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2400 Harrison Street(at 20th)
Pluses: Interesting vegan fare, comfortable atmosphere and a moderately priced all-organic wine list
Minuses: Well…. It's vegan
Don't Miss : miso soup with vegetables, butternut squash "noodles," hand-cranked frozen nut crèmes
Price : Inexpensive (entrees under $10)
Overview : Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, brunch on Sunday
Credit cards accepted
On a sunny corner of 20 th and Harrison, in a neighborhood that not long ago was a strictly industrial no-man's-land between the Mission and Potrero Hill districts, Café Gratitude—with its beamed ceilings, large tables where communal dining is encouraged, and warm color scheme—is a homey oasis for die-hard artsy Mission denizens, young Potrero Hill families, and the residents of the controversial new lofts rapidly crowding the neighborhood.
Even with its self-affirming menu, which boasts dishes with names like "I am Peaceful," "I Am Giving," and "I Am Lusciously Awake," Café Gratitude maintains a tongue-in-cheek, self-effacing humor (a sign on a door at the back of the restaurant, for instance, reads "I am the restroom") that will have even the most skeptical visitor chuckling. How could you not crack a comraderous smile as you look your waitress in the eye and tell her "I Am Vivacious"?
Start with a bowl of soup—either "I Am Thankful" ($7), a rich and spicy coconut curry soup with shiitake mushrooms, or "I Am Warm" ($6), a tangy miso soup with marinated vegetables that add a fresh crunch.
An appetizer sampler provides an opportunity to discover the range of possibilities of raw cuisine. In addition to fresh, spicy guacamole and flavorful organic black olive tapenade, the plate includes I Am Friendly, a tangy and crunchy paté of almond, sea vegetable and lemon; I Am Magical, cremini mushrooms stuffed with a rich walnut-sunflower seed filling; I Am Happy, a light and lemony nut seed hummus; I Am Kind, a simple sunflower seed and green onion paté; and I Am Serene, a sweet, salty carrot-almond spread. Live toast and flax crackers offer a crunchy, edible vehicle for the various dips and spreads.
I Am Flourishing, live falafel with nut seed hummus, olives and cucumber-tomato salad makes for a satisfying if unremarkable main course, while I Am Giving, butternut squash "noodles" (literally, long thin strands of raw squash) are delightful tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers and cilantro and dressed in a tangy, bright sauce of ginger, garlic, and lemon juice.
I Am Grateful, chewy quinoa grains with basil pesto, is one of the few cooked dishes on the menu and is a hearty choice for a cold night. I Am Passionate, a raw food approximation of pizza consisting of a crumbly live buckwheat crust topped with a garlicky sundried tomato sauce, olives, fresh basil and microgreens is tasty enough, but certainly won't curb any cravings for good, old fashioned pizza pie.
The menu also includes satisfying meal-sized salads and more than a dozen smoothies—made rich and creamy with the addition of nut milks or coconut—and fresh juices.
For dessert, don't miss the frozen nut crèmes—which come in half a dozen flavors that are made (by you) in a hand-cranked ice cream maker at your table—or the rich and soothing I Am Magnificent, an almond milk pudding with bananas and vanilla bean. Here vegan fare really shines in its clever old-fashioned comfort food disguise.