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Vegetarian fare that sticks to your ribs.
Like nearly all good suburban cheap eats, BAAGAN is tucked into a strip mall. Baagan also continues the hole-in-the-wall trend of having a menu heavy on milkshakes, burgers and tacos, with hot sauce everywhere and a liberal application of gooey cheese to nearly every dish. But here’s where Baagan (which calls itself a “plant-based grill”) diverges from the pack. That spicy, funky, creamy spread on the burger? That’s cashews and nutritional yeast. The burger bun? Gluten-free. And if you were planning on ordering a side of fries with that? Think again. The go-to side here is kitchari, a curried quinoa, lentil and millet porridge.
Baagan’s menu focuses on fresh, often raw vegetables with a South Asian twist. Its version of a burrito replaces meat with roasted and spiced chickpeas, and sour cream with cilantro jalapeno spread. Another burrito uses cilantro-lime quinoa and chipotle cashew cheese as the protein, and customers can choose between a spinach tortilla, raw seaweed wrap or rice spring roll wrapper. The ostensible star of the menu is the highly soothing prana bowl (hot brown rice, seasonal veggies, cashew sour cream, cilantro and tomato broth), which is one of my favorite cold-weather takeout dinners.
The milkshakes are similarly nutrient-dense: The Peanut Butter Cup is made with almond and toasted sunflower butters and coconut sugar (delicious), and the pecan milk-based Monkey Golden Warrior is a spicy standout with its inclusion of turmeric and cardamom on the ingredients list. I’m a die-hard dairy devotee, but these sweet treats are imminently cravable even without an animal product in sight.
Baagan doesn’t really fool you into thinking you’re eating an authentic Mission burrito or a juicy, meaty burger. But it’s not trying to. Baagan puts colorful, crisp vegetables at the forefront while still delivering on rich flavor and texture through the use of vegan-friendly sauces and spreads. Baagan isn’t exactly everyday food for me, since I still like a grilled cheese (real cow cheese, not nut cheese) more than just about any food. But for a day when you’re looking for the middle of the Venn diagram between healthy and affordable, it’s a sure-fire win.
2620 Sunset Blvd., Rocklin; (916) 824-1688;