R: Some people might think of it as a New Age eatery, others may consider it a convenient place to pick up a quick meal. We think of the Golden Mean Vegan Café, opened April 15, 2009, as a very special gathering spot for vegans to enjoy delicious, organic, wholesome, natural comfort foods prepared from scratch.
Z: Conveniently located on Wilshire Blvd. near the corner of 11th Street in mid Santa Monica, this small restaurant even has a parking lot behind the building--a true plus for busy locations in this bustling city.
R: I immediately connected to the relaxed ambience that reflected the clean lines of Asian styling. Warm earth tones of sand, mottled wheat, and taupe dress the walls and floor, while track lights drop from the high ceiling to span the length of the long narrow restaurant.
Z: A long, high counter with high stools along one wall and small square wooden tables with single-person benches perfectly suit the well-planned space. Once inside, one strolls past the tables to the order counter and open kitchen to find a large, colorful menu board that lists a dazzling selection of mouth-watering items to suit every mood.
R: On our first visit we joined our friends Diana and Eric and feasted on the Vegan Chicken Pesto Panini, Chicken Caesar Wrap, Lean Mean Veggie Burger with The Works, Tempeh Club Sandwich, and sides that included Seaweed Salad, Sweet Potato Salad, and Potato Salad.
Z: Owner Aaron Glassman, a personable man with a mission to bring the pleasures of vegan dining to a greater audience, delivered our orders and cordially greeted us as well as other patrons.
R: Accenting the subtle Asian influence, the square bamboo plates with slightly upturned corners created the ideal background for each of the presentations. Even simple sandwiches and wraps looked brighter and deliciously appealing artfully arranged on these unique dishes.
Z: My Vegan Chicken Pesto Panini, grilled on a ciabatta roll, offered a pleasing crunch on the outside. The juicy filling of roasted Portobello mushrooms, faux chicken breast, sliced tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, and baby spinach was highlighted with a tastefully prepared pesto sauce. This is one sandwich that delivers pure pleasure to the last bite and it's all organic.
R: I opted for the Chicken Caesar Wrap abundantly packed with vegan chicken strips, cherry tomatoes, and a delectable Caesar salad colorfully wrapped in a brilliant green spinach tortilla. I chose well when I selected the Sweet Potato side salad with black beans and bell peppers--it was colorful, flavorful, and well matched to compliment the wrap.
Z: Diana ordered the Lean Mean Veggie Burger with The Works that prompted Reuben to order it on our next visit. The burger itself is a house-made bean and whole grain patty piled high with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and their special sauce. The Works heaps on an additional measure of avocado, tempeh bacon, and vegan cheese to make the sandwich irresistibly memorable. Diana ordered the tasty Potato Salad as her side.
R: The Tempeh Club Sandwich was Eric's choice, a stunning combination that would impress even a devoted carnivore. The centerpiece of this extravaganza spotlighted the breaded tempeh enhanced with lettuce, tomato, soy bacon, roasted garlic, and basil aioli attractively layered on slices of wholesome 9-grain bread. The sandwich was cut into quarters and presented with the points facing upward, revealing a dramatic color display.
Z: Our second visit confirmed our first impression that the menu items, conceived by Chef Britt Hawley, are well chosen, creative, and tasty enough to provide comfort to those seeking to satisfy their desire for familiar comfort foods.
R: Diana's choice of the Lean Mean Veggie Burger with the Works compelled me to try it on our return visit and it was every bit as tasty as it looked. The side of Pesto Pasta Salad was an ideal choice--and it even included tomatoes and broccoli.
Z: Because I had the urge to bite into a thick, juicy wrap, I chose the Middle East Wrap. It absolutely rocked with its flavorful, homemade baked falafel, yellow tomatoes, and a rich tzatziki sauce that dressed the crispy lettuce all tucked into a giant spinach tortilla. My side of Spinach Salad provided a delicious combo of flavors.
R: Our water was served in clear plastic cups, we thought. Turns out the cups can be completely composted. Stamped on each is the proud statement: "This environmentally sustainable cup is made entirely from plants." The napkins, too, are made from recycled material. Thumbs up to the Golden Mean for being an eco-savvy establishment.
Z: We managed to save room for a sweet treat to complete our meal by sharing the Creamsicle, an indulgently rich, creamy, thick shake made from coconut milk ice cream, agave nectar, and orange juice. Those who are familiar with Orange Julius will find this shake reminiscent of a signature beverage served at the famous chain.
R: In addition to the hearty, nutritious, and flavorful meals served at the Golden Mean, two unique aspects of this restaurant are the upstairs loft where Aaron holds natural healing rituals and the tarot readers in the restaurant who offer personal readings to interested patrons.
Z: The pairing of owner Aaron Glassman and chef Britt Hawley creates a great team welcoming hungry diners with tasty homemade sweets to enjoy in or take out. While we were chowing down our sandwiches, we couldn't help inhaling the sweet aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven.
R: Friendly service from a smiling staff, well-prepared tasty food served quickly, and a pleasant environment make for an inviting reason to return to this small cafe that knows how to cater to the vegan community. Prices are quite reasonable with soups at $4.95, salads $10.50, sandwiches $8.95 to $11.50, wraps $10.25, pizza $10.95, and shakes $4.95 to $6.75.
1028 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Reviewed July 2009