A new restaurant opened in San Francisco’s Filipino Cultural Heritage District today, and while its turo turo style should be familiar to fans of that culture’s foods, one aspect of the restaurant might raise eyebrows: Every one of its traditional dishes is completely plant-based.
As the Chron first reported, the spot is called Nick’s on Mission, and it’s an offshoot of South San Francisco’s Nick’s on Grand, which since 2018 has served Filipino favorites, vegan style. Owners Reina Montenegro and Kenny Annis cut meat out of their diets a couple years ago and bought a longstanding Daly City Filipino restaurant called Nick’s Kitchen, which did serve meat, shortly thereafter.
In a 2018 interview with the nonprofit incubator Undiscovered SF, Montenegro said that the business wasn’t a success, and as a last-ditch effort she changed its menu to reflect her vegan diet. The move “literally saved our business,” she said. In fact, it was successful enough that the pair were able to open a second location and, now, expand into SoMa.
Nick’s is part of a recent boom in culturally diverse vegan restaurants in the Bay Area, joining Wildseed (which opened in September), Vegan Mob (opened in October), and S + M Kitchen’s Lion Dance Cafe (mid-2020). (It also joins the Oakland-based caterer and former food truck No Worries in the vegan Filipino sphere.) Unlike most of these other spots, however, Nick’s on Mission won’t offer seating for diners, at least not at first.
Instead, the restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch as a “turo turo” style joint, which Montenegro says is similar to a traditional hofbrau. At least initially, all the items on its steam table — for example, mock pork lumpia, mushroom/tofu sisig, and kaldereta (a goat meat stew that in this case will be goatless) — will be grab-and-go, There’s also a breakfast menu planned, with items like ube pancakes, a tofu scramble, and vegan silogs (breakfast sets that come with garlic rice) also served all day.
Nick’s on Mission is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.