Wordless Wednesday: Wildly Delicious

Ceviche of King Trumpet Mushrooms; leche de tigre, avocado, mango and seeded chips

Beet Poke; macadamia, baby cucumbers, ponzu, seaweed garlic crackers

Curried Cauliflower; with muhammara and toasted almonds

Mexican Corn Cakes; cherry tomatoes salad, lime, chili and queso

Mezze Plate; falafel, smoked white bean hummus, baba ghanoush, cucumber, marinated feta, pomegranate-tomato and parsley tabouli, seeded flatbread

Neatball Masala; warm super grains, lentil and mushroom neatballs, coconut masala, pickled carrots, tzatziki

Donburi; warm super grains, kimchi, avocado, roasted yam, shiitake mushroom, chard, roasted cauliflower

Peruvian Hodo Soy Tofu Skewer; with King Oysters mushrooms, yam, aji amarillo, quinoa salad, and cucumber yogurt

Impossible Burger; grilled onion, chipotle aioli, tomatoes, gem lettuce

Warm Chocolate Cake; beet and chaga, Gio’s chocolate gelato, coco nibs

2000 Union Street
San Francisco, CA 94123

Front and Center

Pizza parlors are a dime a dozen in any city worth its rent. Sold by the slice or full pie, the combination of crisp, slightly charred blistered crust with gooey cheese, still bubbling from the oven’s scalding hot breath, no one can resist such simple pleasures. Cybelle’s Front Room in San Francisco was founded upon that basic premise, like countless others, but rapidly evolved into an outpost for far more complex, diverse comfort food delights.

Not just catering to the sporadic herbivorous visitor, an entirely vegan menu pulls out all the stops, with old-school Italian-Fusion fare, paying no mind to misguided naysayers. Leave your diet at the door, because this is no rabbit food.

Despite her blisteringly hectic schedule, I had the great fortune of sitting down with chef Christa Yan (in our respective apartments during shelter in place mandates) to get the inside scoop of how this classic red sauce joint transitioned into a meatless dining destination.

Buffalo Chick’n Mac & Cheese

Hannah Kaminsky: When was Cybelle’s Front Room originally established?
Christa Yan: So CyBelle’s Pizza used to be a pizza chain with 28 CyBelle’s Pizza locations throughout the Bay Area. It was one of my dad’s first “real” American jobs when he came here from Hong Kong as a teenager. He worked his way up and became manager of all 28 CyBelle’s Pizza locations. In the early ’90s the entire chain split up and all the stores became independently owned. My dad ended up independently owning one CyBelle’s Pizza location on Parnassus near UCSF here in San Francisco.

In 2004, the original Front Room, where we are now on 9th Avenue, went up for sale by the original owners, who had been running the Front Room since the ’70s. My dad ended up buying it from them and decided to combine the two names and menus, hence CyBelle’s Front Room was born and it’s been this way since 2004. It’s been 16 years now as CyBelle’s Front Room and owned and operated by my parents!

Caesar Salad

HK: When did you start serving a vegan menu?
CY: I started the Vegan Menu in August 2017. It started out as a few simple items. I had just moved back to the Bay after a 10-year stint in Chicago. I didn’t know what the vegan community in SF was like at all. Had no idea it was such a supportive community!

HK: What was the inspiration?
CY: Inspiration was honestly seeing the lack of vegan food in our immediate area in the Inner Sunset District here in San Francisco. I’m a comfort food type of gal. I love eating “naughty” food! I wanted some real naughty vegan food!

Impossible Nacho Fries

HK: How often do you change the menu?
CY: So we do have an 8-page permanent plant-based menu now. It’s grown definitely. We keep adding “specials” pretty much all the time that interchange every month or so. We have a little table menu that we call our mini “specials board” and that’s where we keep all our specials that change all the time, in addition to the 8-page permanent plant-based menu.

Zucchini Noodle Carbonara

HK: How have the vegan dishes been received? Was there any push back from regulars?
CY: No push back from regulars that I can recall right now honestly! I think plant-based comfort food is new to a lot of people who aren’t familiar with faux meats etc. Our regulars that have been coming for 13+ plus years are wowed by everything honestly and they try stuff from the vegan menu all the time!

Chicken Parm

HK: What’s the most popular order?
CY: It’s a tie between the beignets with cookie butter and the mac n cheese pizza right now.

Beignets with Chocolate Sauce and Cookie Butter

HK: Do you have a personal favorite?
CY: My personal favorite is our Vegan Mozz Stuffed Garlic Knots. They are super naughty. Loaded with garlic and butter and olive oil and more garlic and then more butter. Not for the faint of heart. Or anyone on a caloric deficit. But it is right up my alley and it’s been a huge hit.

