Gatherer Sandwiches, an 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 knack for hospitality. He went on to work front and back of house for restaurants like Denver’s iconic Watercourse Foods and was most recently the manager of Donna Jean in Bankers Hill, one of San Diego’s most popular vegan restaurants.
The idea for Gatherer began back 2016 when Russell first began posting photos of his homemade sandwiches to Instagram. Friends assumed it was an upcoming business and he realized that they might be onto something. From there, Russell went on to lead a short-lived sandwich program at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters before the project stalled.
Fast forward to 2021, when Soulshine owner Amalia Huffman decided to move back to Washington state and connected 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 retail portion of the space.
This is Russell’s first independent venture. “I’m definitely no chef and I don’t claim to be,” Russell tells Eater. “If I have any skill that has put me here, it’s being able to break the whole of something down into components that work well together.”
All sandwiches are served on a large Bread and Cie ciabatta or on gluten-free bread with vegan pesto mayo, onions, tomatoes, and oil and vinegar-seasoned lettuce. 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 thick-cut vegan bacon 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 nostalgic favorite is the mac salad, a creamy vegan version of the popular Hawaiian-style pasta salad that was ubiquitous in Russell's’ Chula Vista childhood.
Located steps from the Pacific Ocean, Gatherer makes for a hearty but not heavy beach day meal. “I’m just trying to make good food that is filling this plant-based void between nicer, high-end restaurants and the burger and fries movement that has been going on,” explains Russell.