I Am Stuffed: Dining well at Café Gratitude

By Midge Raymond on

Midge Raymond

Ashland Creek Press co-founder Midge Raymond is the author of the award-winning short story collection FORGETTING ENGLISH and a novel, MY LAST CONTINENT. Learn more at MidgeRaymond.com.

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It’s been years since I’ve been to Café Gratitude, the last time in Berkeley, California, and so when visiting San Diego recently, I was thrilled to learn that this small, plant-based chain has opened a new restaurant in San Diego’s Little Italy.

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This brand-new Café Gratitude opened just a couple of weeks before I visited, and it was packed. Yet already things were running smoothly; we were seated quickly, the service was great, and the food was delicious.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Café Gratitude, it’s a bit of a quirky experience. The menu items are affirmations (for example, if you want an eggplant parmesan panini, you order it by saying, “I Am Awesome”). This San Diego location is pretty mellow about this; in Berkeley, we were asked, “What are you grateful for today?” as soon as we were seated, and when I ordered a dish called “I Am Whole,” the server said to me with great joy, “You are whole.” Here in San Diego, the server just took our order and went on his way … so they’ve localized well for this customer base.

We began with “I Am Celebrating,” an order of two collard-wrapped spring rolls filled with daikon and wakame, carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado, pickled vegetables. The rolls were spectacularly flavorful and came with two sauces, sesame wasabi and Thai almond, which added even more flavor.

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We both had wraps as entrees … I was “Glorious” and enjoyed the caesar salad tempeh wrap, which featured blackened jerk tempeh, avocado, romaine, coconut bacon, tomato, capers, brazil nut parmesan, and cashew caesar dressing, all wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. On the side was  mixed greens with goji chipotle vinaigrette.

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My friend was “Extraordinary,” and said her meal was the same: a vegan BLT wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, with coconut bacon, romaine, tomato, avocado, chipotle cashew aioli, and a lovely wild rice summer bean salad on the side.

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There is also a long list of beverages, from wines, beers, and cocktails to juices, elixirs, and smoothies. My friend tried the “I Am Immortal” coffee (a blend of three mushroom powders along with coffee, steamed almond milk, and cinnamon) — warm, earthy, and delicious. I had the vitamin-C shot otherwise known as “I Am Beaming,” a tangy and invigorating blend of orange juice, carrot juice, goji berry, camu camu, astragalus, acerola berry, and amla berry, served in a very tiny glass.

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We were too stuffed for dessert but didn’t want to miss out, so we picked a few items to go. Among them: “I Am Mighty,” a superfood energy bar made of hemp, flax, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds; almonds; goji berries; coconut butter; and cacao nibs. Half dipped in raw chocolate, it’s so decadent I’m glad it’s called a “superfood,” which makes me feel a little better about gobbling it.

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I also took home “I Am Kind,” a rice/quinoa crispy treat drizzled with raw chocolate.

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It’s equally decadent, and not at all fluffy like many crispy rice treats.

I’d highly recommend this light, airy cafe for its fresh, delicious food and abundant choices. Based on its early popularity — as well as our chat with fellow diners who work in the neighborhood and are on a mission to try everything on the menu — reservations might be a good idea. And while this location may not have quite the same vibe as Berkeley, you’ll still likely be grateful for having been here.

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