HK: Is there anything you’re particularly excited about coming soon?
CY: OH YESSSS. We are debuting housemade vegan pepperoni. Working on Vegan Mozzarella sticks as well. Lots of cool vegan pizza combos. More types of different vegan wings as well. Possibly a super crispy ridiculous fried chik’n sandwich. Lots of things in my brain!

Mac & Cheese Calzone

HK: Any other background information or stories you’d like to share?
CY: My parents have been in this business 30+ years now. They are high school sweethearts. They are true San Franciscan locals. They met at George Washington High School here in SF. They compare their love story to The Notebook, it’s ridiculous and sweet and hilarious. I feel lucky to have such a solid support system that came from so much love like that. It’s almost not real but it is.

My father is at the restaurant from open till close, every single day, and has held our family and business together for decades. That to me is the definition of a dedicated father, great husband, honorable businessman. He has helped so many businesses on our block. I could go into detail but he’s so humble about it he doesn’t want me advertising. He came here from Hong Kong as a teenager with very little. This is a true American Dream story.

Cybelle’s Front Room
1385 9th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94122




Dine Out at Home

Jamaican – Brown stew jackfruit, curry, rice and peas, calaloo, hot sauce, and sorrel

Separated by physical distance, against all odds, communities have drawn closer together in the face of extreme adversity. This is how we survive; together, collectively, this is how we win.

Early Spring – Stewed red lentils with berbere, roasted beets with poppyseed dressing, rice pilaf, and potato chowder

Deftly shifting gears from in-person dinner events and cooking lessons, chef Philip Gelb of Sound & Savor began offering takeout and delivery without missing a beat. Now those same world-class meals arrive direct to diners’ doors, with new menus offered twice a week. Critics are raving not just about the food, but the service itself. At a time when the world is shutting down, the fact that such a service can continue without any perceptible decline in quality is a testament to the chef himself.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, hot and sour soup, kung pao cauliflower, garlic choy sum, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chili oil

Generous donors have gone above and beyond the order form to afford those less fortunate with free meals, too, myself now included. Just being able to mark the calendar with the event, looking forward to this gift, has given me a reason endure another interminable, grueling week.⁣

Ital – Roots soup, rice and peas, jerk cauliflower, stewed black eyed peas, sorrel, and oatmeal cookies

Receiving a warm bundle of homemade of Jamaican jerk cauliflower, or fiery Sichuan mapo tofu, or Ital coconut stew is absolutely life-affirming. Nothing lifts the spirits like a staycation in a spoon. Tasting the world without leaving home is a true luxury, especially when you may or may not even find plain dry rice on grocery store shelves.

Cantonese – Tofu with choy sum soup, black bean asparagus, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chocolate chip cookies

No matter the culinary destination, it’s impossible to go wrong with Phil’s food. Pitch-perfect every time, for a comforting dinner at home, with all the finesse of a chef’s touch.

Indian-Jamaican Fusion – Roasted asparagus with cumin, dal, stewed jackfruit, rice and peas, and oatmeal cookies

Fresh menus are posted regularly on Facebook. Don’t check DoorDash or UberEats or GrubHub or whathaveyou; it’s one-stop shopping with dedicated, unaffiliated delivery to Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Danville Alamo. Send Phil an email to give yourself, someone you love, or someone that’s struggling the same delicious gift today.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon and lotus roots

[Almost] Wordless Wednesday: Bet the Ranch

Rancho Compasión provides a home to former farm animals that have been neglected, exploited, and abused. Founded by Miyoko and Michael Schinner, this sanctuary is hidden away in Nicasio, California, surrounded by redwood trees, thriving wildlife, and longstanding farming culture. These efforts are all made possible with the support of compassionate donors. It all began with just two goats, and has since blossomed to provide a place of refuge for over 70 animals, including chickens, pigs, cows, and many more.

Their overall mission is to provide shelter and care for rescued farm animals for their entire natural lifespans, while educating visitors and students to help them rethink how they view animals typically categorized as “food”. Rancho Compasión promotes and advocates for a vegan lifestyle for the animals, for our planet and for our health.

Nybll and Nosh

Food delivery is not only the way of the future, it’s the way of survival, now. Critical on both sides of that equation, consumers and producers alike thrash about in uncharted waters as the tides continue to turn. Safer than risking exposure from shopping and schlepping, getting food direct to doorsteps could save us amidst quarantine constraints. If only it was all so simple, though. Grocery stores are overwhelmed by demand, local chefs can barely keep the lights on, and third party couriers are throttled by ineffective apps. No one was prepared for this abrupt sea change.

