R: A delightful array of delicious Mexican foods is front and center on the menu at Grain Cafˇ Natural and Organic, a cozy little informal eatery located in a small strip mall on the corner of West Pico and Victoria Ave., one block west of Crenshaw Blvd. How special it is to choose South of the Border dishes like quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, nachos, rellenos, and fajitas and never have to ask if they contain ingredients containing animal products.
Z: Though this dining spot is small, the menu reflects a surprisingly savvy selection of items including breakfast dishes like Oatmeal with Fresh Fruits, Tofu Scramble, and Tofu Egg with Tempeh Bacon on a Bagel. In addition there are breakfast specialties like Huevos a la Mexicana, Huevos Rancheros, and Breakfast Burritos.
R: We came for dinner and were joined by three friends to sample some of the tempting dishes. I chose the Quesadilla Grande, Zel ordered the Reuben Sandwich, Jen was tempted by the Club Sandwich, Gregg went for the Enchiladas, and Chuck chose the Wet Burrito. In addition, we ordered the Roasted Veggie Pizza, as our appetizer for sharing.
Z: Many of the dinner items came with a side of Roasted Potatoes or a salad of Mixed Greens. Appropriately, we chose the Roasted Potatoes for our Roasted Veggie Pizza and loved the colorful array of veggies peeking out from the generous layer of cheese. There were red bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini mingled with the melted Daiya Mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses over the tasty marinara sauce. The pizza was a perfect starter that everyone snapped up without hesitation and gave thumbs up.
R: Next came my plump Quesadilla Grande and a grande presentation it was. Cut into easy-to-handle wedges and neatly arranged on a green platter, the quesadilla was filled with sweet caramelized onions, red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and even bits of leafy kale. The dish was also accompanied with a traditional compliment of black beans and Spanish rice along with a heap of tortilla chips piled into the center.
Z: I loved my voluptuous, moist, and flavorful Reuben Sandwich, thickly layered with marinated tempeh, onions, tomatoes, and sauerkraut all slathered with Daiya cheese and Thousand Island Dressing. The sourdough bread was the only disappointment, but the sandwich combo is a delectable, well-seasoned, composition of ingredients and flavors. I could have chosen the roasted potatoes as my side, but was thrilled with the beautiful salad nestled next to the sandwich.
R: Chuck's Wet Burrito had everything anyone could possibly want in a burrito--black beans, brown rice, guacamole, and Daiya cheese. Chuck had the choice of a chicken, tempeh, or burger patty as part of the burrito filling and selected the chicken. The final touch was a blanket of sauce and a generous topping of melted Daiya cheese over the top. Chuck described the burrito as "wet and wonderful."
Z: Jen's Club Sandwich was beautifully presented on a green dish with a gorgeous salad mounded into the center. The double-decker sandwich was cut into quarters and served with the points standing upright to display the varied fillings. Between the slices of sourdough bread were marinated chicken, lettuce, tomato, and smoked tempeh bacon spread with roasted garlic aioli.
R: Jen's salad must have been posing for the photographer with its photogenic display of green and dark red baby lettuces, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, and cooked quinoa. The vegetable medley was tossed with apple lemon dressing, a light and tasty dressing that allowed the veggies to sparkle.
Z: Last of the entrée items was Gregg's two fat Enchiladas filled with veggie chicken, chopped onions, tomatoes, and avocado, and generously topped with enchilada salsa and melted Daiya cheese. Complementing the dish were the typical black beans, rice, and tortilla chips.
R: One of the special surprises is the variety of housemade dessert and savory crepes. The chocolate lovers spotted the Chocolate Crepe and couldn't be dissuaded. Two orders of the chocolate crepe provided a pleasant finishing touch with the feather-light crepe filled with chocolate mousse and sliced strawberries. A sprinkle of powdered sugar and a drizzle of chocolate sauce gave it visual appeal. The crepe was a great choice---light and not overly sweet--just right to conclude our hearty meal. Next time we'll explore one of the other tasty desserts displayed in the refrigerated dessert case.
Z: Owner Myra Garcia was not working the night we were at Grain Café, but we want to thank her for creating such a delicious and diverse menu, attractive presentations, and excellent service.
R: The café is quite informal with a clean, uncluttered ambience and some thoughtful touches. Water is served in tall bottles at each table, and flatware is wrapped in napkins made of recycled paper. Several organic shade-grown coffees including organic espresso are available throughout the day. Many dishes come with a side of either a salad or roasted potatoes. Daily specials feature soup of the day and a daily variety of hummus.
Z: Among the menu items are wraps including Grilled Veggie Wrap, Curry Wrap, and one with falafels that are baked rather than fried. Unique salad offerings feature Cobb Salad, Adzuki Bean Salad, and Vegan Tuna Salad.
R: Among the dinner specialties are Chicken Fajitas, Chile Relleno Veggie, a Chicken Taco Plate, and Sautéed Kale, a specialty that includes cabbage, bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, brown rice, and quinoa with a choice of chicken, tempeh, or a burger patty.
Z: We were impressed with the 5 kinds of dessert crepes and 6 savory crepes priced from $6:50 to 8.50. Waffles range from $6 to $7.95. Appetizers from $4.75 to $6.75. Sandwiches $7.95 to $9.50. Wraps $6.95 to $9.95. Salads $7.95 to $9.95. Pizza $6.50 to $9.95. Dinners $10.95 to $13.95.
R: One unique addition to the menu is the macrobiotic meal offering a full complement of grains, vegetables, greens, and sea vegetables. Patrons can also create their own macrobiotic meal from an impressive list of offerings.
Z: The Grain Café Natural and Organic is a full-service eatery serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is extensive enough to enjoy many visits without eating the same thing twice--and prices are reasonable offering excellent value for money.
Grain Café Natural and Organic
Reviewed January 2014