I'll start this off with a disclaimer - I'm not a vegan. I love beef, foie gras, pate, cheese and all those other lovely heart stopping animal products. However, I am a huge fan of good produce and I do get cravings for vegan food when my body is overwhelmed with meat. To this end, Cafe Gratitude impressed me very much. The ingredient quality is impeccable, the preparation is excellent and the service is lovely.
The atmosphere was nice just as long as you don't take any of the New Age stuff too seriously. Yes, there are new age posters all over the walls and board games on each table. Try to focus on the Chow and keep your sarcasm levels to a minimum.
One note: all of the tables are communal tables. If you don't like sharing your table, don't eat here.
I Am Fulfilled, the large cafe salad, tasted as if the greens had just been plucked from the garden. The salad bowl was brimming with fresh veggies and one of the most beautiful avocados I have ever seen in February. The Citrus Garlic dressing complimented the salad well, giving it a zing without overwhelming the flavors of the vegetables.
I am Generous guacamole is some of the best guac I've ever had in a restaurant (though Mrs. Mousse's is still better.) The live flax chips were "different" but they had a nice crunch and I enjoyed them.
I am Abundant sampler plate was hit or miss. The pesto was superb, and I also enjoyed the hummus and nachos. The kale salad was too fibrous (I've never understood the whole raw kale thing) and the carrot soup was too strongly spiced. Not too hot, just too many spices doing too many things overloaded my palate. It was a good thing to order the first time, because now I know what I love and what I'm not such a big fan of.
I am Vivacious stuffed avocado was the dish that wowed me. The flavors really went well together and the avocado shined as the base of the dish.
We weren't in the mood for dessert, but we did enjoy a cup of warm almond milk. It had hints of almond and vanilla, and gave the meal a nice sweet ending.
The service was very good. They were packed with people (when we left, the line was coming out the door) and they clearly did not expect such a huge turnout. Things were slow, as one would expect on opening night, and some of the menu items were unavailable. I think they handled the understaffing problem very well. Our server came by to explain the situation, express her gratitude to all of us for coming and apologize for the delay. She even went so far as to advise patrons who had to catch a show to come back another time - not too many restaurants would do that. Everyone who stopped by our table was kind, friendly and eager to please. There was absolutely no "holier than thou" hippie attitude here.
As much as I enjoyed the food, there was part of me that felt unsatisfied. I guess I just have a psychological desire to eat hot food for dinner that it is difficult to overcome. Still, I'll definitely hit up Gratitude when I'm craving a salad for lunch or a smoothie for breakfast.
All inclusive cost for dinner was $70. Considering ingredient quality and the labor that goes into some of the food I thought the price was quite reasonable. It's a welcome addition to the Gourmet Ghetto and I'm sure I'll work it into my usual routine.
Cafe Gratitude is on Shattuck St between Virginia and Cedar where Fontina once was. They're open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can come to sit down at a table, grab a bar stool for a drink or get some of the deli items and the smoothies and juice to go.