Cafe Gratitude is one of those places people will either love or hate. With locations in Santa Cruz, Venice and Larchmont, it is the epitome of 100% organic vegetarian California cafés, including a spiritual vibe and raw/vegan options. If you’re still reading this, then you either live in California or are OK with eating a meal without any meat or fish. Since I get my weekly rations of meat at Lindy & Grundy, I have no problem going vegan for a meal or two.
They offer beers and wines by the glass from $5-12, but I decided that since I was going meatless, I would also go without alcohol while I was here. It was fitting that I chose the drink called I Am Healthy for $5.25. Made with cold pressed vegetable and fruit juices, it was a refreshingly simple mixture of cucumber and pineapple juice. Every drink and dish is listed as an affirmation so when you order it you must say it. Yes, I know some of you are rolling your eyes now, but I think it’s a better idea than naming a three pound burger a Triple Bypass (however appropriate that name may be).
Staying with my clean meal theme, I had the I Am Pure salad for $13. It’s a ginger tahini marinated kale salad with avocado, sea palm, nori, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, basil, green onions, sunflower sprouts, and sprinkled with teriyaki almonds. It was indeed pure and I loved the ginger tahini marinade which tenderized the kale without overwhelming it. The sunflower sprouts were a bit hard to eat because they were so long, but the varied textures of the ingredients and the savory dressing made this a delicious way to eat vegan.
I came on another day when my stomach was not happy after a heavy meal the night before, so I ordered the I Am Fiery, a digestive 1 oz shot for $3.50. Made with Noni, ginger turmeric, cayenne, and colonial minerals, it is spicy and it definitely cleared out my system. Do not order this if you can not handle heat; it is about as hot as diluted Tabasco in a shot!
The neighboring table had two I Am Awesome sandwiches and they looked so good, I ordered one too. It’s a herb cornmeal crusted eggplant Parmesan on grilled panini with marinara, cashew ricotta, sliced heirloom tomatoes, arugula, basil, and served with a side salad for $12. This is the perfect sandwich to order for someone who isn’t sure they like vegetables. The crunchy cornmeal crust with the creamy ricotta and fresh tomato marinara tasted just like a fresher version of the traditional eggplant Parmesan sandwich. There is an option of hemp seed pesto with this sandwich for an additional $2.25, but I felt the flavors were fine without any addition. The side salad dressed with a balsamic dressing was as tasty as the sandwich.
All their teas and coffees are also organic, and they offer desserts, but since I rarely have room for anything after my main meal, I did not partake of either. Other tables did order desserts, so I can only surmise that the mostly coconut based sweets are as good as their other offerings.
The sweet ending to my meal came from my server who asked if I wanted to hear the question of the day. When I said “Yes”, she asked “What would you like to be acknowledged for?” I could tell you my answer, but as the saying goes, I would have to kill you, and that would be very unVegan :)
Parking in this area of Venice can be tough, but the restaurant will validate for the parking lot on 5th Street.