Restaurant Review:You say you want an Evolution?

On any given corner of the San Diego metropolitan area, one can find an assault of restaurants that offer coma-inducing portions of surf and turf, or tormentingly sweet indulgences that leave some repenting upon the scale.

However, tucked away near the Hillcrest area at Fifth Avenue and Quince Street, one block west of Balboa Park, is Evolution, a guiltless, vegan drive-thru joint which serves up delicacies that San Diegans practicing even the most meat-centric diet can appreciate.

The phrase “Feel Good Fast Food” gets top billing on Evolution’s website, www.evolutionfastfood.com. The website says the cuisine is “100% plant-based and cholesterol-free” and describes the staff’s penchant for “fresh, local ingredients, making it their goal to provide their customers with a convenient, healthy and delicious vegan alternative to typical fast food.”

In an attempt to reduce their carbon footprint, Evolution also notes that most of its to-go containers are biodegradable and the deep fryer oil is repurposed for their local bike delivery service.

It gets better: all extra food at the end of the day goes to Rachel’s Women’s Center, a homeless shelter Downtown. This is fast food with a heightened respect for all walks of life in San Diego.

Vegan eating can be daunting and – let’s face facts -unappealing for those who are used to scarfing bacon with every meal including dessert.

Inside a walkway that leads to an outdoor eating area, Evolution provides its customers with a billboard listing an extensive glossary that defines everything from exotic-sounding, fake-out “meats” like Textured Vegetable Protein – ever wonder why Bac-o’s are considered vegan? – to different types of organic grains and flours.

I live in a divided household. I am the vegetarian/on-again-off-again vegan, and my husband is the omnivore – albeit an adventurous one.

We stepped up to the open-air counter inside Evolution and gave our order to a dreadlocked gentleman. He was polite and patient as I stood drooling over a menu that for me held no restrictions.

We ordered a bacon cheeseburger, raw burger, buffalo chicken tenders, and a piece of their vanilla bean cheesecake.

The bacon cheeseburger was adorned with melted cashew cheese, lettuce, thick slices of tomato, red onion, pickles, Veganaise, mustard, and tempeh “bacon,” all sandwiched between a sprouted whole-grain wheat bun – a harmonious variation on a classic theme.

The burger patty itself was flavorful, but I was little more than impressed with the quality.

I had high hopes of a toothsome, hand-formed patty, but was instead greeted with a Boca Burger whose journey from the box to the grill was not quite worth the effort. For those of you with similar expectations, I recommend the bacon cheeseburger, minus the burger.

The stars of the meal were without a doubt the raw burger and buffalo chicken tenders. The buffalo sauce was tangy, and once the heat subsided, a beautiful note of butter settled about the tongue.

The chicken was seasoned, breaded and fried seitan (also known as wheat meat), and had an identical texture to white-meat chicken. Evolution paired them with their version of ranch dressing and barbecue sauce, which were brilliantly light and flavorful.

Then there was the raw burger-an odd-looking ball of perfectly seasoned grains and seeds, raw red onion, and creamy cashew cheese, entombed in two nappa cabbage leaves. After devouring this burger in mere minutes, this magnificent offering has left my husband, steak-lover that he is, craving it every other day.

With each bite the flavors and textures mingle together in a salty, savory, creamy, crunchy, am-I-dreaming-don’t-wake-me kind of deliciousness that will haunt you until your next trip there. The cheesecake ended our meal, soothing the lingering burn from the tenders.

Although a bit heavy, the small hints of citrus in the cream helped to clean and sate the palette.

So forget the treadmill, and indulge in fast food from an organization bent on making a difference.

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Evolution
2965 Fifth Avenue

Sun-Thu: 11am-8pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-9pm

drive-through open
11am-9pm every day

For more information, check out
evolutionfastfood.com
or call 619-550-1818