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I thought I would try something a little different tonight and review a local restaurant – Jyoti Bihanga, found at the corner of Adams Avenue and Felton in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego.

Photo courtesy of The Examiner

Owned and operated by students of spiritual master Sri Chinmoy, the restaurant includes a shrine in his honor and his artwork on the walls. There are information cards about Sri Chinmoy on each table, but there is no proselytizing or recruitment going on – (though I am sure staff members would be happy to engage in a conversation about philosophy should you choose to initiate one). The ambience is casual, bright and clean, done in a palette of blue and white with cheerful yellow table coverings.  Service was quick and friendly.  If you’re a late dinner eater, keep in mind that Jyoti Bihanga is only open until 9 p.m.  They aren’t open every Sunday, but the menu states they serve a breakfast buffet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. “2 to 3 Sundays a month.”

Now on to the food!

Not everything at Jyoti Bihanga is vegan – just vegetarian – but you’ll find an excellent selection of vegan items and lots of items that can be easily modified to vegan.  Lots of salads, topped baked potatoes and yummy desserts appear on the menu, and daily specials of soup, desserts and teas are listed behind the counter if you’re looking for even more options.

My husband ordered the PLB (Peace, Light & Bliss) Burger and I ordered the “Neatloaf” sandwich with sautéed mushrooms & onions.  Both came with mashed potatoes and gravy. We both had iced tea: hibiscus-mint for me and peach for him.

The Neatloaf was fresh, flavorful and had great textural appeal.  It came on a lovely sprouted, 9-grain bread and was finished with tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts and a tasty bbq-like sauce made of tofu and tamari.  A Neatloaf entrée is also offered and, in retrospect, I should have ordered that instead. Not that my sandwich wasn’t delicious, but the bread made it quite heavy and I ended up pushing the bread to the side and eating only the sandwich filling.

My husband’s PLB burger had a nice, slightly spicy, bean flavor (I took a bite) and held together nicely.  It came topped with tomato, lettuce and sprouts on a hearty wheat roll. Now if you’re looking for entrées that taste like meat, you’ve come to the wrong place.  If you’re like us, however, and enjoy grain loafs that taste of the grains and vegetables from which they’re made, you’ll be a happy camper.

Last, but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I did not clue you into the joy that is Jyoti Bihanga’s mashed potatoes with gravy. Dense, mashed (not whipped) potatoes with a silky mushroom gravy to rival any gravy I have had – vegan or otherwise.  I could order a bowlful of that gravy and call it a day.  When ordering a sandwich, you have the option of substituting a salad for the mashed potatoes, but somehow I don’t see that in my future.

Overall, we had a great experience at Jyoti Bihanga and look forward to returning and sampling more of their fresh vegan fare.