Z: Friendly servers and a relaxed, laid back feel--that was our on-the-spot impression that grew by the minute as we learned just how natural and green this cafe is. With a minimum of kitchen equipment, Elderberries leaves a teeny tiny footprint on the earth; there is no professional stovetop, no large oven, no grill, and no humongous refrigerator--not even a telephone. Yet Chef Kristan Andrews and the staff is able to turn out a tasty array of options for casual dining.
R: Rochelle, our effervescent server, brought our menus and recommended their special soup of the day, Zucchini Corn Chowder. Recognizing our positive expressions, she returned shortly with samples of the soup in tiny saucers. The soup was thick and full of chunky bits of corn and zucchini, yet had a creamy base that was delicately sweet and rich with corn flavor.
Z: We decided to share the Veggie Pizzarella for our starter and licked our fingers, literally, because there's no formality here--it's simply honest finger food. Attractively served on a large square platter, this individual pizza is made with a brown rice tortilla crust and layered with spinach leaves, sun dried tomatoes, green bell peppers, basil, and olives and topped with melted Daiya cheese. Visually inviting, it made a delicious beginning.
R: Zel decided to order the San Joaquin Sandwich, and I couldn't help but choose the Rueben Sandwich. Pretty funny, huh! Our friend, Gregg, had a taste for something raw and went for the Asian Lettuce Wrap-raw. Gregg, who has a deep appreciation for smoothies, ordered the Yin Yang Smoothie that arrived in a tall, shapely, footed glass. An unusual combination, this organic smoothie included spinach, mixed berries, cinnamon, and hemp seeds.
Z: Elderberries opened December 2009 as a smoothie and juice bar and gradually added menu items that now attract locals who appreciate the many raw and gluten-free choices. Aware of the growing interest in soy-free and gluten-free foods, owner Dotty Zold, placed a focus on creating a menu that could comfortably accommodate those with soy and gluten intolerances.
R: Few restaurants are savvy to the growing interest in gluten-free dining, but Elderberries really gets it. Their menu offers a choice of sandwiches on either gluten-free bread, brown rice tortilla, or wrapped in romaine or red leaf lettuce in addition to wheat breads. Other gluten-free offerings include Mac and Cheese prepared with brown rice pasta, Quinoa Pudding, and even freshly baked cookies.
Z: Our sandwiches arrived accompanied with a salad of mixed greens, elderberry dressing, and a splash of tiny black elderberries. My San Joaquin is one unique combo that features the pungent sweetness of fig chutney with savory cashew cheese and caramelized onions. The tasty toasted wheat bread is embedded with an appealing variety of seeds that gave it a pleasant touch of texture. Though I prefer a thicker sandwich packed with more filling, I found it creatively crafted and very tasty.
R: My Reuben Sandwich had a base of tempeh on sprouted rye bread and was layered with sauerkraut, sun dried tomatoes, and vegan thousand island dressing. I had never tasted sun-dried tomatoes in a Reuben before, and discovered it brings a pleasant tangy edge to the sandwich.
Z: Gregg loved his Asian Lettuce Wrap-raw that consisted of two romaine lettuce leaves filled with a creamy cashew sauce and an array of veggies that included jicama, carrots, celery, snap peas, green onions, and crunchy almonds. Because the restaurant was out of the accompanying Dad's Hungarian Goulash, Gregg opted for a bowl of Zucchini and Corn Chowder that he thoroughly enjoyed.
R: We couldn't help noticing the many protruding, peaked arches along one wall, creating perfect niches for the host of original paintings. Each month a different artist displays works available for purchase. We learned those arches were especially created from bent wood and faux-painted to appear antiqued. The walls are textured with faux finish techniques and the cement floors are painted in mottled deep blue.
Z: The array of one-of-a-kind eco-recycled tables, chairs, and benches in this long narrow room, along with numerous knick-knacks and bookshelves, combine to create a funky avant-garde ambience. You can even dine on a repurposed couch that might have barely survived the Louis IV era. Don't overlook the welcome arch over the entrance and the table in the window that sits on a raised platform.
R: Raw foodists will find this a comfy haven with the generous array of salads, wraps, smoothies and shots, as well as raw chili. Breakfast, too, has plenty of raw offerings like the Protein Wrap, Raw Oatmeal, Raw Granola, and Organic Fresh Juices.
Z: Dotty believes the restaurant should reflect the interests of the community and invites locals to participate in expressing their arts. Sunday nights are for jazz and poetry, while Tuesdays will feature a tango show. Other nights she welcomes community organizations to meet at the restaurant.
R: Prices are reasonable and the policy is cash only. Starters and Sides range from $6 to $9, Salads $7 to $12, Sandwiches and More $8 to $12, Desserts $3 to $7, Breakfast $7 to $9, Smoothies and Organic Fresh Juices $6.
Elderberries Green Café
Reviewed November 2010