My last trip to Cafe Gratitude was to the Berkeley branch, where the server asked me what I was grateful for when giving me a slice of cheesecake and wouldn’t go away until I’d given her an answer. (I think I fobbed her off with “the cheesecake?”). I like it a lot; the vegan food is exceptional, and unless you’re on the Paleo diet, chances are you won’t even notice there’s no meat-matter on the menu.
Just south of Melrose, I’d just spent an hour trekking from Vine/Hollywood to Hollywood forever cemetery. This sounds a lot more awful than it was, especially if I tell you I got my eyebrows waxed en-route. But Sam was bemoaning my lack of enthusiasm when it came to embracing the “glitz and glamour” of the city (correct), so after we walked along the grotty stretch of road that constitutes the Walk of Fame, I suggested a detour to the strangest cemetery I’ve ever been to. And I’ve been to a lot.
They’re peaceful, reflective places. This one looked more like a brochure for a housing estate, such was the grandeur of the tombs. As well as Johnny Ramone’s, there was also a tomb on an island on its own lake, and hundreds of metres of mausoleum space complete with a baby grand piano and casually strewn roses. It was all very melodramatic.
Added to the melodrama was a half finished grave, a set of seats, and a sun canopy, which gave the impression that the service had been abandoned mid-speech as the congregation suddenly realised the coffin had gone walkies.
Needless to say, being around so many dead people had made me famished, so I headed a few blocks south to cafe Gratitude, where the correct answer to any probing questions about my state of mind today would probably be “being alive”. However the server asked instead: “what have you seen today in a different light?”
This was taking philosophical questions to a level of conversation I wasn’t prepared to encourage pre-lunch, so I squinted at her until she left. I promptly ordered the caeser salad which was called something like “dazzling”. She looked a little confused when I asked for the “caeser”, until understanding dawned on her face and she said “oh you want to be dazzled.”
When I’d finished throwing up in my hand, I asked for water and a green smoothie called something like “impossible” or “magnanimous.”
This aside, the food at Cafe Gratitude is the best specifically vegan food I’ve eaten in London or the U.S, without doubt. It’s interesting, clever, beautiful balanced food. Sam had the “Yo soy fuerte”, which was a Mexican torta with chorizo tempeh, avocado, tomato, chipotle vegan mayo and lettuce, encased in ciabatta. It was incredible, as was the beet and carrot coleslaw which came with it. I had an enormous bite of it, and although the caeser was clever – Brazil nuts were used to make the fabulous Parmesan taste, and avocadoes and capers gave a creamy/tangy zing – after having spent 50 hours on a train I was ready for something eye-wateringly tasty.
The smoothie tasted (in an excellent way) like blitzed raw cookie dough even though it was made with kale and various other sprouting ingredients.
The table next to us talked about being on set with actors, and those opposite were talking about a screenplay. It was clear the type of people who visited – it was almost like being back at the Guardian, yoga mats and clean living included. I just wish that people wouldn’t assume that because I don’t want to be part of the mass slaughter of animals, that I want to open up about what I’m actually feeling when I’m about to order lunch. Because the answer is almost always going to be, uninspiringly, hungry.