Health, Meet Pleasure


A few years back in Philadelphia, I remember reviewing a raw food restaurant that nearly made me gag. By the end of the meal, the cold slivers of carrots, cucumber, sprouty things and all manner of mushroom, combined differently (but tasting the same) in nearly every dish, had created a watery, almost grassy feeling in my gut that was the exact opposite of satisfaction or fullness.

Cafe Gratitude's chile relleno with red rice.

But even a non-fan of purist eating can be made happy at Café Gratitude, where dishes bear affirmative names like “I am Sensational” and “I am Cheerful.” Pizzas are made with buckwheat and sunflower seed “crusts,” cashew “ricotta” and Brazil-nut “parmesan” and topped with things like a pesto made of basil and hemp seeds. Veggie burgers are made of sprouted pumpkin seeds and walnut. Desserts are made with delicious things like raw cacao and coconut. And don’t even get me started on the nut-milk-based smoothies and shakes or the steaming organic teas. It is actually possible to eat to your heart’s (and taste buds’) content here without one shred of guilt; you can kind of feel your body humming with the pleasure of sustenance.

Unbelievably good "raw" desserts.

Because Café Gratitude’s menu is “mostly live,” it makes brilliant use of quinoa and red rice spiced in Mexican and Asian flavors, and it’s amazing how just a little bit of gently cooked starch can balance out a veggie-heavy meal. I like that CG doesn’t go overboard in its approach to health—you can order a wheatgrass shot or a shot of espresso, along with a variety of organic wines, beers and ciders. A spoonful of “sugar” does indeed make the medicine go down.

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