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Food and Dining

Best of Westwood: Native Foods Cafe

Native Foods in Westwood (1114 Gayley Ave.) is quickly becoming a hot spot for hungry UCLA students. The all-vegan restaurant has locations across Los Angeles, and reopened its Westwood branch on May 1, after moving into a bigger space a few doors down. Truth be told, despite reading some great reviews, I had my doubts about how good a vegan restaurant could actually be.

After trying Native’s vegan seitan, chicken and tempeh (like tofu, but made from soybeans), however, I’m convinced that even the most die-hard of carnivores would be more than content to go on an all-Native diet for a few days.

After my first visit to Native Foods, I added a new item to my bucket list: to eat my way through their entire menu. So far, I’m about five down, 30+ items to go. I have yet to try something I haven’t enjoyed tremendously.

The Ensalada Azteca Salad is a great item, especially if you’re in the mood for something fresh. Substitute kale in place of the romaine lettuce for a healthier, crunchier option. The drizzle of mango lime vinaigrette over pumpkin seeds, cilantro, avocado and cucumber makes for the perfect combination of sweet versus savory and citrusy yet subdued flavors.

If you’re looking for something warm and comforting, you can’t go wrong with the Portobello and Sausage Burger or the Bangkok Curry Bowl.

If it’s your first time to Native Foods, you won’t want to leave without trying:

  • Sweet Potato Fries–ask for an extra serving of Native’s famous homemade creamy chipotle dressing, there’s nothing like it!
  • Lavender Lemonade–the perfect balance between tangy and sweet and oh so refreshing.
  • Peanut Butter Parfait –sweetened with agave and made from tofu. Eat this guilt-free because it’s made from all natural ingredients.
  • Carrot Cream Cheese Cupcake — To say this is my favorite carrot cake is an understatement. The freshly grated carrots are sweetened with cinnamon and orange juice and topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting. Absolutely divine.

Another thing that’s great about Native: Its menu changes according to the season. This month, it gives a tip of the hat to Thanksgiving with the 18th Annual Native Wellington. What is a Native Wellington, you may ask? A puff pastry filled with savory Native Seitan, stuffing, orange-glazed sweet potatoes, kale and herbed mushrooms. You can buy it frozen, pop it in the oven for two hours and it makes for the perfect impromptu Thanksgiving meal to start this season right. As if that wasn’t enough, Native’s vegan pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake are enough to convince you that the “real thing” just won’t suffice anymore.

If it isn’t already clear by now, I’m a big (and unabashed) Native foodie. And I hope that once you take your first bite of Native food, you will be too!

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