Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

R: Two steps into Stuff I Eat, an all vegan restaurant, and we knew we were going to have a unique dining experience. Owner Babette Davis had never met us before, yet greeted us with a great big smile, chatty conversation, and an enthusiastic hug that made us feel we were one big family.

Stuff I Eat Z: Her friendly husband and partner, Rondal, escorted us, along with our friends Eric and Diana, to the table where two more friends, Kedar and Ryan, were waiting. Rondal's enthusiasm was apparent as he explained the menu and mentioned that first-time visitors were entitled a sample size of one of their very unique tacos.

R: We became so engrossed with the restaurant's avant-garde ambience, the menu had to wait until we could concentrate on its offerings. To the right of the entrance, set apart from the restaurant, was a cozy niche that looked like a homey living room with two upholstered comfy chairs, a coffee table, plants, and attractive wall décor. Babette wanted a warm, inviting place in the restaurant where people could just meet and chat before or after eating. She called it the "talking corner."

Z: The restaurant is a long, spacious room with a cavernous ceiling, earth-hued terra cotta floors, and overhead fans that kept the air pleasantly fresh. Bright white and light ocher walls suggested a clean fresh look to the new eatery that was opened in early July 2008. Soft, eclectic music and lively conversation quickly filled the room. My gaze kept roaming to the left wall where, standing very tall against the yellow clay-colored wall were three giant upholstered Alice-in-Wonderland chairs with backs so high they reached halfway to the ceiling. Against the soft backdrop, the two green chairs flanked the most unusual chair. Bright tangerine with wide arms, it was designed with an ultra-tall back that narrowed at the top and looped over the front into a point well above anyone seated. Somehow, the intrigue of this chair kept my eyes reflecting back again and again.

R: Finally ready for food, we ordered quesadillas, tacos, and sandwiches, thinking we would encounter the familiar flavors we were accustomed to connecting with these items. But we were in for a welcome surprise. Babette and Rondal are two very creative vegans who take pride in thinking outside the box.

Stuff I Eat Z: They've taken the simple quesadilla to new heights by embellishing it with a bountiful rainbow of colors from Mother Nature's palette of fresh veggies. Presented on a large, square white platter, the Kilimanjaro Quesadilla was an artisinal composition so attractive we took several photos of it before plunging in to share it.

R: Can the description of this stunning dish do the presentation justice? You decide. We were dazzled by the array of color that offered both dramatic contrast and bright accents. At the base of the dish, hidden beneath the vast array of toppings, was the flour tortilla stuffed with vegan cheddar cheese and a tasty savory sauce. Blended into the heaping portion of baby lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, and minced kale salad that blanketed the quesadilla were perfectly cooked wild rice, seasoned tofu, minced Portobello mushrooms, diced jerk tofu, and diced sautéed vegetables.

Z: And that's not all! Accenting the dish were mounds of coarsely shredded carrots un-tuna, and a generous portion of black beans. But the highlights of the salad were the two dressings that gave them sensational flavor. The center of the composition was covered with a vibrant purple, delicately sweet Blueberry Pecan Dressing while two sections on opposite corners of the dish were topped with the lightly sweetened Cashew Lemon Dressing. Both were thick and creamy and brought the dish together with perfect synergy.

R: The Kilimanjaro Quesadilla was generous enough for two but we still were curious to taste the sample taco. We asked for the Mixed Taco and couldn't believe how overstuffed this little mini treat could be. Inside were wild rice, seasoned tofu, savory sauce, fresh salsa, corn relish, guacamole, and lettuce. The filling combinations are untypical and refreshing. We loved the flavors and the light splash of spice!

Stuff I Eat Z: Diana ordered the Daily Special. That day it was the Soul Plate. It, too, was enough food for two and featured mini yellow corn muffins huddled together in one corner of the plate. They were pleasantly light and, thankfully, not overly sweet. Dishing up some real soul were a mound of black-eyed peas, BBQ tofu cubes smothered in sauce, and a heaping salad of purple cabbage cole slaw with Blueberry Pecan Dressing. Taking the center of the plate was the mac n' cheese topped with a creamy white savory sauce. A side dish of greens completed the traditional Soul Plate that arrived warm and aromatic. Appealing and photogenic, it was tastefully garnished with finely minced kale and bits of purple cabbage.

R: Kedar's Deluxe Quesadilla was similar to ours and was equally as attractive with its accents of corn, salsa, and guacamole and donned the Cashew Lemon Dressing. Eric's Wild Rice Taco sported a double layer of corn tortillas to hold the pleasingly plump filling of wild rice, lettuce, savory sauce, corn relish, fresh salsa, and guacamole with a cozy quilt of Blueberry Pecan Dressing. It was gone in a flash!

Z: Ryan's Jerk Tofu Sandwich was served on a sprouted grain bread that was voluptuously packed with a tasty blend of jerk tofu, lettuce, sprouts, cukes, tomatoes, grilled red onions, fresh herbs and sauced with mustard and Vegenaise. Attractively plated, the sandwich was surrounded by baby greens, bits of minced kale, purple cabbage, and accents of shredded carrots.

R: Each of the restaurant's offerings are freshly prepared, wholesome and hearty, and organic whenever possible. Rondal and Babette are totally committed to healthful vegan foods that feature a fusion of Mexican dishes with California bistro styling and soul food accents. The menu offers other temptations like the Tofu Chicken Salad Sandwich, an Enchilada Pie, several kinds of Burritos, and salads in addition to a polenta-based breakfast dish and a Breakfast Burrito.

Stuff I Eat R: Rondal and Babette are also committed to attentive service with a smile. Being green is an important focus of the restaurant that uses napkins made of recycled paper and minimal paper goods.

Z: Prior to opening the Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, the pair operated a catering cart every Sunday at the nearby Agape Church where they established a loyal clientele that has followed them to their new home. In the near future, they plan to open Green Thangs, an eco-friendly, all-organic natural food market next door to the south side, and an event center in the storefront to the north. The natural food store will have prepared foods for take-out with utensils made from all recycled materials.

R: Located in downtown Inglewood in the heart of the business district along North Market Street, Stuff I Eat is a lively place to dine on foods that are easy to fall in love with. It's fresh mod look and friendly, casual atmosphere makes it a great place to meet friends for a relaxed organic bite of lunch or early dinner. Portions are generous and prices are a good value.

114 N. Market St., Inglewood, CA 90301
Phone 310-671-0115
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Closed Monday

Reviewed September 2008

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Vegetarians in Paradise