Goodbye Gracias and Gratitude?

The announcement of the impending sale or closure of all Northern California locations of Cafe Gratitude as well as Gracias Madre feels like a huge blow to the vegan food scene. I have to admit, I was shocked and almost teared up when I read the news on Huffington Post on Tuesday.

The news took me back to my California trip with Lisa back in August, where we toured the many vegan restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. Both Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre were top priorities. While the notice on Cafe Gratitude’s website says they will still be open for a few more months, I’m sad that I won’t be able to make it back there for one last meal (unless I go to LA).

Both restaurants share similar values of love, nourishment and celebration, and my experience was nothing less. At Cafe Gratitude, the menu is organic, mostly raw and all vegan. Knowing their two cookbooks, I am Grateful and Sweet Gratitude, are full of inspiring, high quality recipes, I was eager to browse through similar selections on their menu and had a hard time selecting just one meal to try. I was particularly impressed after spotting their I am Grateful dish, which was created so that people in need could have access to nourishing vegan food.

After much debate, I decided on the I am Complete, a Mediterranean plate with raw almond hummus, olive tapenade, live falafel, cucumber tzatziki salad and flax crackers. While the falafel were slightly dry, the sauces and dips were superb and I couldn’t help but finish the entire plate.

Lisa and I couldn’t resist a sneak peak at the dessert display near the back of the restaurant. As you would expect, it was full of gorgeous raw dessert options that Cafe Gratitude is famous for. After our meals, neither of us thought we could manage a dense slice of raw cheesecase like the one below. Instead, I settled for a raw chocolate smoothie and Lisa had a raw chocolate mint ice cream sandwich that we savoured on our walk home.

As much as I loved my experience at Cafe Gratitude, Gracia Madre was by far my favourite. It offers organic vegan Mexican cuisine in the middle of San Fransisco’s Mission district.

Here, Lisa and I decided to share two appetizers to get the most out of the experience. The Ensalada de fruta consisted of farm lettuce tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette, topped with toasted hazelnuts and grilled peaches, served with grilled Acme bread and garlic cashew cheese. Before this, I had never thought of adding grilled peaches or hazelnuts to my salads, and I questioned my previous salad decisions with every bite. The garlic bread was also divine—its smooth garlic cheese kept calling me back for another bite.

We also enjoyed the quesadillas de camote, made up of sweet potato and caramelized onions folded into tortillas with cashew nacho cheese and pumpkin seed salsa. I am a big fan of both sweet potato and caramelized onions and so this dish did not disappoint. The addition of the cashew cheese made this dish top notch, and as you can see the serving sizes were quite generous.

After lunch we tossed around the idea of Sangria but since it was a cool day in SF, tea and horchata were ordered instead. Because of the sweet company and delicious food, it was a meal I will never forget.

I suggest we all pool together our resources to save these magnificent establishments. Are you in?



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