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Native Foods tries Rosecrans

I added lots of sriracha.

Steamed kale, Torfurky tempeh, and sauerkraut over brown rice
Steamed kale, Torfurky tempeh, and sauerkraut over brown rice

For a week, I’d been eating too much of the American garbage diet: fast food, hot dogs, fried chicken, and many sides of fries. Hearty fare, fit for a Midwest winter freeze perhaps, but far from the new year, new me promises made to myself when 2019 began. Feeling trashy and nutritionally barren, I decided to ride the pendulum swing back towards the opposite extreme. I went out for vegan.

Place

Native Foods Café

3369 Rosecrans Street, San Diego

This landed me in the Point Loma location Native Foods, a fast casual chain that drops the right kinds of virtue signals: 100-percent plant-based, chef-driven, eco-friendly, and organic when possible. Better yet, when I started asking questions about specific menu items, the friendly staff-folk reached behind the ordering counter to pull out a large binder enumerating the ingredients used within each dish. For a business operating within the tradition of American fast food chains, that shows remarkable transparency.

Inside the fried breading are green, leafy vegetables.

There was plenty of transparency to choose from, including salads and several different approaches to dressing up a meatless burger patty (I’ll have to save the cherry chocolate BBQ burger for another occasion). However, being in Rome, I decided to order the most stereotypically Southern California item I could find: the so-called sesame kale macro bowl ($11).

That would be a bowl of steamed brown rice, topped with steamed kale, sauerkraut, and tempeh, and dressed with sesame seeds and tahini. According to critics in flyover country, kale’s the most left coast, liberal elite vegetable there is, so steaming and pairing it with tempeh sounds like the recipe for a culture war. But wait! The Palm Springs-founded Native Foods has four locations in the capital of the Midwest, Chicago. I take comfort knowing that, somewhere, out there, a person full of Italian beef and deep dish pizza is likewise trying to nullify their new year indiscretions with a kale-centric meal.

Most of the dishes at Native Foods are made from scratch, but thanks to that ingredients binder, I learned the tempeh itself is processed by the national brand, Tofurky. The chunky strips of fermented soy bean “meat” don’t come off as fresh next to all that bright green kale, but they’re satisfying to chew upon, and mesh well with the sesame.

The 21st century answer to American fast food chain: 100-percent plant based

I wouldn’t say the same about the sauerkraut. Though a healthy contributor to any meal, in this case its benefits would seem to match up with kale and tempeh more than its taste. I finished the meal, and felt healthy doing so, but I added lots of sriracha.

I also added a side of fried brussels sprouts, breaded and flavored with a sweet Thai chili sauce. Fried foods were never part of my healthy resolution, but I assume the benefits of cruciferous greens have got to outweigh the nutritional perils associated with fried food. I mean, it’s not possible to eat something unhealthy at a vegan restaurant, right, even if it is fast casual?

That might make a good question for the binder. Native Foods will have to keep working at its vision for a less meat-reliant America before it gains my total trust. However, it’s superior to the average fast food and better than the typical vegan fare.

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Steamed kale, Torfurky tempeh, and sauerkraut over brown rice
Steamed kale, Torfurky tempeh, and sauerkraut over brown rice

For a week, I’d been eating too much of the American garbage diet: fast food, hot dogs, fried chicken, and many sides of fries. Hearty fare, fit for a Midwest winter freeze perhaps, but far from the new year, new me promises made to myself when 2019 began. Feeling trashy and nutritionally barren, I decided to ride the pendulum swing back towards the opposite extreme. I went out for vegan.

Place

Native Foods Café

3369 Rosecrans Street, San Diego

This landed me in the Point Loma location Native Foods, a fast casual chain that drops the right kinds of virtue signals: 100-percent plant-based, chef-driven, eco-friendly, and organic when possible. Better yet, when I started asking questions about specific menu items, the friendly staff-folk reached behind the ordering counter to pull out a large binder enumerating the ingredients used within each dish. For a business operating within the tradition of American fast food chains, that shows remarkable transparency.

Inside the fried breading are green, leafy vegetables.

There was plenty of transparency to choose from, including salads and several different approaches to dressing up a meatless burger patty (I’ll have to save the cherry chocolate BBQ burger for another occasion). However, being in Rome, I decided to order the most stereotypically Southern California item I could find: the so-called sesame kale macro bowl ($11).

That would be a bowl of steamed brown rice, topped with steamed kale, sauerkraut, and tempeh, and dressed with sesame seeds and tahini. According to critics in flyover country, kale’s the most left coast, liberal elite vegetable there is, so steaming and pairing it with tempeh sounds like the recipe for a culture war. But wait! The Palm Springs-founded Native Foods has four locations in the capital of the Midwest, Chicago. I take comfort knowing that, somewhere, out there, a person full of Italian beef and deep dish pizza is likewise trying to nullify their new year indiscretions with a kale-centric meal.

Most of the dishes at Native Foods are made from scratch, but thanks to that ingredients binder, I learned the tempeh itself is processed by the national brand, Tofurky. The chunky strips of fermented soy bean “meat” don’t come off as fresh next to all that bright green kale, but they’re satisfying to chew upon, and mesh well with the sesame.

The 21st century answer to American fast food chain: 100-percent plant based

I wouldn’t say the same about the sauerkraut. Though a healthy contributor to any meal, in this case its benefits would seem to match up with kale and tempeh more than its taste. I finished the meal, and felt healthy doing so, but I added lots of sriracha.

I also added a side of fried brussels sprouts, breaded and flavored with a sweet Thai chili sauce. Fried foods were never part of my healthy resolution, but I assume the benefits of cruciferous greens have got to outweigh the nutritional perils associated with fried food. I mean, it’s not possible to eat something unhealthy at a vegan restaurant, right, even if it is fast casual?

That might make a good question for the binder. Native Foods will have to keep working at its vision for a less meat-reliant America before it gains my total trust. However, it’s superior to the average fast food and better than the typical vegan fare.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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