Date Night with Princess Rosebud and Her Tugboat Man – Native Foods Cafe Restaurant Review

Lit matchStoking the fires in a twenty year marriage sometimes can be as simple as changing out of bleach-stained sweatpants.

For all my love of fashion trends and designer handbags, you can usually find me in a pair of threadbare sweats and an extra large Yale t-shirt that my son keeps me supplied with.  Or should I have more correctly said “with which my son keeps me supplied.” Damn those pesky grammar rules! You know what I mean though, right?

(I’m the proudest Yale mom EVER. Yale bumper stickers, Yale license plate holders, Yale key chains, Yale sweatshirts, Yale t-shirts, Yale+Hello Kitty marketing marriage merchandise…and I drink coffee out of a — yes, you guessed it — a Yale mug. Without a doubt, I REPRESENT, YO!)

Back to date night…if you read my post (and you should) Pap Smear With Benefits, you’ll remember that whilst mid-exam, my gyno told me about a newish vegan restaurant in Encinitas, Native Foods Cafe on El Camino Real, just north of Encinitas Blvd. It’s the only chain vegan food establishment I’ve ever seen, and we were excited to try it.

I got all dressed up head to toe in clothing from Anthropologie so I’d fit right in with the trendy vegan crowd and made my tugboat man wear skinny-ish jeans, even though he was doing a fair amount of grumbling about not being built like a twenty-year-old skateboarder. He’s right, ha ha, but when in Rome….one’s attire needs to be appropriate for the venue, that’s my motto.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed that it was way more of a casual atmosphere than I had anticipated for a date night meal, and I was super overdressed. I mean, I could have NOT changed out of my bleach-stained sweats and I would’ve fit right in. You can only imagine the grief I had to listen to from my tugboat man about those skinny jeans I forced him to wear…

A very nice longhaired hippie-ish young man explained the menu and took our order as soon as we walked in; we paid and were given a number to take to our table where the food was delivered. It’s set up is similar to Rubios or other fast food establishments, not the fine dining ambiance I had anticipated.

This is what we ordered:

Bangkok Curry Bowl
Seared tofu steak on top of steamed veggies, greens and brown rice with a lemongrass and ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with sesame seeds and cilantro. 9.95 GF

Sesame Kale Macro Bowl
Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds. Green onion garnish and crunchy cucumber seaweed salad on the side. 8.95  GF

Native Fries
Thinly-cut, cooked in pure vegetable oil and seasoned just right!
Seasoned Potato Fries. 2.95

I’m a pretty fair vegan-veg cook and I’m sorry to report that we were both underwhelmed by our meals. The tofu was chewy and rubbery, the tempeh was flavorless, and the brown rice was gummy — it seemed to me that it had been sitting in the pot far too long and had attained the consistency of old oatmeal. The kale was simply a few large steamed leaves I needed a knife to cut into bite-sized pieces;   I would have chopped them in squares or strips. The fries were pretty good, though.

Let me know if you’ve been there or if you do go, please share your experience with me. Maybe we got just there on a bad day.

I know this might be a touch nitpicky but here goes:

What really bothered me about Native Foods Cafe was the fact that a big part of their marketing is directed toward the promotion of “meat replication” vegan food.

This is our personal passion; we don’t want to eat any food that sells itself as a flavor replacement for meat or chicken and tastes like a living creature.

This might seem to be an extreme concept but my hub and I strongly believe that this is the right way for us to live — respecting and honoring the right of animals to exist without cruelty and abuse.

These are some “meat replica” examples from their menu:

  • Sausage Seitan meatballs
  • Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger
  • Crispy battered Native Chicken
  • Philly Cheese Steak
  • Bistro Steak Sandwich
  • Native Seitan Steak

After we left Native Foods Cafe feeling slightly disappointed with our date night fare, I was reminiscing with hub about the BEST vegan/vegetarian food I’ve ever eaten.

makedaIf you’ve lived in San Diego as long as I have, you might have eaten at The Prophet on University Avenue, owned by a good friend of mine, Makeda Cheatom, also known as Reggae Makossa.

With training in culinary arts from San Diego Mesa College, Cheatom opened The Prophet vegetarian restaurant in the 1970s.

Her amazing food attracted well-known patrons such as Dick Van Dyke, Gloria Swanson, and George Harrison of the Beatles. “George got mad at me because I wouldn’t let him smoke,” Cheatom says.

Nowadays, Makeda runs the non-profit World Beat Center in Balboa Park and only creates her awesome food for special events.

It’s too bad, really, because she’s a truly gifted chef, providing spectacular food and memorable dining experiences.

Finally, as far as date nights go, it’s a good thing we can try again next week!

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16 thoughts on “Date Night with Princess Rosebud and Her Tugboat Man – Native Foods Cafe Restaurant Review

  1. I’ve been very impressed with the flavor some places have been able to imbue in meat-replicant dishes.
    (I am not in any way a vegetarian, except as it is a subset of my omnivore-ishness.)

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  2. To me, it’s not about the food, but just to do things a little bit different once in a while, going out of the comfort zone, with your loved ones, is just a way to spice up the relationship. At least, after this, both of you have something to say about, whether the food is good or sucks! I believe in being open-minded to new experiences can be enriching!

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  3. One of my favorite musical theatre composers is Cole Porter, a Yale alum and the composer of the Yale football fight songs “Bulldog” and “Bingo Eli Yale.” He wrote over 300 compositions while at Yale, and was president and soloist of the Yale Glee Club.

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