Stumptown Vegans Travel!
|Native Foods Brief Review|
|Overall||Service||Food Quality||Atmosphere||Vegan Options|
|Location: 73-890 El Paseo / Palm Desert, CA 92260 (760) 836-9396
11AM – 9:30PM
|Times Visited: 2|
In the Southern California Desert, Native Foods is a vegan oasis among steak houses filled with blue-haired snowbird spending the winter months in the Palm Springs area. This award winning all vegan restaurant has been a stable force in the area since 1996.
The Palm Desert location is set off the shi-shi El Paseo high-fashion retail strip down a welcoming shaded alley you could easily miss if you didn’t know it was there. The restaurant is medium-small in size with about 12 tables and about 4 additional outdoor seating spots, weather permitting.
Most of the Palm Springs area buildings seem to have been built in the same modern 1970’s era and have not yet remodeled. While this may make you feel like you stepped into a time machine, the natural wear and tear will bring you back to the present. The building this five location chain occupies is no different. The dirty grout of the clean floor and table tiles shows the restaurant’s age but good hygiene. The African art adorning the walls is beautiful and interesting but does not mix well with the cute cartoon animal chalk art drawn on their menu and special boards.
The Native Foods menu is not all Southern Californian in nature, as the name might imply. That aside, the menu offers a range of delicious meals. Starters, also known as Snacks on the menu, include: Nachos, Artichoke and Spinach Dip, and Thai Satay Sticks, just to name a few. Entrees range from salads, handholds, soups, bowls, and pizza, including: Native California Caesar, Scorpion Burger, Gandhi Bowl, or Very Voluptuous Veggie Pizza. I encourage you to check out their menu for the full list including their drinks The desert menu is just as mouth watering! And a treat for the young ones – there’s a kid’s menu!
While I have only had the option of trying a handful of items – there wasn’t one I wouldn’t recommend. The BLTease has thin-cut smoky tempeh bacon only peaking through the thick stacks of tomato, avocado, and shredded carrots. The sprouted rice ciabatta roll contained a liberal coat of smooth Vegenaise. While the tall sandwich was definitely filling, the taste of the tempeh was out-shined by it’s counter parts. A sandwich name that included avocado in it would be better suited. The measly side of the edamame appeared naked and over-cooked next to the towering sandwich. I enjoyed the thought of a light vegetable side but this plate could do better with the vegetable option and presentation, perhaps a larger portion or dusted with coarse salt.
On my visits, the Nachos have been a crowd pleaser with vegans and non-vegans alike. Thin tortilla chips are covered in black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, Native Foods cashew cheese, flavored TVP crumbles, and guacamole with Native Food’s house-made hot sauce on the side. The cheese is a spreadable, or perhaps squeezable consistency with a soft granular texture. This has a slightly sweet flavor with no hint of nutritional yeast, like most faux cheeses. The cheese is a wonderful in comparison to the house-made hot sauce, which is served in a small craft. The cheese itself has encouraged me to check out the owner’s cook book, The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook, from the library.
The Tijuana Tacos are very similar in taste to the Nachos. They include all the above with soft corn tortillas in place of chips and covered in lettuce. This was deliciously fresh and crisp thanks to the lettuce. The Tacos are enough to satisfy an average hunger, but anything larger than average hunger should shoot for something heartier like the Portabello and Sausage Burger or the Mad Cowboy bowl. I should briefly mention one of their more popular bowl, which I will be ordering next, the Howard Lyman inspired bowl, which is a baked potato with faux “save the chicken” chicken and veggies all coated in a ranch sauce. This a dish for the “meat” and potato vegans out there.
The Iron Yam bowl is a simple bowl of salad greens, four spears of yam, other veggies, and a kebab of tofu, all covered in with balsamic vinaigrette. Without a grain base, this dish was still very filling. The steamed yams and fresh greens made me feel nothing but healthy. The sweetness of the yam was hidden behind the balsamic vinegar dressing, which didn’t seem to heighten the flavor as I thought it might. At $12.50 I felt that I could have made it at home, however there’s no price for the healthy sensation after a meal like this. Maybe next time (after I try everything else on the menu) I’ll get the dressing on the side.
While it’s well known this Stumptown Vegan is not a fan of mushrooms in her food, the Portabello and Sausage Burger at Native Foods has wonderful caramelized onions among thin strips of mushroom. While I might not order this dish because of my stand on mushrooms, I would recommend to my mushroom loving friends.
Even if you get stuck going to steak houses with your favorite blue-haired snowbird in Palm Springs , keep in mind that there are options if you can sneak away. But there’s no reason to shelter omnis from this restaurant – my grandmother quite enjoyed her meal here. Native Foods offers fantastic creative vegan options in five locations in Southern California that are not to be missed. Since I do not know much about the area, the only other place I can recommend is the 1970’s feeling health food store around the corner – Health Nutz. But check-out Palm Desert’s Native Foods for a great sit down dining experience after purchasing your must-have seasonal canvas Gucci hand bag. Or check out Tanya Petroyna’s cook book at your local branch library and enjoy the food without the travel.