I’m a proud meat eater, but I’ve always embraced vegetarian alternatives, if for no other reason than their earth-friendliness. Years ago, that commonly meant sacrificing flavor and heartiness, but thanks to a stunning culinary evolution over the past decade, today’s vegetarian cuisine presents the modern diner with amazingly delicious and stomach-filling options.
My most recent exhibit in this argument is the Street Taco at Mesa Verde on Cliff Drive. Served atop two freshly handmade, relatively thick tortillas are dueling heaps of chorizo-ized jackfruit. The exotic, originally Southeast-Asian fruit’s flesh is shredded chicken’s doppelgänger in appearance — I was within seconds of asking whether it was indeed chicken — with similarities in texture and flavor not far behind. This succulent “meat” is decorated with blueberry chipotle salsa, cacao-enhanced black beans, caramelized onions, heirloom tomatoes, a rainbow of radishes, sumac, and a somewhat pickled jalapeño-onion slaw, altogether hitting the sweet, spicy, sour, and savory notes required of a complete dish, meatless or otherwise. As for portions, if anything, these things are too big, proving a bit messy if you try to eat with hands alone.
I washed the tacos down with a cold-brewed yerba maté and then was offered a sample of their signature dessert: baklava with vanilla ice cream, pistachio, and a tangy pomegranate molasses. My gut was already bursting, but I managed to take it down like a professional.
$12, 1919 Cliff Drive, (805) 963-4474, mesaverderestaurant.com