food critic’s corner: “I am Satisfied”-Vegan restaurant offers fresh food for body and mind

Roze Brooks

At Café Gratitude, customers are offered a fulfilling culinary experience with one missing element: meat.  This vibrant, cozy restaurant tucked into the heart of the Crossroads District prides itself on 100 percent vegan, plant-based and almost entirely gluten free entrees.

What separates Café Gratitude from other meatless restaurants is its focus on not only nourishing the body, but also the mind. Each item on the menu is a proclamation of “I am…” followed by a positive characteristic such as humble, trusting or fortified.

Upon delivering your order to the table, the server will affirm your proclamation by saying, “You are humble.”  The server also concludes each visit with the question of the day, such as, “What inspires hope in you?” giving guests something to think about when they leave.

A majority of the ingredients used in Café Gratitude’s large array of meals, smoothies and desserts come from a local farm called “Be Too Love Farm.”  This collaboration ensures fresh, healthy ingredients easily found in any menu selection.

Carnivores, herbivores and omnivores alike will be able to find a variation of their favorite meals.  “I am Super Hearty” is a generous portion of spicy chili full of red beans, rice, vegetables and Café Gratitude’s signature cashew cheese.

“I am Warm Hearted” is a savory plate of squash spaghetti tossed in a flavorful puttanesca tomato sauce with spinach, topped with two gracious squares of pesto polenta.

Both meals are filling and stray far from the misconception that vegetarians eat like rabbits.

Smoothies are a sweet complement to the meal, but would best be ordered as a dessert or stand-alone meal.

“I am Luscious” contains hazelnut milk, figs, dates, raw cacao and vanilla bean—a questionable combination at first, but one that pleases any Nutella lover’s palate, after getting past the slightly gritty texture due to the vanilla bean.  “I am Grace” contains similar ingredients, but uses coconut milk and almond butter for a richer, creamier taste.

Small sides can be added to any meal, including toasted coconut or teriyaki almonds. The zesty seasoning and careful kitchen preparation of the coconut make it ideal for the café’s variation of a BLT, substituting the crisp coconut for bacon.

Café Gratitude’s close-knit atmosphere is ideal for a lunch with friends or a novelty date.  There is minimal bustling by the servers, and the elaborately painted walls are easy to get lost in while waiting for dinner to be served.

The prices aren’t ideal for frequent visits based on the budget of the average college student, but the portions and overall taste correlate with the minor splurge.

Although typical meat eaters may not find themselves going out of their way to order a beefless burger or tacos, their vegetarian friends may have an easier time convincing them to pop into Café Gratitude without being disappointed.

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