It’s late in the afternoon and the sun is just starting its decent down the smoggy, sunny southern California horizon as we take our seats on the large, airy patio of Cafe Gratitude.
Our bubbly waitress glides over to us, clade in one of the best restaurant uniforms I’ve seen- a plaid button down and denim apron that compliments the restaurant’s rustic meets contemporary decor. She explains to us that Cafe Gratitude is all about positivity (big surprise- I know!) and encourages its guests to engage in the affirmative atmosphere by reciting “I am” before ordering each dish or beverage. Confused, we look down at our menus to see entree and elixir names to the likes of “Fearless,” “Fabulous,” “Transformed” and “Warm-Hearted.” Naturally I tried my best to abstain from laughing in her face like an asshole, but appreciated the thought behind the process. We ask for a few moments with the menu, prepping ourselves for our impending order of positive proclamations. The only way I was currently “Transformed” was into the maturity of a five year old upon trying to place my order to their requests. Operative word here being “trying.”
After settling down, we took in the scene. Quintessential Newport. The health conscious, trend adherent and supremely fit flock here for a healthy plant based meal or sparkling, alcohol free concoction, all while looking effortlessly beautiful and miraculously sweat-free post yoga or spin class. Whether the abstinence from the anti-vogue culinary adversaries: gluten, dairy and red meat was what made our fellow diners glow with the essence of vitality and well-being, or simply high off the gravitation towards what was currently “vogue,” Cafe Gratitude and its patrons all glowed with the embodiment of vigor and gaiety. Just like that of our effervescent waitress, who was now approach with a tray full of plant based glory.
We dove into our appetizers immediately, our first- a vegan tostada pilled with a beautiful, fresh-colored coleslaw that exploded onto the plate like confetti, chunks of coconut meat, a smokey tomatillo dressing, a nut based queso fresco and topped with slices of perfectly ripe, fatty avocado. What a play for the mouth and senses. A satisfying crunch into the gluten free, grainy tostada was echoed with that of the refreshing coleslaw and balanced by the soft, chewy coconut meat (the perfect alternative to real animal flesh), followed by the smokey heat of the roasted tomatillo which was then cooled by a cascading waterfall of the creamy, cashew queso and finally climaxed and subdued with the indulgence of the fatty, viridescent crescents of the perfect California avocado. This was the “FELIZ;” spot on Cafe Gratitude, eating this crunchy allergen friendly tostada certainly left us full of felicita, definitely a favorite of ours.
Next was our line up of two beautiful pulps of meatless meatballs, topped with a vibrant, citrus marinara that pooled and swam around the depths of its dish. More cashew cream, chili flakes and sliced scallions decorated the top of these two globes. In between bites, I refreshed with sips of the addictive sparkling “OPULENT” beverage in front of me, filled with energizing notes of peppermint, grapefruit and cinnamon, and embodied with a mouth-full of ginger and sweet lemon.
Finally, our entree arrived, “RESOLVED:” a large platter, overflowing and pregnant with a heterogeneity of southern inspired samplers: velvety crushed maple yams, smokey collard greens sautéed in coconut oil, more of that confetti coleslaw, red beans and rice, a fluffy generously sized jalapeño, “cheddar” nut biscuit and finally, our protein - blackened slices of jerk tempeh. A metallic demitasse sat on the side of this feast, filled with more of that beautifully smokey tomatillo sauce; the perfect interlude with its subtle bittiness, cutting into dominance of the heavy carb load we greedily dug into.
Dessert? I would’ve loved to, the Cafe boasted a lovely selection of chocolatey, fruity, gluten free, dairy free options, but alas, we were actually and incredibly full! We sat, satiated, indulging each others’ company, the last rays of daylight and the start of the welcome evening breeze. When we finally left, bright eyed, our bellies and spirits were full, and we were waved off by the kind and twinkling beams of our Gratitude servers. Turning onto the Pacific Coast Highway, we drove off into the lasts colored blurry rays of the dying California sun.
FELIZ · 9 · coconut ceviche tostada, black bean purée, coleslaw, roasted tomatillo sauce, avocado, cashew queso fresco
FEARLESS · 8 · Fearless orange-scented meatballs, marinara, cashew ricotta, arugula, grilled balsamic radicchio, chile flakes
RESOLVED · 16 · southern soul food sampler, red beans and dirty rice, blackened jerk tempeh, smashed maple yams, spiced collards, coleslaw, jalapeño and macadamia cashew cheddar biscuit
OPULENT · 3 · digestion aid, sparkling water, oils of grapefruit, lemon, ginger, peppermint and cinnamon to calm the stomach
1617 Westcliff Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Contact: (949) 386-8100
Hours: 8 am to 10 pm