Last week long-time SF vegan restaurant and gathering place, Café Gratitude  reopened after a short closure due to remodeling, unveiling not only their spruced-up interior but a new menu that includes old favorites as well as some new creations.
Included in the new menu is a vegan BLT sandwich. Sounded great, so I promptly traipsed down last weekend. Of course on the restaurant's New-Age, posi-vibes menu this BLT is called “I Am Extraordinary,” with sautéed maple bacon, romaine, tomato, spicy aioli, and avocado on an organic wheat bun. It was only the second day after its reopening, and the restaurant was packed with happy diners, whom I noticed were mostly of the older variety the day I visited. All of the tables are communal, but even so, I could barely find a seat. I felt that familiar Café Gratitude feeling: that of leaving planet Earth behind.
If you’ve never been to Café Gratitude, then some background information is in order. The place is much like walking on board a spaceship manned by a fleet of friendly and encouraging aliens. The ship is decorated with trippy pictures of deliriously pleased humans farming, sharing, floating on rivers of love, etc.
Once aboard, you will be expected to no longer use regular English, but instead a vocabulary relating only to epic self love. When you want something like food or water, you will have to utter phrases like, “I am pure,” and “I am luscious,” in order to procure them.
The flight crew will bring you the healthiest of vegan food and drinks, some raw, or “alive,” referring to their probiotic qualities. All will come at a high price, usually somewhere around $15, but this is because of the local, organic, meticulously-crafted quality of the menu. While you eat, crew members will periodically come by your table and ask strange questions like, “what inspires you?” and “how do you show love?” After paying you will be released from the ship feeling great, your aura slightly aglow with an alien love light.
I took my seat on the spaceship announced, “I am extraordinary,” and waited for my BLT to arrive, which it eventually did, with a bed of greens. Although I haven’t had a real BLT in years, I can safely say that this sandwich was not one – but it did make serious strides to honor the title. The coconut bacon was crunchy, salty and sweet, much like the “oink oink” variety.
Vegan bacon, revealed
The interesting thing about good vegan versions of traditionally non-vegan things is that these substitutes will often take on a light of their own. This was certainly the case with Café Gratitude’s aioli. It's cashew-based and has a hummus-like quality, so they pile it on with much more vigor and less restraint than one would conventional aioli.
It was different, not that there’s anything wrong with that. My sandwich was hearty, flavorful, and fresh. I scarfed it down in minutes and felt satisfied – and, I guess you could say, extraordinary. “I am extraordinary” does have a nice ring to it, but still, if I had to rename it, I would call it, “nut hummus sandwich with coconut flakes.”
2400 Harrison, SF
(And other Bay Area locations)