Encuentro Cafe and Wine Bar

East Bay, California

4.1 / 4 votes

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Vegetarian enoteca from the chef at Millennium

Restaurant, Coffee/Tea/Juice, Bar

From the website: "Encuentro means 'to meet, gather, encounter' and encuentro will embody exactly that – a neighborhood wine bar and café featuring an eclectic mix of organic/sustainable wines from small, local and old world vintners. Our menu will highlight simple, flavorful, organic and local, vegetarian cuisine in the style of enotecas and tapas bars including bocadillos, hearty salads, small plates, artisanal chocolates and sweets utilizing seasonal and market driven ingredients. In addition to an extensive wine menu, we will serve small brewery beers, organic teas, coffee, and artisanal non-alcoholic beverages.

"Small tables and cozy bench seating further emphasizes an intimate atmosphere to linger over wine and conversation."

Added by conde.kedar on Nov 8 09 (last updated Aug 18 12)

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Most Recent Reviews

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Encuentro is one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in the Bay Area. But having been there 2-3 times, I must caution any first-timer that your experience will vary a lot depending on what you order. Everyone should order the small plate that has "Marinated mushrooms with smoked pecan pate, cornichon, house made prune chutney, mustard and crisp crostini". The combination of flavors is exquisite. The first time my wife and I tried it, we were rocking back and forth for several seconds with our eyes closed, making "Mmmm" noises.

The kale salad or mixed greens are very good, though not as sensational as the small plate described above. The entrees and desserts change over time, so I don't have any specific recommendations, and your luck with them may vary. For example, one time I tried their vegan chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and it was marvelous. The second time I tried it, or something that looked and sounded very similar, it had a somewhat chalky and dry taste.

If you're vegan, any of the dishes involving cheese can be made with macadamia- or cashew-based "cheese". The wines are pretty good too, but I didn't investigate whether they are vegan -- I assume most wines have animal products somewhere in their manufacturing process.

Image for conde.kedar

rating star

I had high hopes for Encuentro as, quite frankly, I find the vegan food in the Bay Area to be woefully mediocre. Millennium is at best competent, Gracias Madre is a dud, Gather is lame, and I'm sick of all the repetitive mockmeat Asian joints (which comprise probably 50% of the vegan food in the Bay).

Sadly, Encuentro basically failed me. The menu is mostly vegan but there are some cheese dishes. Most of the tapas options seemed to basic to warrant my interest (olive plates and the like), so I went straight for an entree.

For my main course I got a sundried tomato pastry with navy beans (~$15). The dish took a while to prepare and had numerous flaws. The dish is presented as the phyllo pastry sitting atop a bowl of navy beans. Problem #1: the taste of the navy beans (which were seasoned with lemon) did not mix at all with the blandness of the pastry. Problem #2: the navy beans were overly acidic; they must have dumped a whole lemon's worth of juice into this tiny bowl, because that stuff was excessively tart. Problem #3: the pastry itself was bland and unmemorable. Where were the seasonings? The dish tasted more like a thin egg roll wrapper stuffed with unseasoned tomatoes and tofu ricotta.

For dessert I got a piece of the tiramisu ($7). You don't seen vegan tiramisu often and so I order it whenever I can. What they presented me was not tiramisu. It was more like a chocolate chip blondie bar with layers.

Don't get me wrong: the dessert tasted great. But it didn't even bother to try to replicate the look and feel of tiramisu. No ladyfingers. No cocoa powder (instead they used actual chocolate chips---what a mistake).

Worst yet, the dish was sloppily presented. For an upscale restaurant, Encuentro seemed negligent and imprecise by serving me a dish that had already slid into a big mush on the plate by the time it arrived at my table. Shame on you, Encuentro.

These types of mistakes---sloppy presentation, imbalanced flavors, disregard for tradition---are precisely the type of things that make omnivores dismiss vegan and vegetarian food. As such, I think Encuentro is doing a disservice to not only the veg. community, but anyone who loves food in general.

I'm giving them two stars because I liked the friendly service and the interesting concept (vegetarian tapas). But, on a whole, Encuentro did nothing to shake my opinion that the Bay Area falls short on quality vegan food; all it did was reinforce my opinion.

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On the corner of 2nd and Jackson.



$$$ - expensive


  • American
  • Mediterranean


  • (Mostly) Organic
  • Quiet


Stone fruit bruschetta

Stone fruit bruschetta

Rosemary-orange caesar salad Vegan cheese platter


5:30pm - 10pm
5:30pm - 11pm

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