“Let’s go to a vegan restaurant today.”
It’s a suggestion that can give pause to even the most adventurous of eaters. Not so much because they don’t like the idea of meatless options, they’re just not sure where to start.
So I decided to set out this week and play the part of a vegan virgin. I visited Palm Greens Café and Native Foods Café and asked employees at each place what vegan dishes they would recommend to a newcomer.
Things got off to a good start at Native Foods Café where the cashier comped my drink, and gave me a loyalty program discount card, since I was a first-time customer. Among her food recommendations were the Native Nachos, Bangkok Curry Bowl, the Classic Deli Reuben (which she told me people swear is indistinguishable from its meat counterpart), and the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger.
I opted for the cheeseburger which arrived topped with a little skewer of batter-fried dill pickles—and yes, they were as good as they sound.
The burger itself is made with Native Food’s seiten along with tofu bacon, a lean, non-greasy version of the real deal. Daiya cheese, made from arrowroot and cassava, is known for its melting qualities and it certainly did the job on this burger.
I also polished off a side of lightly-seasoned Native Fries and a Watermelon Fresca (watermelon, mint, and agave) as I pronounced myself a satisfied first timer.
The next day, I headed to Palm Greens Café with a friend in tow and tried their Oasis Burger—oats, brown rice, and hemp, topped with avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and their “rockin’ red sauce” (a curry-like tomato sauce) on a fluffy sunflower-seed bun.
The cashier suggested a number of other tempting options including the Vegetable Curry Bowl, Black Bean Burger, and the Greek Wrap. My friend, who told me that he first discovered the café when he encountered health issues and couldn’t eat meat, ordered the Greek Wrap.
It was filled with spinach nut burger, mixed baby greens, carrots, cucumber, tomato, feta, and tzatziki (a type of Greek yogurt). “You can only eat salad so many times,” he said as he raved about his meal.
The café also has a long list of “Healthy Libations,” including a create your own smoothie option. Or try their Suzanne Somers Palm Greens Smoothie—spinach, kale, mint, banana, apple juice and spirulina. No vegan virgin, the health-conscious actress is a regular customer.
Native Food Café, 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, 760-416-0070. www.nativefoods.com
Palm Greens Café, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, 760-864-9900. www.palmgreenscafe.com