Native Foods Cafe – Encinitas, California

Posted on March 8, 2013


A vegan’s delight! Here is a menu dedicated to you instead of just one possible choice, or ordering something with ingredients on the side or left off. One does not need to be a vegetarian to thoroughly enjoy a meal here.

Atmosphere: Eclectic, vibrant and warm.

Clientele: On any given visit you will find a mixed crowd of urbanites, moms, teenagers, hippies, business people, and divas, all at home with each other. The common denominator is restaurant’s offerings of healthy, wholesome, delicious food, satisfying the needs of discerning diners. I met the Executive Chef, Kendall Huff, who is from Chicago. She clearly loves her job. “I get to eat, create food, and get to hang out with fun people!” She is definitely creating and not just making food here at Native Foods Cafe

tylernchefMy son Tyler has been a vegetarian for four years and was my taste tester. He had not been yet, ran into a few friends he knew while we were there, and was super excited that there is now a healthy restaurant that caters to his vegetarian lifestyle. Up to now, he’s been pretty limited to bean and cheese burritos.


The food is so tasty carnivores can appreciate the yummy chef-created masterpieces – and they may realize how easy it is to be vegan with a restaurant like this in the neighborhood. Many non-vegans who stumble on this restaurant may not even realize that it is an ALL vegan menu – I didn’t. Even after ordering and eating. Finally healthy is also very tasty.

NachosThe sauces wake up every taste bud you have. It took a while to order, as everything looked so delicious we couldn’t make up our minds, a staffer behind the  counter kindly helped us through the menu to pick our dinner. I had the Sesame Kale Macro Bowl ($8.95), with the creamy ginger sesame sauce over tempeh, kale, and sauerkraut. I’ve never tasted sauerkraut so delicious! Do you like foods with a kick? Try the Nuevo Native Nachos ($8.95) or Baja Blackened Tacos with creamy chipotle surfer sauce ($7.95) with jalapenos. Need lots of protein? Go for the Greek Gyro Earth Bowl ($9.95). You won’t go away hungry – the portions are generous.

polentabitesInteresting combinations, all made from scratch, even the pickles, the “cheese,” and the Native Drinks. Try the Watermelon Fresca ($2.50 with free refills), fresh watermelon and a touch of mint, sweetened with agave. The Roasted Corn and Basil Polenta Bites starter ($5.95) is a must-try for your group: three on a plate, topped with their own Native Cheese. Another hit with our group were the Saigon Rolls ($5.95) – braised lemongrass tofu with a tangy peanut sauce.

parfaitSeveral items are gluten free and I heard they are coming out with a gluten-free dessert soon, so watch for that. By far the favorite dessert is Peanut Butter Parfait ($2.95), layered with Boogie Bar crumbles and chocolate chips. It’s agave sweetened, silky smooth light and fluffy, and a perfect sweet way to end your yummy meal. No longer do those with “special” diets need to sacrifice taste and be limited to only a few menu options. Bring on the dessert!

lisanchefSensitive to the various possible diet restrictions the entire menu is vegan so it is meat and dairy free, and many selections are gluten free. There are soy-free and nut-free menus as well, ask for those at the counter. All desserts are free of dairy, cholesterol, and refined sugar. They serve beer and wine too – organic, natural, and local selections are available. The goal is to “create a compassionate dining experience serving up homemade meals that are good for you.” Just take a look around the packed dining room and you’ll agree Native Foods Cafe has accomplished this goal.

Bonus: Check out the Native Community Days and Monthly Cooking Demos.


The original Native Foods Café opened in Palm Springs in 1994. It’s expanded to outposts in Boulder, Colorado, Bridgepoint Village, Oregon, Orange County, and – lucky for us San Diegian’s – Encinitas, California.

My vegetarian son agrees with my opinion on Native Foods Café: we like the urban feel, a place where everyone can feel comfortable. Also, the energy of the chef shows in the quality of the food – delicious. Service is a little slower than a “fast food place,” but that’s because it was super busy the night we were there, and the food was well worth the wait. Think restaurant dining not drive-through food.

Location: In the Trader Joe’s / Ralph’s shopping center, on the northeast corner of Encinitas Boulevard and El Camino Real.