—You mean there’s an alternative to eating? Wow! Think of all the time we’d save if...
—No. You didn’t let me finish.
I was going to say there’s an alternative to eating meat and potatoes, pale green salad drenched in hydrogenated vegetable oil, and frosted cake reeking of white sugar. In San Diego, foods that have no history in the American diet are establishing a tradition of their own among a growing health-conscious restaurant clientele. If your mind is poised towards vegetarianism, if you acknowledge the dangers of artificial food additives, if you have chosen to be careful about nutrition, or if you just like to experiment with your diet now and then, you'll find a whole kitchen cupboard full of alternative eateries in San Diego. These restaurants specialize in low prices (for the most part), food prepared from scratch, no smoking allowed, ban on preservatives and artificial flavors and colors, use of whole grains. Alternative eateries are of two basic types:
After visiting ten of these fast food alternative eateries, I decided never to look an avocado cheese melt in the open-face again: the menus are so similar. But each sandwich shop has its own tasty trademark, its special vibes, and, what I’ll leave for you to measure, its own variations as to size and cost per serving.
In Leucadia, the northernmost boundary of this Guide, Fred Harwood, who looked as though he was playing store, told me the Rubaiyat has been open for two months.
Rubaiyat, 1900 North Highway 101, Leucadia. Open 11-7, closed Tuesday.
The kitchen of the Rubaiyat cafe is fully equipped with micro-wave and blender, all a fast food veggie place needs to concot its shakes, salads, sandwiches, and ceteras. The Rubaiyat is lacto-vegetarian, though not strictly a health food joint since it sells ice cream, a concession almost all of the alternative eateries has made. According to Fred, most of the business eats at one of the four tables instead of “taking it out." That’s unusual for the mini-menu format of the place. On your next trip back frqm San Clemente, you might stop at the Rubaiyat for an Omar’s Dream, a mocha beverage.
Encinitas’ population of 5,000 is supporting five (count 'em) alternative eateries, or one for every so many people. Three of the five offer fast food.
Encinitas Natural Foods, called “ ‘I’ Street” by the locals, is part of a health food store.
Encinitas Natural Foods, “I” Street, west of Highway 101, Encinitas. Open 10-9, closed Wednesday.
The Om Burger, a seed and vegetable patty served on a whole wheat bun, leads the menu in sales. “I" Street specializes in raw fruit pies and a dairyless soup of the day. The menu of salads, sandwiches, and side orders is vegetarian with Mexican food, a long list of fruit drinks, and “organic sodas made with naturally carbonated water.”
If I hadn’t been traveling with an ice cream freak (see Reader of July 10, 1975), I never would have stopped at a place called Ice Cream Parlour on my search for alternative eateries.
Ice Cream Parlour, 290 North Highway 101, Encinitas. Open 10-8:30, 7 days.
The Ice Cream Parlour changed hands three months ago. Charming, precocious 12-year-old Natalie Gutierrez, the owners' daughter, and her forthright 14-year-old cousin Marta Morena tell me that soon the name too will be changed to reflect the innocence of the foods within. Maybe something like “Las Campanitas.’’ little bells, because the Gutierrez family collects Mexican bells. The Ice Cream Parlour serves a varied menu of fruit and vegetable salads, sandwiches, and exotic beverages. The tar baby special combines coconut juice, papaya, dates, frozen banana, coconut, and honey. Now, the hottest item is the walnut oat burger with sprouts and guacamole, but coming soon is a line of vegetarian Mexican foods, the frijoles cooked in pure vegetable oil. Natalie's parents feel microwave ovens are harmful to food and people; so they use a small conventional oven. The Ice Cream Parlour does have ice cream, both Altadena and Carnation. Eat there or take-out.
Some health food supplies are on sale.
The three-month-old Daily Bread is another new fast food alternative with the rough wood decor adopted by most of the restaurants in this Guide. Bob Beck, who sliced me a wedge of homemade pumpkin-cheese pie, was proud of the low prices and high quality of the foods and said the owners envision a chain of Daily Bread's. They already have stools like MacDonald’s.
Daily Bread, 517 First Street (Highway 101), Encinitas. 10-10, 7 days.
