Calling all vegan and/or gluten-free residents of Berkeley (that’s at least half the city, no?) a new restaurant is opening just for you. Not a place with a few vegan and gluten-free options on the menu, no. A sit-down restaurant where vegan and gluten-free diners can choose anything on the menu without having to ask what’s in it.
Sanctuary Bistro is its name, and it’s opening Friday, Aug. 1. The restaurant is at 1019 Camelia St. in West Berkeley, in the space that held Sushi Banzai for over 20 years. It’s also not far from a spate of development happening on Gilman Street in expectation of the Whole Foods Market under construction between Ninth and 10th streets.
A husband and wife are behind Sanctuary Bistro, Barry Horton and Jennifer Jones Horton. (They have two small children as well, but they won’t be helping out much in the kitchen.) The pair has run Local Love Vegan Catering for the past five years.
Read more about vegan dining in the East Bay on Berkeleyside.
The couple gained enough of a following with Local Love to raise over $25,000 with Kickstarter to help open the new restaurant.
They have intentionally tried to make delicious food that appeals to everyone, not only the vegans in the bunch.
“We did a lot of weddings in which the bride or groom was vegan, but the rest of their community wasn’t,” said Jones Horton. “It’s really important for us that our food is accessible to non-vegans.”
While the catering operation will continue, it will do so now under the Sanctuary Bistro name.
The name not only relates to the Animal Place in Grass Valley, where Sanctuary will donate part of its proceeds, but also to the bistro’s philosophy: “We believe we are a sanctuary for the people eating at the restaurant,” said Jones Horton. “And for the earth because, by eating here, we’re lowering our environmental impact.”
The Hortons first met in Mendocino, working for the Stanford Inn by the Sea, an eco-resort. Horton was a chef for over five years at its restaurant, called Raven’s, and Jones Horton was its event planner.
Given that the Hortons were transitioning to a vegan diet themselves, as executive chef, Horton oversaw the conversion of Raven’s menu from vegetarian to vegan.
And while the Hortons are raising their children vegan, they hope that non-vegans will venture in to try Sanctuary Bistro, too.
“We’re vegan for compassionate reasons, but our compassion extends beyond the animals,” said Jones Horton. “We’re compassionate to our friends and family who make different choices than we do and toward the community as a whole.”
The food will be seasonal, organic and mostly from within 150 miles — much of the produce coming from Dixon’s Eatwell Farm. “I’ll be incorporating flavors from around the world, like Indian, Latin and Italian, but with Californian flair,” said Horton.
Their freezer will be small enough that it can only hold their home-made coconut or cashew-based ice creams, said Horton, and the only canned item they will use is coconut milk. They also will not have a deep-fryer.
A few sample dishes: gluten-free porcini ravioli with mushroom duxelles and braised greens; crispy tofu with a cashew cream-stuffed potato with shitake “bacon”, with a summer squash medley and Dijon drizzle; crispy portobello mushroom with red beans, rice and collards.
One of Horton’s signature desserts is bananas foster (one of the only cases in which he makes an exception for the 150-mile radius) with seasonal ice cream.
While there will always be a few raw items on the menu, like dehydrated flax seed crackers and cashew cheeses, Horton said entirely raw diners can be easily accommodated, if the restaurant is given several days’ notice.
The lunch menu will include such things as a tempeh Reuben sandwich, hearty soups and numerous salads, like grilled vegetable and quinoa.
The brunch menu will include gluten-free waffles and pancakes, a tofu scramble and some items from the lunch menu. There will always be a fresh juice of the day (“We’ll be pushing the kale and carrots,” said Horton), and a smoothie offered at brunch.
They will have two kinds of kombucha on tap, and all wines will be local, vegan and organic. They will serve both gluten-free and regular beer (no gluten-free beer is brewed locally so that will come from elsewhere). Oakland’s Numi Tea will be served, and the coffee will be from Oakland’s Timeless Coffee Roasters and Bakery, a vegan café on Piedmont Avenue.
“We’ll be doing pour-overs to start until we get an espresso machine,” said Horton.
Art by local artists will hang on the walls, and only music by local musicians will be on the soundtrack.
The Hortons plan to donate 5% of all proceeds to an animal sanctuary, and to have monthly dinners in which even more of the proceeds will be donated to a selected animal-rights charity.
Given that Jones Horton taught kids with behavioral issues for many years, education is still a passion of hers. The restaurant hopes eventually to offer cooking classes to the public, as well as internships for teens or other students. Cooking classes followed by meals with a nutritionist are also in the works.
“As we get our feet wet, we want to bring that all here,” said Jones Horton.
While the inside of Sanctuary Bistro has gotten some new bamboo floors and reclaimed wood tables, it still looks very much like the sushi restaurant it was, intentional on the part of the Hortons, to make the smallest possible environmental impact.
“We hope we can always exemplify compassion,” she said. “As people and as a society, that’s where we want it to go, to model that for everybody.”
Sanctuary Bistro, at 1019 Camelia St. in Berkeley, is opening Friday, Aug. 1. Connect with the business on Facebook.
Alix Wall is an Oakland-based personal chef and freelance writer, writing about food and other features for j. weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Area Bites. You can find her at www.theorganicepicure.
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