Sacramento, CA 95811
Mendocino Farms is not the only business in Sacramento that has life-size cattle in front of its store, but it’s the newest. While this sandwich shop, which opened in December 2018 in the Ice Blocks building, does serve the milk and flesh of the real-life counterparts of its blue-and-white “Mendo the Cow” mascot—as well as Mendo’s fowl and swine farmyard compatriots—it sports a vegan section on its menu. And this review is only about the vegan goods.
And the vegan goods, as it turns out, are good.
Mendocino Farms is a fast-casual eatery that started in Los Angeles in the mid-2000s. There are now more than two dozen locations in Southern California and the Bay Area.
Diners order at the counter, where service is friendly, but can be disorganized. The vegan sandwiches are the Vegan Banh Mi ($9.95), Enlightened Falafel Wrap ($9.95) and Mendo’s Smokehouse Tempeh Sandwich ($10.45).
During the first bite of the banh mi, I already decided to come back to order it again. Like all of Mendocino’s sandwiches, the banh mi is panini pressed, and in between the crispy ciabatta shell are cubes of baked tofu, a creamy aioli and classic banh mi fixings—pickled daikon and carrot shreds, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro. The flavors and textures were perfect.
Inside the whole-wheat-tortilla falafel wrap (also pressed), cucumber and pickled red onion add a lilt to the hummus-and-tzatziki-sauce-slathered innards. It’s too bad the falafel wasn’t crispy, though. The tempeh sandwich was the least impressive. The barbecue sauce saturating the tempeh was too sweet, and the tempeh had a plastic-chemical taste. But these sandwiches aren’t the only options for plant munchers here.
The Impossible Taco Salad ($10.95) is a colorful trough of kale, lettuce, red onion, jicama, cilantro and black beans, topped with half an avocado—which is enough to sell it to 95 percent of the vegans I know. Just kidding: It’s 100 percent. Sprinkled in the shreds of greens are taco-seasoned Impossible “meat” crumbles and crispy quinoa, adding prodigious crunch. It comes with the house vegan chipotle ranch dressing, which may have been the dressing that was missing from the La Reina Impossible Burger during one January visit—a seasonal burger for Veganuary. See? So vegan friendly.
But wait, there’s more. The Mama Chen’s Chinese Chicken Salad ($11.45) can be veganized by request, using baked tofu instead of chicken. It was good with its sesame-ginger dressing, but the taco salad was superior. The staff said there are usually two to three vegan sides daily. The potato salad ($3.50 as a side), with red potatoes and just enough vinegar for a pleasant bite, was great. The spicy curried couscous ($3.50) was good, but not amazing. On other visits, cauliflower soup and mushroom soup ($7.50 for a bowl) were on the menu.
Some people say it’s hard to eat out as a vegan. It’s not. More places than ever have plant-based options, but not all of them warrant another taste. Mendocino Farms makes it easier not just by having vegan offerings, but making them full of flavor and texture, so that herbivores (and non-militant meat eaters) will return for another bite.