Way Out Wong

Haight Street's Veganburg—A Surprising Success

Our roving reporter pokes around the Haight

I am a lifelong meat-eater. I can devour hot dogs, burgers, steaks, burritos, tacos, chicken, fish or any combination without a second burp. The thought of vegan dishes always conjured images of scowling over a bowl of salad, long stems of celery, and dry tasteless bread. Vegan dishes were always dismissed as a serious alternative food choice while I continually gorged on traditional meals full of protein, starch, and a smattering of greens.

That being said, I have recently become more and more aware of how my diet directly ties into many of our planet's sustainability problems, and how it relates to our diminishing natural resources. Simply changing my eating habits away from the traditional meals full of farmed animal livestock can greatly reduce and even minimize the footprint that I will leave behind in this beautiful world. But as a lifelong meat-eater, I know this is a very difficult choice, but does it still have to be a difficult one to make nowadays? Fortunately, to my pleasant surprise, the vegan food scene has transformed these past few years and I recently got an opportunity to revisit one scene to see what has actually changed. A good friend recommended this rather newish joint called Veganburg in the heart of the Haight here in San Francisco. Veganburg is a Singaporean food chain founded in 2010 and they claim to be the very first 100% plant-based burger joint in the world.

Honestly, two bites into it I almost forgot to question whether I was eating a vegan burger or not. Coming from a Burger King background, I must say that Veganburg exceeded my expectations."

First impression? The place was spacious, clean, and modern. Luckily, it was not too busy so I was able to poke around without an elbow in my kidney. A very nice young lady named Grady was working as cashier. She patiently explained the many different selections on the menu. The smoky bbq burger with bacon, a mango lemonade and the seaweed fries won the day. You're given a Veganburg token that flashes once your order is ready, and within about five minutes the token flashed and off I went to retrieve my meal.

The customer line moved rather quickly, once I decided which burger to choose

After the first few bites I could tell the artisan buns were fresh and still warm from cooking in the oven. I also liked that they did not skimp on my seaweed fries, which had a great combination of a crispy exterior along with a soft interior that made me nod my head in approval with every bite. The most important thing for me was going to be the patty, which Veganburg says they make with a combination of soy and mushrooms. Mine was covered in layers of onion, fresh lettuce, and slices of tomato with a very savory sauce that has a smoky flavor. Honestly, two bites into it I almost forgot to question whether I was eating a vegan burger or not. Coming from a Burger King background, I must say that Veganburg exceeded my expectations. Unsurprisingly, the texture of the patty was not like our local Nation's Giant Hamburgers over in Daly City. But truthfully, not many burger joints can compare favorably against Nation's, vegan or not. Disappointingly, the bacon in my burger was just a little too dry and crunchy for me. That was very surprising because I've always believed that everything is better with some bacon. And the only thing that I can say about my small mango lemonade drink is that next time I will need to order the large mango lemonade drink. Or pay the extra $1 for a refill.

A clean, modern restroom — a rarity in the Haight
Finally, the price of the entire meal cost me a total bill of $16.35, which included the gratuity charge. Personally, I was expecting a sticker shock so I will not hold this against them too much, but this is a bit steep for a lunch that is almost 30% more expensive for something similar that can be found at a non-vegan joint like another local burger spot, Tony's Cable Car Restaurant, located on Geary Boulevard. This cost factor may be a hurdle too high for some who may want to consider changing to a vegan diet. But even so, I would have to say that Veganburg has removed many of my previous negative impressions about vegan food. As a viable alternative food choice, possibly as our primary food choice, the discussion is likely to escalate.

The idea of going on a vegan or vegetarian diet permanently doesn't seem radical anymore. Although improvements are still needed, pioneering places such as Veganburg are sure to play an important role in that transitional gap for so many of us that are still deciding on changing our diet and lifestyles for a better future.

If you are interested in giving Veganburg a try, it's at 1466 Haight Street - (415) 548-8000 you will find more helpful information from their website at www.veganburg.

Henry Wong is a San Francisco writer living way out on the westside.

October 2017

Business Corner

Sold on PlayhavenSF

A very new and promising indoor children play space and learning center is now available to parents seeking a fun and educational experience for their kids, aptly called playhavensf. It recently opened its doors for the first time early in October in the Forest Hill area and is a great alternative for parents here in the City.



