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.