I’ve been reading about Cafe Gratitude for awhile now. I was a victim of second-hand excitement when the second outpost of this San Francisco eatery opened on Los Angeles’ Larchmont Boulevard and people’s enthusiasm reached a fever pitch. I listened to people rave about the food. I read about the famous people that can often be seen dining there. But I’d go to their website, look at the menu and lose all interest. Every single item on the menu is named I AM _______. Like, I AM GORGEOUS. I AM MYSTICAL. I AM TRANSCENDING. I AM ABOUT TO SHOVE THIS FORK IN MY RIGHT EYE. I couldn’t do it. I can’t stand that dirty fucking hippy shit, no matter how delicious their shit may be.
Yesterday, I had to pick a spot to have lunch with a friend coming from the other side of the LAiverse, who is gluten, dairy and sugar free, and it seemed like this just might be the time to give Gratitude a try. Everything is organic, everything is vegan, and almost everything is gluten-free, or can be made so.
If you can overlook the inspirational messages placed on everything (successories for restaurants), down to the water carafes, the place is nice. It’s modern, airy design is welcoming and pleasant. If you can overlook the scene going on in there, then you might need to get your eyes checked. I had lunch with Aaron Paul from TeeVee’s Breaking Bad, Carey Mulligan from half the movies out right now, the first vegan chef to win a Food Network challenge Chloe Coscarelli, and a woman who looked too much like Snooki to not be Snooki. As my friend so astutely pointed out, it’s not that often that you feel like you live in “L.A.” — this was definitely one of those times.
After a lot of “Seriously?!”s, head shaking, and sighs of disapproval over the menu, here’s what we ate:
I had the I AM EXTRAORDINARY, or, as I ordered it, the BLT, mainly because I was super curious about their coconut bacon. My friend got LIBERATED aka raw pesto pasta with kelp noodles.
The food is way better than the gimmicky names make it sound. My sandwich was delicious; the toasted panini was big and crunchy and the spicy cashew aioli, crispy chipotle-maple coconut, romaine lettuce, tomato and avocado were a perfect blend of flavors. The spicy and the chipotle really came through more than anything, and the coconut bacon was crunchy, a trait most vegan BLTs are missing, with the coconut flavor only coming through as an afterthought. The side salad was reminiscent of the one at Urth Caffe, though missing the tomatoes and nuts, which really makes it.
The pesto was also really great. The kelp noodles, which sounded gross, were not kelpy at all. There were fresh roma tomatoes, Kalmata olives, spinach and Brazil nut parmesan sprinkled on top. It was creamy and flavorful, and didn’t taste uncooked, just cold, like sesame noodles at an asian restaurant.
We were both tempted by the dessert menu, and again, my friend was braver than me,
ordering the Key Lime Torte (I Am Awakening), a “creamy avocado-lime custard topped with whipped cream on a pecan butter crust,” and I had a scoop of vanilla coconut and cashew milk ice cream with caramel sauce, called I AM PRAISING VANILLA ICE CREAM, but isn’t. The Key lime torte was way better than I expected, though bitter, as I find most avocado based desserts to be. The ice cream was OK, though not a convincing Ice Cream replica. It was gritty and tasted like it was made from coconut milk, cashew milk and ice, with a drop of vanilla. The caramel sauce was a nice treat for a vegan person to be able to order, and I’m glad I did, it was the highlight of the bowl.
Not to sound ungrateful, but it’s a shame the food was so good, cause now I want to eat there regularly, despite the atrocious name game, affirmation based art work, and celeb-studded clientele. If you are in the middle of L.A. and want all the hippy-dom of Venice Beach multiplied by Berkeley plus the star power of Hollywood while you eat vegan food, put this place on your list.