… at 254 Laguna Honda Blvd., just around the corner and down the block from the Forest Hill BART station. There is also lots of free parking for those drivers that would rather not circle these city blocks like a predatory falcon when delivering or picking up the kids.”

play haven interiorPlayhavensf was created by San Francisco resident Sheryl Tecson, a preschool teacher with 12 years experience and a mother of two daughters of her own. Playhavensf is also co-owned and operated by her husband, Daniel, who tells me that he handles more of the marketing stuff for the business. They told us at the Westside Observer that they have dreamed of opening a children’s learning center to create a gathering place for families where children’s open-ended play is valued. They will provide a variety of children’s enrichment classes, and even a separate workspace and lounge for the parents to relax and enjoy some free time together. Since opening their doors they have been constantly retooling to meet the needs of families. Their continual efforts and hard work have not gone unnoticed by the families, who have responded with an outpouring of appreciation and support which encourages them even further. Their dedication is repaid when families tend to linger around together with happy smiles well beyond closing time.play haven interior

In order for all of this to become reality, they realized that they needed an environment that inspires youthful imagination, along with extended playtime to give the kids a carefree childhood experience. So when they were searching for a good location and found this secluded area in the Forest Hill neighborhood, they felt it was a perfect fit for fulfilling this dream. Once they saw the play area in the back of the site, Daniel mentioned to Sheryl that it resembles a “haven” hidden within this concrete jungle of a city. Hence, the moniker ‘Playhavensf’ was born.

Their website, playhavensf.com, gives you some more details and general information about their location and services, as well as descriptions of the physical activities, staff, academics, and even a daily schedule. They have an art studio, sensory activities, imaginative games, dramatic play areas, and even a rock-climbing wall. playhavensf will also have a fully-equipped kitchen with microwave, refrigerator, toaster oven, tea and coffee.

And, of course, there are always the costs to think about. Playhavensf has daily rates of $12.00 and unlimited monthly memberships for $79.00. Compare that with other learning centers like Kumon, which charges something over $100.00 for a monthly membership. Aside from all the activities they provide for the family, playhavensf will also have free WIFI throughout the center, and even has a private party room which can accommodate up to 35 people for special occasions. In another area of the learning center, they will also feature an outdoor patio for the kids and parents to cool off from all the creative adrenaline and mental gymnastics.

play haven schoolSo for parents who are interested, Playhavensf is centrally located at 254 Laguna Honda Blvd., just around the corner and down the block from the Forest Hill BART station. There is also lots of free parking for those drivers that would rather not circle these city blocks like a predatory falcon when delivering or picking up the kids.

Playhavensf owners, Sheryl & Daniel Tecson, have embarked on a very idealistic approach that seems to resonate with their many clients. They seem to be very genuine with their passion and they are certainly motivated for all the right reasons. They have spent a considerable amount of personal time and resources to build a nice foundation to start a dream from scratch and I am really excited to see them succeed with playhavensf in the near future.

Henry Wong is a freelance reporter and a father living on the Westside.

November 2015


Ilove to eat breakfast. I can literally have breakfast morning, noon and night. Sweet syrup slowly dripping over some warm waffles, eggs in every shape or form, sausages & bacon, potatoes, fries, crispy slices of buttered toast, muffins with jam sauce, corned beef hash and then some more fries. So now that I got that out of the way let me just say how happy I was when a friend of mine recommended that I look at a relatively new eatery recently launched in this town simply called Toast.

Happy wife equals happy life. So far so good.”

We all know how lucky it is to live here in San Francisco where we are in the middle of one of the world’s major hubs for eating enthusiasts and purveyors of fine cuisine. Within these 49 square blocks you have your choice of menus that can run the gamut from Mexican, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, French & Indian. And that’s not even mentioning the explosion of food trucks of every stripe & color. But back to this new eatery, Toast, which is giving a big nod to the simple idea that breakfast is not just for breakfast time and that is just my kind of meal ticket.

scramblerSo on a lazy Sunday morning I take my family and make our way over to the Toast Eatery located in the West Portal neighborhood that was previously occupied by Village Grill. It’s about noon so the place is crowded with lunch goers, but luckily our wait was less than the anticipated 15 minutes. I want to also mention that the staff was very attentive and helpful without being too intrusive. My wife ordered a hot cup of hand-poured coffee with the toast scrambler, which consisted of crispy portions of bacon, chicken-apple sausages with lots of tasty mushrooms and onions covered with melted cheddar. She later mentions to me that the hand-poured coffee had a fresh nutty flavor and how it paired well with her meal. Overall, she felt the hint of apples struck a good balance with the bacon and cheddar. Happy wife equals happy life. So far so good.

pancakesWe ordered the buttermilk pancakes for my daughter, Penny. I was fortunate (sneaky) enough to sample a bite of her meal before she devoured both stacks by herself. I was pleasantly surprised to find the buttermilk pancakes to be fluffy without being too dry and how nice it went with my dulce de leche latte. Or, as my wife calls it, the dulce “delish” latte.