Thanks to the mother of one of the owners, there’s an Italian flavor to many of the recipes at the Daily Bread. Besides the alternatively standard sandwiches and salads, the Bread serves omelettes and hot casserole dinners all day. Local women make the pies at home. When Bob runs out of a certain kind of pie, he telephones one of the bakers, and she whips up a replacement to order. At the Daily Bread, you can treat your non-vegetarian friends to a tuna sandwich while you stick to “The Squash Buckler” (a zucchini sandwich) or other vegetarian punishments. The printed menu is itself an entertainment.
If you don't feel like driving all the way to Encinitas for your health food fix, just roll to a stop at the Little Red House in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.
Little Red House, 1951 San Elijo (comer of Vulcan, you can’t miss it, just look for a little red...).
Open 10-6 Monday-Saturday, 11-5 Sunday.
The House is a combo health food store and take-out fast food spot featuring hot garbanzo bean pizzas. Tuna is on the menu. Beverages at the Little Red House can be spiked with ginseng, bee pollen, vitamin E. powder, and other extras to make sure your calories are not empty ones.
Avocado and cheese without the melt is the fastest mover at Sunseed, but maybe not for long. A Middle Eastern element has just been introduced onto the menu, and new devotees are gobbling it up.
Sunseed, 705 Felspar, Pacific Beach. Open 10-5.
But Reyad Rattan plans to expand those hours and serve Syrian food to go, at night from 6-11. For a month, he's been making felafel and tabulee, with his homemade hummus, but he's experimenting with other vegetarian Syrian recipes to be used at night. The Sunseed also offers a menu of cold sandwiches, many of them invented by Ricki, who’s been working there since the place opened a year ago. Special diets can be accommodated at Sunseed. You order your sandwich and smoothie through a window and eat at outdoor picnic tables. The ingredients come from the health food store next door, under the same ownership. Reyad, himself a meat eater, is nevertheless so enthusiastic about the vegetarian food at the Sunseed that he guarantees his 60-cent felafel sandwich will fill you up more than three of vou-know-w'no's hamburgers.
The Homestead in Ocean Beach has a patio atmosphere.
Homestead, 4708 Voltaire, Ocean Beach. Open 118 Tuesday -Saturday, 11-7 Sunday, closed Monday,
The Homestead has been mainly a lunch place, but recently a daily dinner special has been offered. Sully Sullivan, who’s been working at the Homestead for a year, considers it a transition vegetarian restaurant for people wanting to start a new diet. Inside, you pick up a menu, order, pay in advance, then sit either at an indoor table or outside by the planters. A server brings your food: soups, salads, sandwiches with arab bread baked to order for the Homestead.
Natural Habit used to be^a Future Foods, see #9. It has taken off on its own. however, and added a Niederfrank’s ice cream bar. sandwich special of the week, and a dollar bargain hour.
Natural Habit, 4966 Santa Monica Ave., Ocean Beach. Open 11-8 Monday-Friday, 11-9 Saturday and Sunday.
Natural Habit is a microwave and blender operation specializing in sandwiches and smoothies, with tuna also on the menu. Patrons order at the window and either take-out the food or eat at simple tables arranged outside.
Future Foods has been around for a long time, as fast food alternative eateries go. Three and a half years, according to Steve Jones, manager of the Pacific Beach store. His store was the first in a chain of six Future Foods's. One is in Arizona: the locations of the other five are listed below. All Future Foods's offer the same menu, unpretentious surroundings, and serve smoothies without ice cream. Many of the fast food places mentioned above were inspired by the success of Future Foods.
Future Foods, 1651 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach. Open 11-8, 7 days.
1130 Camino Del Mar (Highway 101), Del Mar. Open 11-8, 7 days.
621 Pearl Street, La Jolla. Open 11-8, 7 days.
2909 Mission Blvd., Mission Beach. Open 11-8, 7 days.
1916 Cable Street, Ocean Beach. Open 11-9, 7 days.
The second type of alternative eatery is characterized by complete dinners, table service, and. in some cases, ambiance.
DINING OUT AU NATUREL
E-Z listening was on the muzak the day I visited the Shepherd. The atmosphere is very low key: plastic coated booths, easy on the wall hangings, quiet service.
The Shepherd, 1126 South Highway 101, Encinitas. Open 8:30-2:30; 5:30-9:00, 7 days.
