IT HAS TAKEN ALMOST 20 YEARS for Native Foods Café to move from its birthplace in Palm Springs to North County San Diego. That means it’s been shuffling toward us at a rate of six miles a year. Along the way, it detoured to Chicago, Portland, Boulder, and Los Angeles and Orange counties. There are 14 locations around the country. Just be glad it finally arrived in Encinitas.
What’s distinctive about Native Foods is its way of making vegan food appeal to a very wide range of diners, including kids.
Native Foods looks like a café at a mountain ski resort where you order at the counter, find a seat in the large open room and wait for someone to bring food to you. Because the dishes are vegan, it feels OK to partake in a dietary splurge — and splurges come easily.
Native Nachos are corn tortillas covered with black beans, chipotle cream, salsa, guacamole and what’s called Native Taco Meat and Native Cheese. Anything with the prefix “native” typically means the item is made with soybeans or other beans and grains that are treated and flavored. So these nachos are a guilt-free pleasure. Ditto for the crispy, sweet-potato fries. Saigon rolls with pickled daikon are wonderful, and the daily soups are surprisingly hearty. The Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl with Native Chicken, grilled vegetables and toasted almonds is an absolute winner. There are portobello and Native Sausage burgers with grilled onions, a jerk kale salad and a not-so-classic deli Reuben.
Drinks include beer and wine, as well as lemonades and teas.
One thing is abundantly clear: Native Foods Café is one enormous seduction.
Service: Knowledgeable, friendly and efficient.
Parking: The shopping center boasts a huge parking lot.
Special Diets: Heaven.
Details: Open for lunch and dinner with the same menu.
Virtually all menu items cost less than $10. Beer and wine only.
127 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas. 760-634-7607.
Restaurant Reviews: By Stephen Silverman • Photography by Martin Mann