Banh mi tacos at Vital Root.EXPAND
Banh mi tacos at Vital Root.
Linnea Covington

100 Favorite Dishes: Banh Mi Tacos at Vital Root

No. 36: Banh Mi Tacos at Vital Root
When Justin Cucci opened Vital Root in the Berkeley neighborhood this past June, little did we know how hungry the city was for some solid, healthy and innovative vegetarian and vegan fare. Sure, we have other options, but it's been a while since something new and notable came along on the meat-free market. Thank goodness, too, because with Vital Root came banh mi tacos, a revelation in Asian-Mexican-vegetarian fusion. The only question is, why hasn't someone thought of this sooner?

For the protein, each of the two tacos gets smeared with a slightly sweet and savory "pâté" made with edamame and lemongrass-enhanced tofu. From there, corn tortillas are stuffed with classic Vietnamese banh mi accoutrements: cucumber, cilantro, basil, mint, crunchy jalapeño and a tangle of shredded pickled vegetables. Topping it off is a squirt of not-too-spicy sriracha aioli. The result is a wholesome taco that doesn't really taste like a traditional banh mi, but does offer a flavorful crunch, spicy kick and umami richness that can easily satiate any lunch or dinner guest. As a bonus, the tacos come sided with a small batch of yuca fries, which prove perfectly crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Each plate runs $9, a price that's surprisingly low given the restaurant's dedication to organic oils and organic flours. Call for an order of these tacos to go, or eat in the casual dining room (and take advantage of the hydration station with three self-serve taps while you're at it). And if you find yourself at Vital Root for breakfast? Never fear: There's also a banh mi breakfast taco that's virtually the same but substitutes scrambled eggs for the tofu.

Hungry for more? All of the dishes in our 2016 countdown are linked below.

No. 100: Masala Beef at Biju's Little Curry Shop
No. 99: Bacon Shrimp and Grits at Bacon Social House
No. 98: Porchetta and Kimchi Sandwich at Brider
No. 97: Squab-and-Sunchoke Tortellini at Abejas
No. 96: Housemade Burrata at Viand
No. 95: Schweinshaxe at Rhein Haus
No. 94 Kimchi Jeon at Seoul BBQ
No. 93: Zuppa Pomodoro at Parisi Italian Market & Deli
No. 92: The Ocean Salad at Sushi-Rama
No. 91: The Signature Bowl from Churn & Burn
No. 90: Green Chorizo at Los Compadres
No. 89: The Diavola Calzone at Pino's Neighborhood Pizzeria
No. 88: Biscuits and Green Chile at the Noshery
No. 87: Chirashi at Izu Sushi
No. 86: Brisket and Ribs at GQue Championship BBQ
No. 85: The Tornado at the Chowder Room
No. 84: Korean Fried Chicken Wings at Yong Gung
No. 83: A Meatball Hero at Lil' Ricci's New York Pizzeria
No. 82: Shakshuka at Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen
No. 81: Late-Night Ramen at Brazen
No. 80: Potato Tacos at El Tejado
No. 79: Corned Beef Heart at theWay Back
No. 78: The Fried Bologna Sandwich at Snarfburger
No. 77: Sweet Corn Mezzaluna at Bar Dough
No. 76: Duck Confit at Table 6
No. 75: Croque Monsieur at Fire
No. 74: Tahini Cookies at the Preservery
No. 73: The Alferd Packer Salad at MAD Greens
No. 72: The Tuna Poke Bowl at Ohana Island Kitchen
No. 71: Mini Chile Rellenos at La Loma
No. 70: The Combination Banh Mi at Vinh Xuong Bakery
No. 69: The Falafel Waffle at Moxie Eatery
No. 68: Korean Fried Duck Wings at Chow Urban Grill
No. 67:  Spaghetti Alla Carbonara at Spatola
No. 66: The Classic Burger from Skirted Heifer
No. 65: The Chicken Salad Stuffed Avocado at Poppies
No. 64: Super Pass Key Special at Pass Key
No. 63: How the West Was Won at Dozens Restaurant
No. 62: Manzo With Polenta at Spuntino
No. 61: P & S Snack Mix at the Pig & the Sprout
No. 59-60: Sloppers at Gray's Coors Tavern and Diego's
No. 58: Potstickers at Zoe Ma Ma
No. 57: Griddle Cooked Bullfrog at Yum Yum Spice
No. 56: Macaroni and Cheese at Work & Class
No. 55: Lobster, Egg and Caviar Bruschetta at Bar Fausto
No. 54: Orecchiette at Coperta
No. 53: Cheese Steak at Steuben's Food Service
No. 52: PB&B Acai Bowl at ProsperOats
No. 51: Gold Miner's Breakfast at River and Woods
No. 50: Bison Pastrami at To The Wind Bistro
No. 49: Spicy Beef Hot Pot at Bronze Empire
No. 48: Brad's Neo Gyro at Avelina
No. 47: The Egg and Croissant Sandwich at La Fillette Bakery
No. 46: Smoked Brisket Stroganoff Pot Pie From Humble Pie and Kitchen Table
No. 45: Hisbiscus-Flower Tacos at Comal
No. 44: The Juicy Lucy at the Midwestern Saloon
No. 43: Italian combo #2 at Carbone's
No. 42: Huevos Rancheros at Las Potrancas
No. 41: The Roti Taco at Mister Tuna
No. 40: Mile High Nachos at Racines
No. 39: Classic Rooster at Royal Rooster
No. 38: Toomkha Soup at US Thai Cafe
No. 37: Smoked Lamb Shank at Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que

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