And for myself, along with the dulce “delish” latte, I ordered the corned beef hash with a pair of English muffins and scrambled eggs. With the first bite I felt that the crust on the hash browns had a nice firm texture blending with a warm soft center. The corned beef had a very fresh taste and was layered with copious amounts of onions and potatoes. Another thing I notice and appreciate is that the strips of corn beef were very juicy and flavorful, but not compromised with too much salt. Although I felt that the scrambled eggs could have used some more time on the pan, the whole meal was both very satisfying to my palate and fulfilling to my tummy. Soon after a comfortable silence my wife and daughter were completely done with their meals and I followed shortly by washing down the last bite with my fancy latte.latte

Ultimately, I found that our meals were well prepared and nicely presented, which is indicative to me that the Toast Eatery staff pays attention to small details. The obligatory visit to the large clean restroom provided me with more evidence that Toast is deserving of a return visit. I really like that the wash sink is separately located in the foyer leading to the private restroom in the back of the restaurant.

So if you also like the idea of eating breakfast morning, noon or night, then give Toast a try. They currently have three other locations right here in San Francisco and each with a different vibe of its own.

hashBrowns-scrambled1601 Polk Street


1748 Church Street


3991 24th Street


160 West Portal Avenue


Henry Wong is a life-long San Franciscan living on the Westside.

July-August 2015

Swingout or Breakaway—the Lindy is Back!

lindy dancers in Golden Gate Park
Photos: Nenita Quijano

As a lifelong San Franciscan I am very fond of the many different things to do around just about any corner in this lively city, whether it’s eating, sightseeing, shopping or just people watching.

Living just a block from the Golden Gate Park, it had become a routine for me and my two daughters to ride our bikes every Saturday morning along JFK Boulevard. Sundays were usually reserved for Penny’s swim classes and Chloe’s soccer games. But recently the schedules changed and our bike routine switched to Sunday mornings instead. As it turned out, this change was ideal for us since many of the streets are closed in the park to traffic on Sundays, allowing people to go everywhere safely, walking, talking and enjoying all the sights.

…in no time my two girls were off their bikes and began mimicking the dancers by holding hands and swinging, jumping and swirling in circles. I soon caught myself tapping my feet and nodding my head…”

On one particular beautiful Sunday riding through the park we suddenly hear the sound of laughter and music drifting among the trees. The sound blends together with the carefree setting so naturally that it draws us closer to investigate. Just down the road heading west from the entrance to the Academy of Sciences we see a group of about 80 people twirling, swinging and bouncing to the rhythm of the music playing from the nearby loud speakers. Many of the dancers are holding hands with their feet tapping and arms swinging in tune with one another, while others were content to dance with no one in particular. The scene is complete with spectators, watching and commenting among a growing crowd of visitors and local residents. Lindy in the Park

I pull up closer to watch with both my girls and we are amazed at the excitement and apparent joy of the dancers as they skipped along with the beat. The dancers were a mix of young and the not so young. Although some dancers were obviously more skilled than others, they were all definitely having a great time, and to my untrained eyes somehow able to coexist in a choreographed type of confusion. I have seen many different things in San Francisco, but this was the first time I had witnessed Lindy in the Park.More Lindy in the Park

According to their website, Lindy in the Park (LitP) was started in August of 1996 by Chad Kubo and Ken Watanabe, and is the longest running swing dance venue in San Francisco having recently celebrated their 19th year running on April 27, 2015. They are a group of volunteers that host free outdoor swing dance every Sunday 11:00am-2:00pm, and even have free beginner lessons that start at 12 pm-12:30 pm taught by LitP member Hep Jen. The schedule seems to be the only rule, and the only exception to that rule is rain or inclement weather. LitP is inspired by an amazingly energetic dance called Lindy Hop, an American dance that originated in Harlem, New York City, in the 1920s and 1930s and was heavily influenced by the jazz music of that time. It was very popular during the Swing era of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Lindy Hop is sometimes referred to as a street dance, referring to its improvisational and social nature.

The music is very catchy and in no time my two girls were off their bikes and began mimicking the dancers by holding hands and swinging, jumping and swirling in circles. I soon caught myself tapping my feet and nodding my head, so lost in the camaraderie and excitement that I almost forgot to get the girls home in time for lunch. In a city with so much to discover it was a delight to come across Lindy in the Park, which evokes a different time and era, yet is obviously still very relevant to many that appreciate it today. Since that Sunday we always try to find time during our bike rides to stop by Lindy in the Park to take in the spectacle of inspiration that seems to materialize from out of nowhere to capture our attention and imagination.

And for those that can’t get enough, there is even Lindy on Thursday nights at the 920 Special; Tuesdays at Swing Central (with a live band); Friday Swing & Lindy Hop Classes at UCSF Millberry Center with Hep Jen; and with LitP co-founder Chad Kubo on Saturdays at the Doghouse.

Henry Wong is a life-long San Franciscan living on the Westside.

June 2015