Over the last couple of years, I’ve realized that Californians are extremely spoiled—especially us SoCal folks. We’re extremely fortunate when it comes to cuisine, in both diversity and quality. I would say that New York is pretty fantastic, too, but California is luckier because we have so much great produce. So, as I prepare to relocate to the land of lard, fried chicken, and canned green beans, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite places to dine out at in SoCal—places that cater to your health and satisfy your palate. There are too many to name though, and I will greatly miss them all.
1) True Food Kitchen: There are three locations in Southern California—Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and San Diego. There are also a couple locations in Arizona—Phoenix and Scottsdale—as well as one in Denver, Colorado. The menu is constructed around to Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, so everything on the menu is organic, GMO-free, and supports a healthy living style without letting down your taste buds. And don’t be scared by the term “anti-inflammatory diet.” It’s just eating foods that support a “lifetime of optimum nutrition.” (Check out the very useful food pyramid he created: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02995/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Food-Pyramid.html)
I love going to True Foods, because the food is so damn good, well portioned, and it’s clean—food-wise and atmospherically. My favorite item on the menu is their Spaghetti Squash Casserole—it is to die for. A lot of times I really want to try something else on the menu, but I also really want my spaghettis squash casserole, so I often end up ordering the same thing, because it’s just that good. And don’t fret meat lovers, there are plenty of options for you, too. They have plenty of great chicken, seafood, and turkey items, and even a fabulous grass fed bison burger. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but every time I bring someone here they always ask if there are meat items. I assure you though, I’m someone who often feels like I need a little meat in my meal to feel satisfied, but I never have that problem at True Foods. I always leave delightfully satisfied.
There is also an incredible juice bar, and my favorite is the Kale-Aid, made with kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon, and ginger. I have yet to juice at home myself, so every time I go I always order a Kale-Aid. What I like about this green juice is that it doesn’t taste like grass. It’s a bit tangy, and wonderfully refreshing.
In any of these areas that has a True Food Kitchen, do stop by for a meal. Your taste buds and your body will thank you :).
2) Seasons 52: This is another one of my favorite larger, chain restaurants for health conscious eating. There are a number of locations all across the country, so check out their site to see if there is one near you: http://www.seasons52.com/locations/.
Everything on the menu is under 475 calories, and let me assure you that the portions are very fair. They’re quite large actually. Additionally, while there are some staple items on the menu, the menu changes seasonally, based on what ingredients are in season.
My favorite items on their menu are their chili soup, the Lemongrass Salmon Salad, Tamale Tots, Triple Grain Quinoa, and their Mini Indulgences. The Mini Indulgences are fabulous. They’re exactly what they’re called, “mini indulgences.” They are little dessert items, that are incredibly delicious, but provided in small portions so as to remain guilt-free. There is always a variety to choose from, such as Market Fresh Fruit, Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli, some kind of cheesecake, Key Lime Pie, various chocolate ones, etc.
Obviously, if you order an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert the calories still add up; however, it’s not like going to some regular old chain diner and downing a 1,200 calorie entrée.
3) Avanti Café: This is a little restaurant in Costa Mesa, CA that I loved to go to for lunch or dinner whenever I had breaks between classes. It is a vegetarian restaurant with vegan and gluten-free options, and the items on their menu are prepared with fresh local organic produce, seasonally grown at nearby Orange County farms.
My favorite thing there is to go on Taco Tuesdays for their Avanti Hot Tacos. They are seriously so good, I don’t even notice that there’s no meat in them. And be forewarned, they are HOT HOT HOT. They serve water in wine bottles, and I will drink the entire bottle myself when I’m eating their tacos. To make it, they use “organic sprouted corn tortillas stuffed with garlic pate (delicious!), lime dressed napa cabbage & topped with a selection of [their] original seriously hot sauces.” You can also add BBQ tempeh, smoked mozzarella, or avocado. If you can handle the hotness, it’s a zesty and most wonderful delight.
Their version of the ultimate comfort food—grilled cheese sandwich—is given a gourmet kick using a combination of Havarti and white cheddar, and garlic shallot arugula and spinach, perfectly melted between to delicious slices of Avanti cranberry walnut bread, The blood orange honey Dijon adds a slightly sweet flavor, which I personally prefer to leave out, because I think the cranberry in the bread sufficiently adds a sweet twist. However, the Dijon is good.
You can’t go wrong with whatever you order there. Their flatbreads are fabulous, too. I especially like the gluten-free options, which are made on garbanzo flatbreads. I’m telling you, you’ll walk away happy and stuffed…and having supported local farmers!
4) A Votre Sante: Located in the Brentwood Country Mart, this charming little gem offers a fusion menu of Mexican, Greek, and Italian items splashed with “California” flavor. A Votre Sante’s menu includes chicken, turkey, and fish items; but it also offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
The first time I went there, I had a vegan, gluten-free carrot cake, for dessert, that was so divine it opened my mind up to trying vegan, gluten-free dessert options. Unlike many such options, this carrot cake was moist and fluffy, and you’d never know that the cream cheese frosting was made completely with non-dairy products. Harder to believe was that the cake was gluten-free because of how moist and lovely it was.
Whether you order a quesadilla, pizza, salmon, or Baba Ganuj, I promise your body and your soul will thank you for treating it so kindly.
An extra bonus is that the Brentwood Country Mart is a great place to stroll around, as well.
BIG LOVE & HUGS