time for me to snap a few photos.
Spoiled Vegan waffle dog
Some of the food I took home did closely resemble a fast food breakfast. The café’s signature Spoil Yourself breakfast sandwich ($10) features vegan sausage, egg, and cheese, plus an air-fried hashbrown, served on a sourdough English muffin. That’s served with the house maple mustard sauce, or another maple base sauce: maple chipotle.
I went for that one, where the chipotle adds another dimension of flavor to a thick breakfast sandwich incorporating many, seeming to include sweet, sour, savory, bitter, and spice notes. Other breakfast sandwiches — such as those including vegan buffalo chicken patties, or black forest ham alternatives — go for something similar.
With the stack of animal protein substitutes and starch accumulated on such a plant-based breakfast sandwich, the flavor-forward recipes help distract from veganism’s textural challenges. Really, it keeps the thing from tasting like a stack of potatoes and bread.
The Spoiled Vegans menu looks more streamlined than when I first heard about a pop up slinging waffle sandwiches. Hopefully once the pandemic subsides, the cafe will branch out once again for more wide-ranging vegan breakfast and lunch fare. But in the meantime, it does offer the unique Let Go of My Diego: sort of like a corn dog, but with vegan apple sage sausage in a waffle wrapper ($7).
I picked up one of these hashmarked sausages on a stick with a side of the maple mustard. The clash of savory, sweet, and bitter flavors proved memorable, and coupled with a cup of coffee would make an ideal breakfast on the go, say for someone walking to work. Now if only any of us had any place left to go….