Search This Blog

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Restaurant Review: Cafe Gratitude

I have to apologize for the photos. It was dark and I just had a cell phone.

I remember settling for so-so desserts that were gluten free and thinking, "Well, that's as good as it gets." After starting a raw vegan diet a little over a year ago, I had the luck of walking into a local restaurant and seeing something that looked like cheesecake. I asked about ingredients thinking it had to be something gross and soy, but it was safe for me to eat. I poked at it a bit trying to figure out what it REALLY was before taking a bite. That first bite was heaven. I had raw vegan cheesecake and it was like stepping into another plane of dessertdome. After that, I had to figure out how to make these delicious morsels myself. I can't remember if I purchased Sweet Gratitude or my sister-in-law gave it to me, but after tasting those fantastic desserts I made from their recipes, I had to visit the restaurant in person.

I live in Seattle and Cafe Gratitude is located in San Francisco, so there was a bit of a geographical barrier to that goal - until last week. The company I work for sent me to San Francisco for a conference and I was absolutely determined to visit the cafe. Every night I was in San Francisco I dined with coworkers, which is great, but no one else in the group is vegan or allergy prone (except someone would develop anaphylaxis when exposed to mushrooms - that was scary). One night we all went to Thai and the only thing I could order was a bowl of brown rice. I was holding out hope for Cafe Gratitude. (Don't go feeling too sorry for me. I always think ahead and pack frozen soups and other foods that travel well so I can eat when I get back to my room.)

On the final night in San Francisco, I was going to Cafe Gratitude with or without coworkers. A couple women were brave enough to try something new and we caught a cab to 20th and Harrison. It was a really rainy night, and we didn't spot the restaurant until we were almost past it. It was in a cute, older style house that reminded me of some of the homes I saw in England.

The interior was homey and comfortable. The atmosphere was very pleasant and the women I was with remarked on it as well. I was excited to be in my dessert Mecca and spent the first few minutes staring into the dessert case, wondering which filling was in those beautiful chocolates.

My coworkers are from the Midwest and may have been taken slightly aback by our server's numerous piercings, but the server was a real sweetheart and very helpful with the menu. I was tickled to hear that they are a gluten free establishment and most of their menu items were completely soy free. My coworkers had never been in a vegan restaurant before, never ordered a vegan meal, and had no idea where to start. I was trying to manage my own expectations and theirs, and steered them away from raw vegan soups. It's hard for some people to get used to cold soup.

The three of us decided to share an appetizer sampler at the suggestion of our server (good call). The hemp seed pesto crostini was amazing. I loved the texture of the "toast", which was almond based and had a texture similar to bagel chips, only thicker. The buckwheat crackers were of very good texture and flavor and reminded me of Wheat Thins in shape and texture. The hummus was probably my favorite component. The olive tapenade was very good. I'm told the flax chips were good but the cheeze sauce was a little spicy for my friend. The spring rolls were alright, but not the favorite part of the dish, and one of the coworkers loved the soup. I would love to know how they make their crackers. When the plate came out I thought, "Wow, that's not very much for $16", but it was very satisfying. I think the nut components helped fill me up a bit and I didn't feel cheated after sampling.

We all also ordered the I Am Effervescent Ginger Ale. It was very good, but wasn't quite heavy enough on the ginger for me. It was plenty sweet without being overly so. I think it may have been slightly heavy on the lemon, which threw off the taste. It was more like a sparkling gingerade.

Two of us ordered the I am Dazzling - Caesar Salad and I elected to order with capers. The capers really enhanced the dish and I was amazed at how reminiscent of Caesar dressing their dressing was. There was more almond toast like the appetizer round broken into crouton sizes. I ordered the half size and was fairly full after sharing the appetizer.

I ordered a half salad because I was not leaving there without having dessert. I know, it's not part of the diet I'm on right now, but I wasn't having much success at staying low carb anyhow and this was a special treat! I consulted with the server. Unfortunately, the key lime pie and coconut pie both had soy, so I opted for the pecan pie. It was very good, but it was that traditional on-the-verge-of-a-toothache pecan pie sweet. I was hoping for something a little more toned down in flavor because of the environment. I think people who love traditional pecan pie would definitely love this dessert.

My coworkers ordered the key lime cheesecake and the coconut pie. The coconut pie was ordered with some chocolate sauce. She loved the pie, but was head over heels for the chocolate sauce and talked about it for a good part of the cab ride back to the hotel. It was not too sweet and had a lot of flavor she wasn't used to having in a chocolate sauce.

Obviously not my photograph. This appears as it does on the Cafe

The experience was fantastic. I would go again in a heartbeat and told my husband he's lucky we don't live in San Francisco because we would be there all the time. Actually, he'd probably like it very much as well.

The coworker who had the coconut pie wrote me an email to thank me for suggesting the restaurant and said it was a fantastic experience. She loved the food and had a surplus of energy that evening. It is so nice to be able to introduce people to something new. I was glad my coworkers had an open mind and were welcoming a new experience.


  1. Wow, lucky you to visit Cafe Gratitude! It's always tricky to introduce people to unfamiliar food, so I'm glad your experience worked well. It sounds like a great place to keep in mind if I ever find myself in San Francisco again.

  2. I am so sad I haven't been there yet! Luckily I have made a lot of their pies and tasted some creations and had classes from a few of their chefs. I love the coconut pie. It really is very decadent. I"m glad your coworkers were happy with it!