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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Cafe Gratitude Cafe Gratitude R: Café Gratitude is a welcome oasis that blends nature and nurture with grand panache in its newest restaurant in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA.) Opened in March 2015, the restaurant has already attracted a flight of fans that know and love its delicious food and positive philosophy. Both regulars and newcomers wasted no time exploring the new, upbeat, and spacious locale on the corner of 3rd Street and Santa Fe Avenue.

Z: The Café Gratitude folks made a savvy decision when choosing this location. The DTLA Arts District is rapidly becoming one of THE sizzling hot spots of the city and is in the process of exciting redevelopment. The area is changing constantly as new shops, restaurants, galleries, condos, pubs, wine bars, and businesses inhabit old abandoned buildings and give them a welcome facelift.

Cafe Gratitude R: Taking full advantage of our convenient public transportation, we boarded the Red Line at the North Hollywood station and went to the end of the line at Union Station. From there, we took the Gold Line and traveled one stop to 1st Street and Alameda Street. The restaurant was a comfortable 6-block walk, though there was plenty of parking in the adjacent lot for those choosing to drive.

Z: The first signs of Café Gratitude's feel-good philosophy are the affirmations painted in thin, white lettering on the outside windows. "I am grateful, I am refreshed, I am cheerful, I am fortified." These affirmations also appear on the bountiful menu, naming each of the dishes.

Cafe Gratitude R: We also couldn't help noticing the smiling faces and energetic welcomes we received from each of the servers as we entered and were escorted to our table. Soon our friends Chuck, Gregg, and Jen joined us, and together we pondered the engaging menu, a culinary treasure of offerings that reaches in all directions of the globe.

Z: With a little help from the friendly staff, I chose Gracious, Reuben decided on Yo Soy Fuerte, Chuck liked Humble, Jen ordered Fortified, and Gregg went for Resolved. Chuck also ordered Alert, a thick and creamy smoothie made of matcha green tea powder, maca, almond milk, dates, coconut meat, avocado, and vanilla bean.

R: Guess Gregg was also feeling very Energized--that's the delightful smoothie he ordered and started drinking so quickly I barely had time to capture a photo.

Cafe Gratitude Z: Our appetizer, so appropriately named Community, truly was a community experience as we scooped up spoonfuls of the warm dip onto gluten-free baguette slices. Served in a small ramekin, the dip consisted of spinach and baby artichokes blended into a creamy and well-seasoned sauce thick enough to spoon generous mounds onto our crisply toasted breads. The triangles of Buckwheat Crackers accompanying the dish were also an excellent and flavorful choice and sported a softer and pleasant chewy texture.

R: What a colorful scene to see all the dishes arrive at once! My Yo Soy Fuerte, "I am strong" in Spanish, was a sandwich definitely blessed with deliciously bold flavors. Between the layers of the plump, gluten-free amaranth and millet bun was a thick slice of house-made tempeh, chorizo, tomato, shredded romaine, and avocado. Ramping up the flavors, the sandwich was drizzled and slathered with cilantro pumpkin seed pesto, chipotle cashew cream, and roasted tomatillo sauce.

Cafe Gratitude Z: And that wasn't all. Yo Soy Fuerte came with a tasty little side salad of wild rice and summer beans garnished with cilantro and a wedge of radish--a beautiful dish. But that was not the only attractive dish. I was in the mood for something lighter and loved my Gracious, a summer grain salad that was brimming with voluptuous chunks of avocado, heirloom cherry tomato halves, arugula, steamed green beans, quinoa, and cashew mozzarella. The salad was generously dressed with basil hempseed pesto, Brazil nut Parmesan, and golden balsamic reduction, a sensational combination that added irresistible richness to the salad. Gracious, it was tasty!!!!

R: Gregg's choice, Resolved, would certainly resolve any hungry man's appetite with this Southern-inspired combo of giant slices of blackened tempeh, smashed, maple enhanced yams, Cajun spiced collard greens, a gluten-free jalapeno biscuit, and Louisiana red beans hidden beneath a fluff of colorful coleslaw. This awesome meal was served on a large platter with black lettering that reads, "What are you grateful for?"

Z: Chuck remarked, "Humble is anything but Humble" as he took a moment to appreciate this Indian-inspired curry bowl. Amid a base of sprouted probiotic brown rice were chunks of roasted garnet yams and curried red lentil dal. Peeking out from a topping of spicy tomato jam and coconut mint chutney was a cluster of bright green spinach leaves and chopped scallions.

Cafe Gratitude R: More intriguing than any impressionist's still life painting, Jen's Fortified was a gorgeous palette of sprouted brown rice topped with vegetables looking as if they were wearing their brightest colors grown just for this dish. This dish focused on summer market vegetables and, no doubt, offers a different array of vegetables as the seasons change. Happily entwined giant-size sunflower sprouts dressed the top, while beneath were broccoli florets, kernels of fresh white corn, red and yellow bell peppers, slices of steamed yellow summer squash, thinly sliced purple onion, and plump snap peas. Jen had several dressing choices for this delightful dish and chose the garlic tahini.

Z: It was easy to recognize that these complex food combinations were conceived with careful thought and an appreciation of their benefits to the health of people and the planet. Executive Chef Dreux Ellis came to Café Gratitude with impressive credentials, having worked in restaurants noted for fine dining. Here he is inspired by the challenge of preparing plant-based foods that are locally sourced, 100% organic, richly flavored, nutrient dense, and grown in thoughtful ways that preserve the earth's ecology.

Cafe Gratitude R: As my eyes traveled the spacious room and feasted on the details of the inviting ambience, I recognized the food is not the only thing that makes one feel great. I began to form affirmations of my own--I am bright, I am warm, I am clean, I am cheerful, I am comfortable, and I am definitely energized.

Z: What Reuben is describing is the airy space furnished in blonde woods, bright white walls, booths, tables, and chairs, and plenty of windows bringing in the cheerful daylight. Décor accents include a few well-placed plants, more potted plants on the shelves behind the long white juice bar, and servers all in black. There's even a charming patio along Santa Fe Avenue for those who enjoy outdoor dining.

R: Tempting us were other dishes like Fabulous, a raw lasagna, and Hearty, a raw Italian pizza. Even Warm-Hearted, a grilled polenta, and Bountiful, the gluten-free quinoa pasta, were appealing. Guess we'll just have to return to this delicious oasis for these wonderful dishes all made with love.

Z: Keeping in mind that all the produce and food products are 100% organic, one can find great food at moderate prices. Seasonal Specials range from $14 to $20, Appetizers $8 to $16, Sandwiches and Wraps $14 to $16, Salads $12 to $14, Entrees $10 to $16, Pressed Juices $9, Spritzers $5 to $8, and Elixirs $3 to $25, Smoothies and Milkshakes $9. Also on the menu are coffee specials, tonics, and tea. Café Gratitude's support of organic and biodynamic wine and beer makers is reflected in their wine and beer selections.

Café Gratitude
300 S. Santa Fe Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-929-5580
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Breakfast on weekdays 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Breakfast on Weekends 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Website: http://cafegratitude.com/

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