If you’ve ever gotten off at the Ashby Bart station (and by â€œgotten offâ€ I mean exited the train, not what the dude in the seat behind you was doing), looked across the street, and wondered what that tiny shack painted with the bright colors of Jamaica is, here’s the answer: one of my favorite vegan restaurants!
And what does â€œItal Calabashâ€ mean? Their menu explains it thus: â€œItal is a way of life. Ital means â€œof the earth,â€ plus organic and free from animal products or artificial ingredients of any kind. Labeled by Rastafarians in Jamaica over 70 years ago, Ital is a Vital way of life.â€ This tiny hole in the wall may not look like more than a few people can fit inside at a time (which may be true), but the atmosphere is homey, the food is awesome, the decoration is rad, and the staff, often in traditional Rasta garb, is super friendly (thankfully for me and my roommates, the proprietors totally like white people, or at least they pretend really well). Ital keeps odd hours and doesn’t have a website, so it feels pretty special when you’re in the right place at the right time. I do know this much: they seem to close pretty early on weekdays and are closed on Saturdays (Rastafarians observe the Sabbath and I always used to go there after my morning garage sale-ing and be super bummed they were closed, plus it made me feel like a bad Jew for forgetting).
Here is a detailed, and hopefully mouth-watering (even to carnivores), description of some of my top picks. They’ve got delicious and affordable $5 â€œburgersâ€ (choice of homemade veggie patty or soya fish/soya chicken, with names like â€œOsho’s Bliss,â€ â€œBuddha’s Queen,â€ â€œNegril Jerk,â€ â€œBBQ Bliss,â€ all with amazing spices and sauces, or order one with â€œthe worksâ€ for an extra $1.25 and get avocado, soy cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce, and sprouts). Then there are the $4 smoothies made of the most decadent ingredients. â€œPure Nicenessâ€ is a combo of peanut or almond butter, banana, nutmeg, cinnamon, dates, and maple syrup, while â€œPiÃ±a Calabashâ€ and â€œJamaica in a Glassâ€ offer more tropical ingredients like pineapple, coconut milk, and papaya.â€ Check out the savory stews, sweet porridges, live seaweed wraps, amazing sweet or salty plantains, fresh ginger drinks, and so much more!
Ital Calabash [across from the Berkeley Ashby Bart Station]
3031 Adeline St. btwn. Emerson St and Essex St.