Tag Archives: eating out

Native Foods Cafe

With a menu that boasts of Native Chicken, Spicy Meatball Pizza, and cheesecake, Santa Monica’s Native Foods Cafe doesn’t sound like an all-vegan casual restaurant.  But after reading about it online, I had to try it out.  Two friends from out of town wanted to meet up for dinner, so I suggested the cafe, giving them fair warning.

“They have burgers, tacos, pizza, etc.  BUT it’s all vegan, so uh, if you and your friend want real meat, I’ll look up a different place,” I texted my friend.

“Wait, but this sounds awesome.  I’m vegetarian anyway.  Let’s do it,” was the response.

I remember talking to this friend about vegetarianism, but I had no idea he had actually embraced it since I had last seen him.

***

Entering Native Foods Cafe, the only indicators that this was a vegan restaurant were the cute, and sometimes sassy, slogans on employees’ shirts.  A standout?  “Eat sunshine.”

Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl

I wanted to try everything on the menu, but I settled on the Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl, a quinoa dish with grilled veggies and Native Chicken, their original chicken-flavored mixture of soy, wheat, and pea protein.  My friends both ordered the Portobello and Sausage Burger.

“We didn’t ruin our streak,” one of the boys commented to the other through a bite of his burger.

“Absolutely not,” my other friend responded.

“What streak?” I asked.

“Well, since we got off the plane, we’ve had amazing food.”

***

Of course, I had to sample the native desserts, especially after having so many “eh” vegan baking experiences recently.  I am a passionate chocolate lover, so I ordered their chocolate cupcake.  I even generously shared a bite with each of my friends.

As an added bonus, an employee came by and offered us samples of their carrot cake cupcake.  Every bite melted in my mouth, giving us all a sweet finish to a satisfying meal.

For a complete list of Native Foods Cafe, sprawling across California and the U.S., visit their site.

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This Vegetarian Still Loves Meat

Sitting in the backseat of my friend’s car, my heart sank as my friend described the sandwich place she was taking us to for dinner and the amazing deli meats they had.  I suddenly realized that, whenever I went to a sandwich shop, I always ordered a ham and cheese sandwich or a meatball sub.  Both of which are no longer options thanks to my newfound vegetarian lifestyle.

I’m not big on salads (something I’m working on), but I figured that, if nothing else, I could probably get them to throw one together.

We arrived at sandwich place, and to my surprise, they had a vegan section on the menu!  So I ventured to try something new – some sort of wrap with soyrizo.

The biggest challenge so far about being vegetarian is that I previously ate some form of meat at almost every lunch and dinner.  Suddenly I am forced to rethink how I structure my meals.  What I formerly considered side dishes (rice, vegetables, beans) have now become main dishes.

I am most worried about continuing to eat properly as a new vegetarian.  Especially at places where I am used to eating meat as the main part of my meal, I need to learn (and really, just to accept) foods that can, and should, be the main dish.

On another note, I realized today that being vegetarian affects the food I eat from my Cuban heritage.  My favorite medianoche sandwiches are stuffed with ham and turkey, and many of the little pastries I love are full of chicken or ham.  Yes, Cuban food does offer vegetarian options, but I wonder if I would eat meat occasionally in the future to feel more connected to this side of me.  It’s something I’ll worry about only if the time comes.

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Day of Progress

Yesterday went really well.

Breakfast was typical Quaker Instant Oatmeal and an English muffin smothered with butter.  Then for lunch, a friend and I explored an artsy little used bookstore and cafe where I tried tempeh tandoori.  I’m still not used to the grainy texture of tempeh, but I liked it much more this time than the last time I tried it at my school’s dining hall. My friend ordered the chicken tandoori, but he wanted to try my tempeh – he ended up liking the tempeh more than his chicken.  Oddly enough, when I made those vegan hot dogs, my brother tried one and also ended up enjoying that version more than the meat hot dogs.

We grabbed some hot chocolate (made with hemp milk!) to take with us on our walk, and that was also delicious, although not completely vegan.  Trying hot chocolate with hemp milk just gave it a unique flavor, and that’s something I’m excited (and nervous) about as I try to eat a more plant-based diet: the new flavors that I probably would have missed out on otherwise.

I worried that dinner was going to be an issue since I was eating with my dad, who makes great steaks and other meats, but he suggested that we order Chinese.  I ordered a dish of flat rice noodles with eggs, and I also tried some Kung Pao Tofu, which tasted incredible.

No meat at all yesterday!  That was a good step.  I’ve decided that I’m officially limiting the amount of red meat I eat, and then next I plan to stop eating chicken so much; dairy and eggs will be the last things I work on removing from my diet simply because cooking egg-based meals (fried egg on bread, scrambled eggs in a tortilla, etc.) is easy and usually fills me up.

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Bringing Everything Up-to-Date

Two days after watching Forks Over Knives, I had dinner with a different suitemate.  I again grabbed a piece of chicken, and again, I didn’t eat it.  Instead, I ate all of the vegan BBQ seitan that I had piled on my plate, and it was delicious.  Rice mixed with refried beans rounded out the meal.

But now I’m home for winter break, which brings its own set of challenges.  To my family, I am the picky eater that scorns healthy foods, so I don’t feel comfortable telling them about wanting to eat a more plant-based diet; they would actually laugh at me.  And really, I don’t want to make a big deal out of this and be held to unrealistic expectations if I have trouble making the transition.

Before settling in at home, though, I was lucky enough to travel to work on a television production job for a few days.  Staying in a hotel meant only eating out, which can make eating healthy a bit tricky.

Combine eating out with long work days, and throw in something called krafty.  This is the table full of food for the production crew – granola bars, chips, pretzels, sour gummies, mini chocolate pieces, Oreos, and these delicious bite-sized cake balls (when you eat 7 in a day though, I don’t think the fact that they’re “bite-sized” makes a difference).  By the 13th straight hour of work, I easily succumbed to the Rice Krispy treat whispering my name.

Forget about all that though, because today I went shopping at Whole Foods and stocked up on some vegan options, including beans, frozen veggies, seitan, etc.

I heated up a vegan pizza for lunch – Amy’s Non-Dairy Cheeze Pizza with Rice Crust.  I couldn’t get the soy cheese to melt properly, but it was still delicious.  However, I was surprised that this one personal pizza contained 43% of my Daily Value of “Total Fat.”  I thought vegan food was supposed to be less fatty than animal-based food…

After dinner, to get my sweet fix, I had a Tofutti Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich bar, which tasted better than some dairy-based ice cream sandwiches that I’ve had.

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