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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Ahimsa R: Simple, freshly prepared conscious food is alive and well at Ahimsa Vegan Kitchen in downtown Long Beach, a mere two blocks from the 5th Street Metro stop. Formerly called Zephyr, the café has been spruced up to create a welcoming ambience with a menu of fresh new vegan offerings.

Z: To maintain customer loyalty, owner Todd Garvey kept many of the same menu items that were frequently requested but added all of the Indian and Mexican specialties. Lentil soup is a daily offering, while the new Mediterranean Bowl and signature Ahimsa Wrap with almond sauce are also part of the new items that represent about 50-percent of the menu.

Ahimsa R: Judging from the exterior sign, some people might hang a hippie or funky label on this informal café with its giant, colorful wall mural reminiscent of a tree of life with fruits hanging from its branches. The floor is painted black and matches the small, round, black tables. Prominently displayed on the black wall behind the order counter is the colorful chalk menu with giant lettering that spells "Vegan Kitchen."

Z: Adorned with two colorful lotus flowers, the attractively chalk-lettered menu displays the work of a very skilled artist.

R: I totally agree and noticed the wall art and menu reflect the name Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word that means non-violence. It's a familiar mantra to many who follow a vegan path.

Ahimsa Z: We met our friend Lina for lunch and together pondered the extensive menu. Kenny, the counter man, offered a few suggestions and we settled on sharing a couple of Samosas to get us started. I ordered the Mediterranean Bowl, Reuben chose the Thai Temple Bowl. Lina was in the mood for Mexican food and ordered the Fiesta Burrito with salsa in place of the chipotle sauce, which she later regretted.

R: We sat at the large, wooden community table near the window and Zel brought us glasses of water from the self-serve water carafe at the counter. Infused with mint and limes, the water was appealing and refreshing.

Z: Our samosas arrived, each on a round, white dish with lively homemade chutney sauce. Simply presented, the samosas were tasty and made for a fun dipping experience.

R: I thoroughly enjoyed my Thai Temple Bowl. It was a hearty meal dotted with a combination of tofu, tempeh, and mock chicken nestled among chunks of zucchini, red bell peppers, carrots, and string beans. The veggie combination was piled over a bed of perfectly steamed brown rice and smothered in a homemade Thai basil and peanut sauce. Fresh bean sprouts provided a touch of garnish. I must confess, though, this item lists a choice of tofu, tempeh, or mock chicken, but I asked for a little of each and was pleased by the variety of textures.

Ahimsa Z: I was pleasantly surprised by the attractive presentation of the Mediterranean Bowl. It was also served in a white bowl. Perched on top of an array of veggies was a generous fluff of hummus garnished with a Kalamata olive. At the bottom of the bowl lay the quinoa tabbouli heaped with an abundant serving of broccoli florets, green beans, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives bathed in a roasted sesame sour cream sauce. Lining the bowl were the thickest pita chips I had ever seen. Well toasted, they were appealingly golden around the edges.

R: Lina's Fiesta Burrito was a plump roly-poly of a whole-wheat tortilla with a cupboard-full of chunky, creamy, and saucy stuff inside. One glance and Lina decided that half the burrito would come home with her for tomorrow's dinner, while the other half was ample enough for lunch.

Ahimsa Z: We might have made the same choice--it was quite a generous serving. Enclosed within the wheat tortilla were seasoned black beans, rice, vegan cheddar cheese, chopped romaine lettuce, roasted bell peppers, roasted corn, vegan sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. The burrito ingredients are usually seasoned with chipotle sauce, but Lina substituted that with a side of salsa. Accompanying the Fiesta Burrito was a heap of tortilla chips.

R: Manager Ashley Mullery was happy to share some of the exceptional features of the café's menu, noting that owner Todd Garvey grows much of the fresh produce at his Escondido heirloom farm that is pesticide free and working toward organic status. He provides only organic, non-GMO soy products. Everything, with the exception of the breads, soy products and imitation chicken, is prepared fresh from scratch, including the sauces, marinades, chutney, and ketchup.

Ahimsa Z: Because of concern for his patrons with allergies and special dietary needs, Garvey notes on the menu that all items are dairy free. For those with soy allergies, soy items can be omitted on request. All their breads are made with wheat, but lettuce wraps can be substituted for the bread in sandwiches. The PB & J can be made with almond butter in place of peanut butter. None of the foods are made with garlic or onions.

R: The menu has a wide array of offerings:

  • Appetizers (that range in price from) $2.95 to $7.45
  • Soups $3.25 to $4.25
  • Salads $7.25 to $9.25
  • Wraps, etc. $8.25 to $9.25
  • Bowls $8.45 to $9.25
  • Sandwiches and Burgers $6.95 to $9.95
  • Kid's Menu $2.45 to $4.95
  • Fresh Juices and Smoothies $2.95 to $7.50

Ahimsa Vegan Kitchen
340 E. 4th St., Long Beach, CA 90802
Phone: 562-435-7113
Hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Reviewed October 2014

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