Native Foods Cafe puts the focus on tasty vegetarian fare


Restaurant chain Native Foods Cafe is rooted in the “green” philosophy.

The eatery serves 100 percent plant-based fare, which means no meat or dairy — a unique concept among fast-casual establishments. But it seems to resonate with customers: Since the first one opened in Palm Springs in 1994, Native Foods has added 21 locations throughout the country, including one in Encinitas in 2012.

Everything is made fresh to order, much of it incorporating plant-based proteins such as tempeh (created from soybeans and millet, with a nutty flavor), seitan (“wheat meat”) and Native Chicken (soy, wheat and pea protein). The core menu is updated twice a year, with seasonal items rotating four times annually.

“We’re constantly being innovative and exciting with our foods,” said District Manager Beth Czaykowski.

The mainstays include the “Native Classics.” There’s the Ensalada Azteca, a colorful medley of avocado, jicama, cucumber salsa, quinoa, romaine, raisins, toasted pumpkin seeds and cilantro, tossed with a mango lime vinaigrette; and “burgers” such as the Chicken Run Ranch and the Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger, featuring a juicy, thinly sliced “stack” of seitan, melted “cheddar,” caramelized onions, tofu bacon, barbecue sauce, ranch, shredded carrots, tomatoes and romaine. Another selection is the flavorful Bangkok Curry Bowl, composed of tofu “steak” slices, steamed vegetables, kale and brown rice lightly mixed with coconut milk red curry, gomasio (a ground-sesame-seed sprinkle) and cilantro. Rounding out the signature dishes are the Twister Wrap, featuring Native Chicken and vegetables stuffed into a whole-wheat wrap; and the Chicken, Bacon & Avo Club on multigrain ciabatta.

Among the shareable items are the Native Nachos, a mildly spicy composition of corn tortilla chips, black beans, chipotle sauce, cashew cheese and salsa fresca with roasted corn, green onions, cilantro and jalapeños; and Chicken Wings.

In addition, there are several rich desserts to satisfy the sweet tooth. One is the Oatmeal Crème Pie, a large “sandwich” of two soft oatmeal cookies bonded by a thick layer of whipped vanilla crème. Another is the decadent Peanut Butter Parfait, with whipped peanut butter and layers of banana bread crumbles, sprinkled with chocolate chips. There are several varieties of cupcakes, including one with a cloud of whipped vanilla caramel frosting on moist carrot cake. And some of the seasonal desserts offered are the Pumpkin Cheesecake drizzled with caramel pecan sauce, and Pumpkin Pie with ginger crème sauce.

Every first Tuesday, patrons who buy an entrée, side and drink receive a free dessert, and a portion of the sales goes toward the featured charity of the month (Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary or the Surfrider Foundation).

Also, the cheesecake and pie — along with many other menu items — will be featured during the restaurant’s Thanksgiving buffet, set from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 26, with reservations starting Nov. 1. Customers can also take home vegan alternatives for the holiday, including frozen Native Wellingtons, which will be sold from Nov. 9-25.

No matter what time of year it is, guests can quench their thirst with teas, Watermelon Fresca, Lavender Lemonade, Chai-der (a combination of chai and cider), beers from Stone Brewing and Modern Times, and wines by Vegan Vine.

Native Foods Café, at 127 N. El Camino Real, is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Call 760-634-7607 or go to