Natively Good!

You might be surprised to find out that I have somehow avoided Native Foods in Costa Mesa and Aliso Viejo for a long time. Perhaps it was my fear of Vegan cuisine or that I am not a big fan of sietan or pressed soy. Now I have eaten at Veggie Grill and absolutely fell in love with it from the get go. You’ll see me at a Veggie Grill a few times a month. With my recent health scare, eating more at Veggie Grill seemed appropriate.

Well it was time to put my prejudices aside and see what dishes Chef Tanya has to offer! When you first walk in, you can’t help but notice the huge propeller-type fan that is circling in the center of the “tent”. These long blades stretching out going round and round. I’m not sure how much air circulation they provide. There are about 8 air conditioning units mounted on the interior “rim” of the “tent” – provided much needed cool air on this very humid hot evening here in Southern California.

Tim and I looked over the menu and you see things like “Super Italian Meatball Sub”  and “Baja Surf Tacos” along with “Greek Gyros” and a “Classic Deli Reuben”. Except this is a Vegan restaurant. No dairy, no meat – only local, organic vegetables, greens and grains. They have “cheese” but it is a blend of cashews, sunflower seeds and other nuts that make “cheese” that is both creamy to crumbly. Their meats are made from  Seitan and various soy, wheat and pea proteins.

Tim ordered the Kale Macro Bowl and I ordered the Mama Mia Pizza which is described as a pizza with Portobello mushrooms, grilled Native Sausage Seitan, Salas Pomodoro, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, peso and Native Parmesan. I was very skeptical to try anything on the menu. I asked our wait-person if they preferred the pizza or the “Baja Surf Tacos” and she highly recommended the pizza. The tacos I almost ordered, would have come with two corn tortillas stuffed with  crispy battered Tempeh, salsa fresco, cabbage and their homemade surfer sauce. Tim’s Kale Bowl had steamed Kale over brown rice with a creamy ginger/sesame sauce with sauerkraut, gomasio (ground sesame seeds with sugar and salt) and toasted sesame seeds.

Our food arrived at the table and I stared down at my pizza – dissected it inch by inch with my eyes to see if I could spot the “seitan” and other vegan ingredients. My plate has a wonderful and colorful plate of toppings on a crispy wheat crust. I sliced into it and took a bite…

WOW! It was not what I expected! Awesome flavors with no hint of “seitan” or vegetable protein “taste” that I had convinced myself it would have. I gladly sliced thru that pizza and ate the entire 6″ round! Scott had a genuine “vegan” dish tonight and I couldn’t tell! Tim let me have a taste of his Kale Bowl and that too was flavorful. Great texture of the kale and the toasted sesame seeds. The dressing was not overpowering and the kale definitely was the star in his dish!

We completed our meal and I sat back and was very satisfied. Now, you’re probably all thinking, well you have been to The Veggie Grill, why is this such a leap from that place? Well, it’s a matter of ambiance and presentation. While I love The Veggie Grill, they “pretend” to serve Chicken and Beef. I absolutely love their chicken sandwiches. I swear, you can’t tell it’s not chicken. Meanwhile, Native Foods, doesn’t come across as “pretending” to be something else, they are right up front with everything and very proud of it.

There is a nice array of dishes and appetizers to be enjoyed at Native Foods. I also ordered some of their Sweet Potato Fries to see how they compared to The Veggie Grill’s fries. I have to say that I like Veggie Grill’s fries better. In addition to the entrees, they also had some great looking desserts along with a selection of beer & wine.

They will soon have 8 “Native Foods” stretching from Southern California to Chicago. You can find Native Foods here in The OC in Costa Mesa in the Camp, Aliso Viejo, The District in Tustin as well as Culver City, Palm Desert, Palm Springs and Westwood.

Check them out, this “carnivore” enjoyed it, so will you!

Native Foods
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Native Foods Cafe on Urbanspoon

Building Photo credits: and

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