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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Editors' Note: Since this review was written, Tierra Café has changed its hours and is no longer open on Saturdays.

Z: By the time we exited the Metro Central subway station at Seventh Street and Figueroa one Saturday morning, our light breakfast of fruit and herbal tea was a distant memory. Hungrily anticipating a tasty vegan brunch, we walked briskly for one block to our destination.

R: Unique in its corner niche is Tierra Café, an all-vegetarian fast food eatery nestled in a small food court on the ground floor of a high-rise building in downtown Los Angeles. The cheerful menu is listed in multicolors of chalk on a series of blackboards above the kitchen.

Z: I love the modern look of the high ceiling food court with its trendy granite counters tastefully contrasted by vintage-style, dark wood tables and chairs. Large windows invite an abundance of light, giving the room an airy ambience. Stretched along the length of the windows is a long counter with high stools, also finished in dark wood. The extra seating was a sign of good planning to accommodate the busy downtown weekday lunch crowd. Tierra Cafe

R: Owner Miranda Megill greeted us with a perky smile and an engaging personality. Eager to please, she said she could prepare anything on the menu either vegan or vegetarian. Perusing the menu, we couldn't help noticing a prominent phrase that caught our attention, "Certified organic produce . . . Because we care!!!"

Z: Miranda's descriptions of several menu items helped us decide on a Spinach Quesadilla, a Fajita Burrito, and a glass of Apple Beet Juice. Saturday brunch is a quiet time for this tiny food court that focuses mostly on weekday breakfasts and lunches. Only one of the other three food counters was open, but the bustling action was at Tierra Café. Providing an eclectic selection of music was Miranda's laptop with a well-stocked iPod of tunes.

R: The organic commitment also extends to the fair-trade coffee, tea, and juice selections. Coffee lovers can enjoy an array of 10 different organic hot coffees plus 6 varieties of iced coffee. Tea drinkers can sip the special iced tea of the day or choose from many herbal and black tea varieties. Those who prefer fresh juices can practically swim in a tall, 16-ounce glass of Apple Beet, Carrot, Orange Carrot, Orange, or Blended Veggie Juice.

Z: Blake, Miranda's assistant, arrived with our meal. In spite of the café's informal setting, Miranda has chosen to serve on real plates, glass glasses, and regular utensils, an ecological decision that earns our commendation. The Spinach Quesadilla consisted of a sun-dried tomato and basil flour tortilla filled with sliced mushrooms, fresh spinach, red onions, and vegan cheddar cheese. It was well seasoned, hot, and satisfying--we loved the combination of flavors. Accompanying the quesadilla was a side of tasty Pico de Gallo and a side of Cilantro Cream Sauce we couldn't stop eating. Creamy, with its base of silken tofu, the sauce was blended with cilantro, lightly spiced, and perfectly seasoned. We learned this sauce is gaining a reputation and brings new customers back to the restaurant.

R: It may sound like a tired old line, but it 's definitely an honest one--the Fajita Burrito was the best we've ever tasted. No skimping here--that baby was muy gordo! That's very fat in Spanish. Bursting with black beans, the burrito was filled with a rainbow of vegetables in generous quantities. Tucked inside the giant tortilla were steamed fresh asparagus, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini along with our favorite vegan cheddar cheese, and the most flavorful shredded veggie beef we had yet encountered.

Z: Nuzzled alongside the burrito were sides of lightly spiced Pico de Gallo, Cilantro Cream Sauce, and a perfectly seasoned Guacamole. A bowl of tortilla chips came along for the ride and begged to be dunked into the three side dishes. We willingly dunked.

Tierra Cafe R: Shortly after we began to eat, Miranda brought a small plate of Grilled Veggie Salad to our table, telling us she would be closed on Sunday and the vegetables wouldn't keep until Monday. Our bonus salad of baby lettuce featured a hillock of lightly steamed fresh asparagus, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and currants topped with a lightly sweetened tahini dressing.

Z: The 16-ounce Apple-Beet Juice was the ideal size for sharing and arrived with an inviting foamy head at the top, giving it great color and a vivacious flavor. The two juices blended so well together we've put it on our list of to-do-again items.

R: Though we had eaten informal food in an informal setting, we found the experience refreshing. Miranda McGill, who formerly worked in real estate accounting, has made a smooth transition to becoming a restaurant entrepreneur. Miranda infuses her food with love for the vegan lifestyle and shows an eagerness to please her customers.

Z: The menu offers tasty diversity. Nearby a group of diners were ordering Ana Banana Waffles with Veggie Sausage, Tofu Scrambles, and Breakfast Burritos. Sandwiches and Wraps were served at another table. The soup of the day was Sopa de Mais, a tomato based soup with corn tortillas, onions, corn, and spices topped with veggie cheddar cheese and cilantro. Other lunch entrees included Italian Polenta, Southwest Tacos, and Hummus & Pita, while the beverage selections include bottled Elixir Tonics like Depth Recharger, Virtual Buddha, and Mind over Muddle.

R: Diverse a la carte offerings like bagel and cream cheese and La Brea Bakery Pastries were displayed on footed cake plates near the cash register. Only open a few months and already serving a steady stream of customers, this little dining spot has been quickly embraced by the downtown L.A. crowd. Tierra Café offers many tasty reasons for people to drop in.

Tierra Café
818 Wilshire Blvd., #D, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: 213-629-1402
Website: http://www.tierracafe.com
Hours: Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Closed Saturday and Sunday

Reviewed April 2005

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