Café Gratitude Review

If you follow me on this blog or on social media, then you will be aware that while I am not myself a vegetarian, I truly and deeply love trying vegetarian and specifically vegan dishes in both my own home cooking and when dining out; I am always on the lookout for fun veggie centric recipes and cool new veg-friendly restaurants. As far as restaurants go, I have found staples in the fast casual chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods and the hidden gem/slightly hole-in-the-wallish Mitasie 3. Recently, however, I had the pleasure to dine in the thoughtful sit down plant-based restaurant, Café Gratitude.

cafe gratitude logo

A very small southern California based chain with a location in Newport Beach, Café Gratitude has attracted a ton of attention and praise with their diverse menu of completely vegan, plant-based dishes crafted completely from scratch from locally sourced and 100% organic ingredients. You read that right: all the food is vegan, all of it is organic, and everything is cooked from scratch; even ingredients such as their nut cheeses and breads are made in house rather than being sourced or prepped from a producer. Additionally, their mindful food is served in a bright, warm, nice-casual sit down atmosphere with phenomenal service for a true and great dining experience.

Café Gratitude in Newport Beach is open and airy with warm earthy notes. A large, high ceiling atmosphere with artistic touches flows seamlessly out into a breezy covered patio. The space is most definitely nice and calls for a proper sit down meal or even a celebration with friends, yet it is not at all stuffy or fancy; nice jeans and a good shirt are perfectly acceptable here, but at the same time, this is not the corner vegetarian grab-and-go café you wander into after an hour long heated yoga class. For my experience, my best friend Kayleigh and I were seated at a lovely mosaic table inside near the patio where our fantastic vegan dining experience began to unfold.

With a good wine list and full bar available, my friend and I opted for a couple glasses of bright and crisp white wine as it just felt right in the airy space on a warm summer evening. The drink menu we perused offered several craft cocktails and a good amount of draft beers as well; no matter what you are looking for to wet your whistle, you should be able to find something.

Then it was onto the main attraction; the organic, made from scratch, completely vegan food! Now, Café Gratitude’s menu is so unique because each menu item is some sort of positive adjective to continue with the uplifting vibe that “Gratitude” in “Café Gratitude” conveys. So rather than a dish being called the “Braised Asparagus Risotto” it is instead more interestingly titled “Inspired”. Different and cool, right? It gets better. Once you order one of these adjective named dishes, the passionate servers turn that adjective into a compliment for you. Example? My friend ordered the “Warm-Hearted” for dinner and our server incidentally told her, quite sincerely, “You are warm-hearted.” I know, it’s a little new-age-y, but how positive!

Additionally, the server left us with a “positive conversation starter”, asking us the question, “What are you choosing? What are you choosing in life, for yourself, and for others?” They do this to spark uplifting and thought provoking conversations amongst their guests, instead of them returning to their Pokemon Go (guilty). I don’t mind that this practice is a little out there, we need more blatant kindness and positivity in this world!

Cafe Gratitude Feliz 2

The “Feliz” – Coconut Ceviche Tostada

Anyway, per another friend’s recommendation, we began with the small plate appetizer the “Feliz” which was a coconut ceviche tostada.  Black bean puree smeared on a crispy housemade corn tortilla, pilled with a cool coleslaw, roasted tomatillo sauce, avocado, cashew queso fresco, and coconut meat that by some miracle had been manipulated to feel and taste like traditional shellfish ceviche.  This dish was the perfect appetizer; cooling on a warm summer night with all the flavors of Baja. I am still in awe at how much it tasted and felt like ceviche to the tongue. It’s magic.

Cafe Gratitude Warm Hearted

The “Warm-Hearted” – a grilled polenta and tomatillo sauce dish

For her main course, as previously mentioned, my friend had the “Warm-Hearted”. Grilled polenta cake, braised summer squashes, roasted tomatillo sauce, sautéed kale, salsa verde, and more cashew queso fresca. This dish was zesty and sweet all at once. The polenta had that nice crisp crust and wonderful soft inner cake. The tomatillo sauce and the salsa created a great warm, hearty (no pun intended) flavor profile with earthy notes from the kale and squashes, and a cooling, decadent touch from the cashew queso fresco. Also, can someone please sell me a tub of this cashew queso fresco? Finally, queso fresco without guilt!

Cafe Gratitude Fearless

The “Fearless” – a eggplant and tempeh based meatball dish

For my main entrée, I had the “Fearless,” and yes, I was indeed told that I was “fearless” myself. This dish featured orange-scented meatballs constructed from roasted eggplant and tempeh. Served in a mini cast iron pan over balsamic braised radicchio and onions, all covered in a warming marinara sauce and topped with arugula and wait for it- cashew ricotta. I must say, this dish was the winner. I am still haunted by how decadently delicious this dish was for being completely plant-based! The meatballs were bursting with rich flavors that were complimented perfectly by the slightly spicy marinara sauce, sweet onions and radicchio, and a rich touch from the cashew ricotta. People, I am Italian, and this dish was near as good as having meatballs in a meat sauce; that is truly saying something!

Cafe Gratitude Cheesecake 2

The Vegan Cashew cheese based Peach Cheesecake

Despite all of our food being vegan and even decently low in filling carbs, we were stuffed by this point; completely satisfied! But you know, I don’t eat out that much, so when I do, I get the dessert. We had a slice of the peach cheesecake, which was not on the menu but rather, developed by the chef due to the influx of fresh summer peaches they were receiving; that’s when you know you are in a real restaurant with real chefs; when they get creative with what they’re blessed with! Here again, the cheesecake was completely plant-based! How?! The cream cheese was again cashew based and the crunchy granola crust was made with coconut oil rather than butter. The cake was tart and sweet with the fresh peach truly coming through in the best possible way. It was the perfect summer time dessert!

And that was our meal! We left in high spirits, filled with good wine and delicious earth grown, organic food. Café Gratitude’s mission is to celebrate aliveness through peacefully raised and prepared food, utilizing the earth’s bounty to create stunning dishes that are good for the human body as well as the planet. I would say, they are succeeding at this mission; they make vegan, plant-based eating delightful and delicious. If I knew how to cook vegan food like they do, I would honestly probably eat more vegan meals away from just Meatless Monday. To that note, I would love to take a mini course under their chefs. Café Gratitude is a place for a great dining experience with food that is good for you and the planet, and an atmosphere that uplifts your overall being. I can’t wait to go back!

i love magic


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