As an East Coast girl, the idea of visiting the West Coast has always fascinated me. My Dad lived in Los Angeles for years, collecting stories of warm waters, diverse people and some of the best food he had ever tasted. When I began packing my bags for the big move to Denver, he assured me that city life would promise excitement and opportunity, and perhaps the most important detail: Good food available at any hour of the day.
Upon moving to Denver, I was determined to try the surprising number of plant based restaurants, a new concept to someone from a small town hosting only an AppleBee’s and a handful of local restaurants including The Proper Pig (Yes, lets cut him open and eat him. How proper). Although I don’t eat out often, I find that when I do, I can’t help but spend far too long staring at the menu like a small child in Toys-R-Us, overwhelmed by the knowledge that I can order anything I want. Before I know it I am signing a forty dollar bill and struggling to walk to the car after polishing off a fancy drink, appetizer, dinner and dessert. Needless to say, this kind of power is not good for any vegan.
As I begin planning my monthly vacations for 2018, I have come to terms with the fact that spending a bit of extra money on gourmet vegan food is worth it after weeks of stuffing my face with the cheap and easy potatoes with salsa. I have tried a few plant based restaurants over the past few months and have decidedly made it one of my goals to eat vegan all over the world. When I spontaneously booked a flight to Los Angeles last week, my thoughts were flooded with fantasies of this delicious Southern Californian food my Dad has been talking about for all of my childhood and knowing that Los Angeles is the hub for vegan hipsters, I was so ready to get a taste of it.
Although I would have loved to eat out at every meal, I packed some food to keep me satisfied until dinner and then began googling vegan restaurants in the area. I came across many places with good reviews, finally answering the growl of my stomach with a place called Cafe Gratitude in Venice Beach. They have a few different locations in California, and if you are ever passing through, (vegan or not) you must try this restaurant.
One thing I know about the plant based community is that they are all about the vibes, and this place definitely caters to that. Since it was my first time eating out alone, I was a bit uneasy walking into the restaurant, reluctantly telling the hostess that there was only one person in my party. And a goddamn party it was. The staff welcomed me onto a heated patio and sat me at a small table with an outlet nearby upon my request. I was introduced to Cafe Gratitude by an adorable man who explained the menu in great detail. “Here at Cafe Gratitude, our guests order with affirmations.” With a quick glance at the menu, I realized that every dish was labeled with a unique adjective. I placed my three course order (because a girl has to spoil herself sometimes) by stating that “I am eclectic, I am liberated and I am awakening.” When my food arrived at the table, the server repeated the affirmations back to me. Additionally, I was offered a friendly question of the day: “Who can you acknowledge?”
The restaurant was decorated with inspirational quotes and unique artwork to keep the aesthetic alive. It was very casual yet had a classy feel with dimmed lights and candles at every table. I felt at peace in this atmosphere surrounded by people stuffing their faces with plants. What could be better?
The waitress was probably getting impatient with my long decision making process but stayed calm and collected (the true job description of anyone who works in a restaurant) as I flipped through the menu and asked for a drink refill fifteen times before ordering. I finally decided on the ole vegan favorite of buffalo Cauliflower followed by some raw kelp noodles in a Thai sauce. I have been making an effort to eat more raw foods lately and was surprised at how tasty and complete the meal was. I am looking forward to testing out some similar raw recipes in the future.
With a mouth full of food I ordered key lime pie for dessert, a rich treat made of avocado with a nutty crust. I am a firm believer in the idea that avocados can be eaten with any meal (even dessert!) and this served as some strong proof for anyone who has their doubts.
Each time I indulge at a vegan restaurant I am pleasantly surprised at the flavorful and filling recipes that can be created with simple plant matter. The vegan diet recieves a bad reputation for being boring and unsatisfying, often by those who have never truly committed themselves to giving it an honest try. I would highly recommend Cafe Gratitide to vegans and non vegans alike who are looking to try something new and different. I promise that the expectations you may have of a small plate of lettuce that leaves you sad and hungry will be greatly exceeded.