Gatherer Sandwichesan all-vegan sandwich shop, has landed on Mission Boulevard where it replaces the shuttered Soulshine cafe.
Owner Jacob Russell started out as a dishwasher at Alvarado Hospital and quickly discovered a talent for hospitality. He then worked in the front and back of the house for restaurants like Denver’s iconic Stream foods and was most recently the manager of Donna Jean at Bankers Hill, one of San Diego’s most popular vegan restaurants.
The idea for picker began in 2016 when Russell started posting photos of his homemade sandwiches on Instagram. Friends assumed it was an upcoming business and he realized they might be onto something. From there, Russell ran a short-lived sandwich program at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters before the project got bogged down.
Fast forward to 2021, when Soulshine owner Amalia Huffman decided to move back to Washington state and hooked up with Russell while looking for a vegan business to take over her breezy brunch cafe. Russell now runs the kitchen while Huffman continues to manage the commercial portion of the space.
This is Russell’s first independent venture. “I’m definitely not a chef and I don’t claim to be,” Russell told Eater. “If I have one skill that got me here, it’s being able to break down the whole of something into components that work well together.”
All sandwiches are served on a large Bread and Co. ciabatta or on gluten-free bread with vegan pesto mayo, onions, tomatoes and lettuce seasoned with oil and vinegar. Sandwiches range from the Persistence Of Mushrooms with a medley of roasted mushrooms, onions and peppers under melted vegan cheese and sliced avocado with banana peppers and olives to the Smiling Swine, Russel’s take on a BLT with vegan bacon thick and avocado.
The Millennial Falcon is also a standout, stacked with roasted chunks of vegan chicken, avocado, sprouts, banana peppers, and Dijon mustard.
Sides include a classic potato salad loaded with fresh dill and finely chopped celery, but the nostalgic favorite is mac salad, a creamy vegan version of the popular Hawaiian-style pasta salad that was ubiquitous in the Russell’s Chula Vista childhood.
Located just steps from the Pacific Ocean, Gatherer makes for a hearty but not heavy beach meal. “I’m just trying to make good food that fills that plant-based void between the nicer high-end restaurants and the burgers and fries movement that’s still going on,” says Russell.