Some, however, are nimble enough to raise the sails and correct course at the first sign of trouble. In this case, they’re actually Nybll.

Previously serving corporate clients for in-office catering, “business as usual” was anything but, when work from home orders shut down previously thriving hubs. Quickly shifting gears to reach workers where they live, the focus on individual distribution opened up accessibility to all hungry, home-bound clients.

Spearheaded by Chef Kristen Thibeault, previously head of Kombu Kitchen in San Francisco, considered one of the pioneers of the modern plant-based food movement. Blending world cuisines with ayurvedic, paleo, and macrobiotic tenets, over 150 locally sourced menus reflect a passion for flavor fidelity with nutritionally dense ingredients.

Every bundle of 5, 10, or 20 weekly meals come fully loaded with a vegan option for every entree. Add-ons like soups, salads, and even fresh produce and pantry boxes make this an invaluable resource for one-stop grocery shopping. Prepared dishes arrive individually packed so you can just heat and eat. Easily outshining any comparable complete frozen dinner, it’s the closest the average person will likely come to having their own personal chef.

Larger portions, extra proteins, and side dishes can be added to accommodate all appetites. Soup and salad can help round out any menu, or join forces for a light yet satisfying meal by themselves. This week, Mixed Greens + Beet Salad made it easy to get my greens in, especially when drizzled with a ranch-style dressing flecked with fresh dill. Soulful Tomato Bisque, luxuriously rich and thick, was a shining example of what all dairy-free cream soups should aspire to. Basil, white wine, garlic, and onion meld seamlessly in this downright buttery blend.

Skillfully etched with the flawless char of hot steel, the Lemon Herb Grilled Tofu dazzles with pungent garlic butter saturating its porous surface. Ample portions of Confetti Quinoa + Garlic Sauteed Kale support the starring protein with surprising depth.

It’s tough picking favorites, but the gentle sweetness of the Candied Tempeh, paired with tender Herbed Brown Rice with Garbanzo Beans + Roasted Carrots easily elevated this meal to the top rank. Understated, simple flavors blossom with the gentle touch of a professional, bolstered by the vibrancy of fresh high-quality ingredients.

Injecting a bold touch of intrigue into the mix, the Vegan Meatballs + Roasted Sweet Potatoes defies easy explanation. Coated in a creamy, saffron-spiked sauce, hearty meatless rounds tumble among bites of fennel and skin-on chunks of everyone’s favorite orange tuber. Paired with Grilled Zucchini + Harissa Cauliflower, it’s a spicy, invigorating combination unlike anything else you might be able to order for takeout.

Evoking happy memories of summer picnics, Loaded Vegan Pasta Salad really hit the spot on these unseasonably warm days. Sun-kissed tomatoes drape themselves seductively around penne pasta, broccoli florets, and strips of red bell pepper. For someone craving a taste of the great outdoors, this really nails the experience in a safe, sanitary package to enjoy at home.

It takes a lot for me to get excited about a kale salad, but the Caribbean Superfood Salad + Jerk Mushrooms does just that. Zesty orange dressing brightens the crisp leaves, interspersed with coconut flakes and shredded carrot. A smashed plantain patty adds substance with style, while the slightly spicy, sweet, and smoky cremini are the crowning jewels on this tropical regalia.

Nybll currently serves Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. If your zip code falls within that range, do yourself the kindness of placing an order. Skip the usual takeout fare, give yourself a break from cooking duties, and enjoy the peace of mind knowing that shortages won’t deplete your pantry. Now THAT is true comfort food.

[Almost] Wordless Wednesday: Rocking Out

Thriving in the waterway between the Oakland International Airport and Alameda for over 40 years, the infamous Watermelon rock remains as bright and juicy as ever. Mysteriously maintained and repainted before the colors can ever fade, this beloved slab of concrete is a fixture of the otherwise anonymous stretch of industrial wasteland.

It didn’t begin life as a melon, though. One fateful summer day in the early 80’s, someone called to complain that the quirky painted rock ruined the natural beauty of the shoreline. The park district’s solution wasn’t to remove it, but paint it black instead.

Setting off a chain reaction alongside outrage among artists, shortly after, it morphed into various citrus fruits, from a lemon to an orange wedge, before returning to it’s previous watermelon glory.

Watermelon Rock
Doolittle Dr.
Oakland, CA 94621