On a recent visit to my doctor, I learned some slightly discouraging news: my cholesterol is starting to climb. According to my doctor, this Chowhound needs to cut down on red meat (what!?), get some exercise and start eating healthy foods more often. What a perfect excuse to trot into Native Foods and see what Clairemont’s newest vegan restaurant has to offer.
The minute I walked in the door, the friendly counter attendant proudly exclaimed, “everything we serve is 100% plant-based!” I felt like a fish out of water… I wasn’t even sure what that really meant. After scanning the menu, including the daily specials, I chose the fish tacos and a cup of chili. “Hmm… I probably wouldn’t start with that if you’ve never been here before,” the counter person continued. “Okay, then you tell me what’s good for a Native Foods newbie,” I replied. Without missing a beat, the helpful woman offered up the Chicken Ranch Run Burger ($9.95) with Native Fries ($3.95) as one of Native Foods’ most popular items. Sounded good to me, so I ordered this along with a cup of the daily soup special, Tuscan Garbanzo soup ($2.95). I paired this with a glass of watermelon Fresca ($2.75) and I was set. I could feel the cholesterol demons retreating already.
I arrived at 11:30, just ahead of the lunch crowd. Good thing I did because the line was soon out the door. This is an order-and-they-bring-it-to-you type of place, so most people in the line were trying to decide what to order. I was given a glass and a number, and directed to the serve-yourself drink area.
At my table, I took a sip of the watermelon drink. It was a delicious and refreshing blend of fresh watermelon juice, mint and organic agave sweetener. I love watermelon anything, and I could imagine drinking this all day while lounging by a pool on a hot day. Within minutes, the garbanzo soup was delivered to my table. It was flavorful and packed with veggies, broth and some kind of spice with a zing. It would be perfect for a chilly autumn day, I’m sure. A short while later, the chicken burger arrived. I was surprised how much food there was: a generously sized chicken patty, a mound of fries and a side salad—wow! (In fact, it wasn’t until later that I realized the side salad was actually the burger’s greens, sitting on top of the bun.) The crispy Native Fries had an unusual taste at first, but quickly grew on me. Next, I cut into the battered ‘chicken.’ It was tender and juicy, and it had a very similar consistency to actual chicken. I took a bite and, to my surprise, it tasted surprisingly like chicken, but it was made from free-range soy, wheat and pea protein. Whoa. And the ‘Native Fries’ had been fried in pure rice bran oil. As I sat there eating my lunch, I reached this simple conclusion: dismiss the expectation that this is real chicken or meat, and open yourself to the idea of having a healthy, plant-based meal that is good for you and the environment. This puts a whole different spin on everything.
To help solidify my thoughts, I stopped by again a few days later. This time I had the signature Crispy Sweet Potato Fries ($3.95), Native Buffalo Chicken Wings ($5.95) and a
Lavender Lemonade ($2.75). The sweet potato fries were super crunchy and dusted with a salted herb topping. I’m not usually a fan of sweet potatoes, but these fries were wonderful. The lavender lemonade was certainly refreshing, but the lavender made it taste more like something you would imagine having at a spa. The ‘Native Chicken Wings’ were battered and tossed in the traditional spicy buffalo sauce. Again, the wings were moist and slightly nutty.
While this is not the typical pub grub that this Chowhound might be used to, it is certainly a guilt-free alternative that is both flavorful and good for the environment. I’m sure my doctor would be happy.
(In the Target shopping center)
5604 Balboa Avenue
ABOUT CLAIREMONT’S CHOWHOUND
Clairemont Chowhound Michael Baehr is a home cook and self-proclaimed foodie. He loves sampling new eateries and welcomes your suggestions for local restaurants, fast food and specialty markets to review. Email: ClairemontChowhound@ClairemontTimes.com