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Restaurateurs draw on the history of the African diaspora to create menus that draw crowds – without judgment

It’s just before noon, and there’s already a line forming outside one of the old Kwik Way burger shops not far from Oakland’s Lake Merritt. But people aren’t lining up for burgers – they’re ordering garlic noodles with lumpia, barbecue brisket plates with smackaroni and shrimp po’boy sandwiches – all made by Vegan Mob, a restaurant that’s dishing up recipes that mimic the flavors of BBQ and soul food without a trace of animal products.

Just about a mile away at Malibu’s Burgers, creamy milkshakes made with cassava ice cream and In-N-Out-inspired burgers on butter-free brioche buns are top sellers. Owner Darren Preston’s newest special is the Winnipesaukee: fried Good Catch fishless filets with mashed peas, French fries and dairy-free tartar sauce.

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