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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Dining in Paradise

Editors' Note: On this page in our February, 2002, issue we published a review of Vegan Terra Cafe in Rancho Palos Verdes. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed.

R: How exciting it is to take part in the launch of a new all vegetarian restaurant in the Los Angeles community! A few weeks ago we asked two friends to join us in a sneak preview of this newly opened entirely vegan cafe.

Z: Vegan Terra Café, located in a three-tier shopping center in Rancho Palos Verdes, hasn't officially opened its doors yet, that is, no grand opening scene with the giant flower displays, rainbows of balloons and flowing champagne. Yet, while we were enjoying our tasty Sunday afternoon lunch, there was a steady stream of take-out customers. The diners seated at tables came and went steadily, too. Not a bad beginning! Vegan Terra Cafe

R: Not bad! It's a great beginning! Owner John Zukle had put up a banner announcing his opening two months prior so vegetarians and vegans who drove by The Terraces Shopping Center were waiting in anticipation for the restaurant to open.

Z: Informal and unpretentious, the Vegan Terra Café is a place to start the day with a cup of coffee, espresso, or vegan latte along with one of their irresistible, oversized, moist and not overly sweet muffins in flavors such as cornbread blueberry, walnut raisin, mango berry, or chocolate carob.

R: On that day, they had prepared two soups. Naturally, we had to try them both, so we shared a luscious, lightly sweetened and thick Pumpkin Soup that had spices reminiscent of pumpkin pie. Their Celery Soup, cooked with a multitude of herbs, was surprisingly thick and hearty with savory seasonings we both enjoyed. Our dining buddies added their thumbs up, too.

Z: I chose the Smokey Joe's Wild Ride and loved the tantalizing "ride" down to the last bite. On a bed of smokey chipotle black beans was a layer of steamed broccoli and carrots. Chunks of deliciously marinated and baked Terra Tofu dotted the dish, and over the top was a well-seasoned creamy Terra Sauce that was to die for.

R: About halfway through our meal I became aware of how often my fork found its way back to Zel's dish to taste again and again. It was a killer combination! The Burrito I ordered was a new kitchen creation that made its debut that day. All wrapped up inside a giant tortilla was a tasty concoction of long-grain brown rice, smokey chipotle black beans, carrots, broccoli, onions, and celery. A generous topping of that fabulous Terra Sauce added the perfect finishing touch.

Z: Our friends shared the Veggie Boat, a dish similar to the Smokey Joe's Wild Ride, but with a delicious brown rice as a base rather than black beans. We tasted and shared, and they tasted and shared, and there was plenty of finger lickin' going on.

Burger Bird R: We learn much about a restaurant's specialties and strengths by ordering more items than most people would ordinarily choose. In this mode, we added an order of the Flatbread, a very thin, whole wheat bread no more than a quarter-of-an-inch thick with a delicate flavor and pleasant lightness. Our friends enjoyed it so much they ordered some to take home.

Z: By this time, we were more than satisfied, but couldn't resist one final indiscretion. Throughout our meal we were hearing the smoothie machine going full tilt. Obviously, something special was going on, and we simply had to have one. Wisely, we ordered only one, and all four of us shared the Mango Berry Smoothie made with bananas and low-fat soy milk.

R: We sipped the rich fruity combination with gusto. Other Smoothies on the menu include Strawberry, Pineapple and a Chocolate Carob combination.

Z: With its completely relaxed atmosphere, Vegan Terra Café serves up its specialties in paper boats, styrofoam plates, cups, and bowls, and uses plastic utensils. There's a self- service beverage machine offering sodas, iced tea, and pink lemonade toward the back. A high ceiling gives the restaurant a comfortable spaciousness, while the ceramic tile floor and wooden tables and chairs offer a pleasant ambiance.

R: John told us he has been an ethical vegan for 17 years. In the shelving unit close to the door he will soon display cruelty-free personal care items for sale. He plans to offer 4 soups daily at the buffet counter along the wall that will also have salads, breads, and hot dishes. With a long wooden stand-up counter along the large storefront window and extra tables outside, the restaurant is obviously ready for a bustling business.

Z: Because vegans can find an array of tasty comfort foods here and feel secure that their ethical tenets have been met, surely Vegan Terra Café should become a favorite spot. John told us that even non-vegetarians have been discovering and enjoying his delicious soups.

Vegan Terra Café
28901 S. Western Ave., #123, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
The Terraces Shopping Center, located just below Trader Joe's

Reviewed February 2002

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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