With the transformative One Santa Fe mixed use complex now complete in the Arts District, the project is slowly beginning to welcome its ground floor commercial tenants. First onto the scene is the wildly popular Café Gratitude which will soon join a diverse range of new businesses scheduled to debut in the building over the course of the coming year. No stranger to Los Angeles, this is Café Gratitude’s third location in the region following the opening of its original SoCal outpost in Larchmont and its second locale in Venice in 2012. The new downtown space maintains a bright, modern aesthetic and is nestled in the center of the complex. Large windows facing Santa Fe Ave provide views into the kitchen and an intimate front patio softens the space while adding nice interaction with the street and complex. The real attraction, however, is the food inside.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a regular connoisseur of vegan cuisine. Despite this, Café Gratitude’s reputation precedes it and I have been meaning to try it for a long time. I’m happy to say that I enjoyed my first visit. For those accustomed to Café Gratitude’s other locations, the downtown menu will look largely familiar. For those new to the concept, ordering at Café Gratitude is a bit of an experience. You can place your order by stating the name of the item or by using its one word positive descriptor. These can include words like “extraordinary” or “magical.” Both are happily accepted by the enthusiastic staff and it’s all part of the restaurant’s DNA. Although a little jarring at first, you quickly get the hang of it.
On my recent visit I sampled items from various sections of the menu including the blueberry antioxidant (Blissful) smoothie, the (Vivacious) kale chips, the (Celebrating) collard spring rolls, and the (Terrific) Pad Thai Noodles. All were incredibly fresh and tasty, but the (Pure) kale salad and Pad Thai were my favorites. Combining shredded kale, avocado, seal palm, nori, cucumbers, carrots and cilantro among other ingredients, the kale salad feels like a perfect lunch item or starter before dinner. The sesame wasabi and garlic tahini dressing adds a nice bite to what’s an otherwise light dish. The raw Pad Thai is made with marinated kelp noodles, Thai almond sauce, carrots, bell peppers, kale, chopped almonds, and sprouts. It doesn’t necessarily taste like traditional Pad Thai, but the flavors are great. The fact that it’s completely raw was also pretty interesting.
One common thread I found among all the dishes I tried was how filling they are. Not being vegan myself, I somehow assumed that I would enjoy the food but be starving afterwards. This was definitely not the case! As Café Gratitude’s menu might say, I felt…fulfilled.
Café Gratitude serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open daily from 8 AM – 10 PM.
All photos below by Brigham Yen
Now the food…