Every item on the menu is served anytime. You can have your buckwheat pancakes for supper or cheese souffle for breakfast at the Shepherd. Entrees may be ordered a la carte or with complete dinner. Co-owner Rick Cremin says a piano player sometimes entertains on weekends. No flesh on the menu, but you can get fake sausage and other deceptive non-meats made from soy beans. The Shepherd caters: weddings, parties, and most of the customers for this service are non-vegetarian. Although the Shepherd started as a place for people from the.Self-Realization Fellowship down the street, it has retained no Christian affiliation. But guess Who the Shepherd is?
There are two Rocco's in San Diego. Both are decorated in genuine organic wood, but the Rocco's in Encinitas is much ritzier.
Rocco’s, 1044 Highway 101, Encinitas.
3445 Ingraham St., Pacific Beach. Open 4-11 Monday-Friday, noon-11 Saturday, noon-10 Sunday.
And there's one more Rocco’s in Isla Vista.
Rocco's is Italiano with multi-course dinners, chefs salad, and, specialty of the house — Rocco’s Favorite pizza. The minestrone soup is sensational. Both San Diego Rocco's deliver to your door. Encinitas serves wine and beer and has entertainment on Wednesday and Thursday. Pacific Beach has non-alcoholic beer. Both menus include veal parmigian, ham in the chefs salad, and cheeseburger, all a la soy, of course. But I have proof that it tastes like the real Italiano. Once we took my inlaws to Rocco’s without telling them it was vegetarian. Only AFTER they raved about the food did we show them the fine print on the menu ... where it explains about the soy beans.
The newest alternative eatery is, paradoxically, the first one in town, the town of Solana Beach, that is. The Wood-Dove is so new, it doesn’t even have an address, and owner Jim DeBauche doesn’t even know his partner's last name.
Wood-Dove, end of Acacia, off Highway 101, near Solana Beach Park, Solana Beach. 11-midnight, 7 days.
Omar’s Dream is on the menu of the Wood-Dove, too, because Jim is part owner of the Rubaiyat in Leucadia, see #1. He opened up both restaurants all of a sudden. But he considers the Wood-Dove HIS place. Jim is still creating the menu. He hadn’t gotten his oven yet the day I visited Wood-Dove. He’s planning on lacto-vegetarian dinners as well as sandwiches. Felafel is already on the menu. The interior is brand-new unfinished wood: the outside may someday hold a patio dining area. Jim has plans for live entertainment and bread baked on location in his kitchen. He opened Wood-Dove early so that people could get used to the idea of a vegetarian restaurant while he was getting it ready for the grand opening. r
Another place to take your inlaws, (besides Rocco’s, see # 15-16), and other anti-health food nuts is the Gatekeeper.
The Gatekeeper, 1294 . Prospect St., La Jolla. Open 11:30 2:30 brunch; 5:30-10:00 dinner, Monday-Friday; 9:00-4:30 brunch; 4:30-10:00 dinner, Saturday and Sunday; minimum charge for lunch $1.35, for dinner $2.00.
Michael O’Connor, who with his parents and three siblings runs the Gatekeeper, calls it a health restaurant for the uninitiated. He explained that the Gatekeeper started three and a half years ago as a vegetarian restaurant, but business was slow. Now, with chicken, fish, and wine on the menu, “We get people in here who’ve never had a slice of whole wheat bread.” Once they get in, of course, there's no choice. All the grains are whole, the eggs fertile, and the produce strictly fresh. Tables in the Gatekeeper overlook La Jolla Cove; classical music hovers in the background; plants and antiques liven up the spaces. Sounds like a regular restaurant, right? The Gatekeeper dining area occupies two stories of the Tyrolean Terrace complex. Developers have more lucrative plans for this historic property; so, the Gatekeeper is opening up a Mission Valley restaurant in November. Michael says a new system of serving will be tried out there, with the same basic menu of everything from avocado aladdin to zucchini souffle au gratin. In the middle, the mushroom rissoto is the most popular choice on the menu.
Many of San Diego’s alternative restaurants are not yet making money; only one of them is nonprofit on purpose.
Harmony, moving to 4765 Voltaire, Ocean Beach. Hours to be arranged.
