One of the struggles that Mike and I have faced since turning to a mostly plant based diet has been finding places to eat out. I have no issues cooking 100% vegan meals that I find absolutely delicious but the times I feel most frustrated the diet is when we are eating out. We are lucky to have a few restaurants in Encinitas which have vegan options but it means that we end up eating at the same four places over and over. We tend to eat brunch/lunch out both days on the weekend and we eat dinner out at least once a week and we basically rotate three restaurants in, or on occasion, eat something vegetarian but not vegan from somewhere else (last weekend we had Thai food for example and didn’t ask them to hold the egg/fish sauce). We also tend to eat eggs out at breakfast about once a week which allows us one additional restaurant thrown in.
It has now been seven months since we made the switch and needless to say, these four restaurants (three of which we order only one thing off the menu every time with rarely any variety) are getting a little old. We still love them, but I couldn’t have been any happier when I read a fellow San Diego vegetarian runner’s blog about a popular vegan restaurant opening up a location in San Diego. Not only San Diego – in Encinitas, the small beach town just north of San Diego proper where I live!
I clicked the link to the restaurant website, scanned the menu and was literally jumping for joy with excitement. I couldn’t even decide what to try first because for the first time in a very long time, I could eat every single thing on the menu. And not only could I eat it all, I actually liked it all!
Of course I had to share the news with the Twittersphere immediately, namely my BFF and fellow plant based eater, Asia. Immediately a plan was hatched to check out the restaurant the next night (i.e. last night!).
Since Mike is out of town, Asia, Jeremy and I headed to Native Foods last night (with plans to return with Mike of course). Asia and Jeremy had actually already eaten at a Native Foods in LA once (they found it using the Happy Cow app which helps vegetarians and vegans find veg-friendly restaurants near them on the go) and they loved it.
Since I had a big lunch, I opted for the Caribbean Jerk Kale Salad (Jerk seasoned Native Tempeh, avocado, chopped mango, red peppers and onion tossed with crunchy kale in a creamy jalapeno cilantro dressing. Garnished with green onion and shredded coconut.) but Asia and Jeremy gave me bites of their more decadent dishes (the Chicken Run Ranch Burger and Bistro Steak Sandwich). They also ordered the Native Chicken Wings appetizer and gave me a bite of that. As someone who grew up eating fried chicken strips, I must say, these were just as good (if not better?)!
Everything was AMAZING. Asia and Jeremy’s sandwiches were delicious and less greasy versions of their animal-based counterparts and my salad was refreshing and incredibly flavorful. Asia’s sandwich came with sweet potato fries since she ordered the daily special (usually you have to pay extra for sides but if it’s a daily special they are free!) and she was nice enough to share some with me. I was happy that these were delicious as well.
My only concern with the menu was the abundance of fake meats. I really try to avoid processed fake meats, especially ones with soy (besides tempeh which is fermented soy and is ok in my book). However, when we arrived I was glad to see a description of their fake meats which explained that the main ingredient in the majority of them was either tempeh or seitan. I’d actually never had seitan but the description on the menu indicated it is a wheat-based whole protein that has a similar flavor to meats. This is what Native Foods uses in the majority of their mock meat type dishes like the chicken and steak sandwiches. They also make the tempeh and seitan from scratch, so it’s likely to have less of the weird stuff that is put into processed meats you find at the grocery store.
I definitely see a long and fulfilling relationship with Native Foods in my future. My only qualm is that it is a big pricey ($11 after tax for my salad which honestly wouldn’t have been enough food for me had I not had Asia and Jeremy there to share some scraps of theirs with me ). I could definitely see Mike and I coming here and regularly spending $30 on lunch and it’s not even a full service restaurant (you order at the counter). As long as we limit ourselves to one trip a week this place won’t break the bank and will provide delicious vegan comfort foods after long runs.
Have you ever been to Native Foods or another 100% plant based restaurant?