Harmony has been operating on Cable Street as San Diego’s only non-profit vegetarian restaurant. Because of the move to a new location, dining format and menu content have not been finalized as of this writing. They used to have an all-you-can-eat salad bar, changing special of the day, and a , regular Mexican night. Give them a call to check on their changes. 223-1144.
Orango's will celebrate its first anniversary this December. Like the Gatekeeper, Orango’s is a family operation, but in this case, the family are brother and sister, period.
Orango’s, 112 West Washing ton St., Hillcrest. Open 119 Monday-Saturday, noon-8 Sunday.
Jim and Jean Boyd have just reopened Orango’s after two weeks of R & R, rest and refurbishing. The restaurant is still brightly red and blue with counter as well as tables for your dining comfort. The Boyds favor vegetarian food for nutritional rather than religious reasons and sincerely try to keep their prices low. Bread is baked on the premises; several kinds of sprouts are grown there; a special dinner entree is added to the menu each evening. On Friday and Saturday, Orango’s is used for folk music entertainment. Desserts and beverages only are served after 9:30 on those nights.
There’s always a line, come dinnertime, at the Prophet.
The Prophet, 4461 University Ave., East San Diego. Open noon-2:30 Tuesday-Friday; 6:00-10:00 T uesday-Thursday; 6:00-11:00
Friday and Saturday; 6:00-10:00 Sunday; closed Monday.
Mary Ann Cheatom, creator of the Prophet, warns, “You better dig it now. We won’t always be here, you know.” For the time being, at least, you can still get carrot/ice cream shakes, tabulee salad, the garden oT isis, and other vegetarian goodies at the Prophet. Dinner uses the same menu as lunch except for three entrees prepared fresh daily. Your waiter or waitress will tell you about the selection. At the Prophet, you can eat in a common dining area with the usual tables and chairs, or you can have your own circular, wood-paneled space where you sit on cushions at low tables. The decorations are ecclesiastic with portraits of teachers of different religions. The Prophet also sells books (you may read them in the waiting room), herbs, and sandals. The menu has an eastern flavor; some dishes are highly spiced. At The Prophet what you see and hear adds to the food. Subtly textured background music, delicate waiters, and the dim decorations of things handmade and growing things. On top of all the good food, exotic music, and personality of the Prophet, it has the jazziest restroom in town.
East County is also alternative eating turf. Thanks to Jay Gordon. Jay used to work at Orango's, see #20, and that gave him the idea.
Jay’s Cafe, 134 West Douglas St., near Main and Magnolia in an alley, El Cajon. Open 11:30-8 Monday-Saturday; ’til 9 on Friday.
Jay’s is only a couple of months old. Jay’s specializes in home grown sprouts, freshly baked breads, and a changing luncheon and dinner special. You can sit at a counter or tables and try to resist the carrot cake. The hummus is homemade, too. Jay started the vegetarian cafe because that’s the kind of food he eats. And the atmosphere is just what he was looking for in a restaurant, kind of old-fashioned and cozy without being crowded. If this place works out. Jay, a tennis nut, is already thinking of opening up an annex in Balboa Park next to the tennis courts where, right now. if you don't eat hamburgers, you don’t eat.
The first shall be last. In my list, anyway, San Diego's first (half a century old) vegetarian restaurant has somehow ended up at the bottom.
The House of Nutrition, 1125 Sixth Street* downtown San Diego. Cafeteria open 8:00-6:00 Monday-Thursday; 8:00-3:30 Friday, 12:00-6:00 Sunday.
The philosophy behind this vegetarian restaurant is that of the Seventh Day Adventists. Breakfast and lunch at the House of Nutrition are served cafeteria style in part of the oldest health food store in San Diego. From 8-10. cereals and eggs as you like it, then several entrees are published on the board for all to see. Sugar and other health purist no-no's are used in preparing the full course meals, but the fare is strictly vegetarian. You may eat in the upstairs dining area or among the shelves of the health food store below. Soyburger loaf is the house specialty.
One more place to watch for is As You Like It in Stratford Square on the corner of 15th and Highway 101 in Del Mar. I hear they’re “moving in that direction,” no preservatives and all that. So watch out for creeping vegetarianism. In San Diego, it seems to be catching ... on.