I found myself in an unfamiliar part of SoCal this weekend when I visited a good friend of mine in Simi Valley. I’m very lucky to have found myself among vegan-curious, health-conscious omnivores who wanted to accommodate my choices! Love my friends! They picked a lovely restaurant with a mostly omnivore menu but many vegan options as well. I’d say 70-30, toward the omnivore persuasion. Great place to strike a compromise between you and your omnivore guests. Yelp‘s currently got it at 4 stars with 156 reviews.
The Natural Cafe is in a plaza with many popular stores; Bed, Bath & Beyond, Starbucks, etc. It’s outer facade isn’t much to look at because it is in a neighboring hub without spectacular signage. However, it was a very pleasant place to have lunch and catch up with some old friends. And I mean old as in you knew what kind of weird hair I had in college, not by any means insulting the number of rings in your trunk — in case you’re reading this ladies! It is a franchise-looking spot, with a semi-conscious menu. It has a Hawaiian decor theme, executed with palm tree paintings, ceiling fans, and many living plants. Counter service was pleasant and efficient. There was a bit of a lunch rush that was served rather quickly.
Next to the neighboring Baja Fresh (which would also offer you some vegan options if you found yourself in this area) it is a great option for vegans. This place had two soups of the day (vegan and non-vegan), a vegetarian entree section of their menu, and vegan dressings/sauces. The vegetarian options can be made vegan and consist of Mexican and
simple veggie and rice combinations.
I ordered the Yogi Special – ginger-soy sauteed tofu, brown rice, and a salad. The tofu was very flavorful , which is difficult for some restaurants to achieve. Soy sauce makes it all better, says the Asian-American girl! The portions were generous at it’s price point, about $10. The rice underneath wasn’t too stiff as some brown rice can be, if cooked with too little water. The salad was a nice accompaniment, however I would’ve preferred some hardier, steamed veggies as it was mainly just a rice & tofu dish. Though I was able to have a few choices of vegan dressings (tahini and tofu dill) I could’ve used some steamed broccoli or carrots. Tofu dill was a combo I’d never heard of but was glad I did! It may have just inspired a vegan dressing post in the future. Sauce really can excite your thousandth plate of grilled veggies.
It was an indulgent weekend, so I was looking for vegan dessert as well – but our only options there are smoothies. (More on dessert today in the following post.) Which if I could’ve ordered, I would have had the Aloha Bra! (pineapple, banana, & pineapple coconut juice) This is a con for me because they have their desserts pre-made at the cashier’s counter winking at you when you come through the door, none of which are vegan. (Although, there was a misleading flourless chocolate cake! Boohoo for me!)
There were also some quirky things I didn’t expect to find in their refrigerator section for drinks. They offered some organic fruit juices, yerba mate and green tea, and even a little hooch! Beer and chardonnay for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. Just in case you needed to get happy! They do also have a self-serve ice bucket and water for more of a “community watering hole” feel.
My friends really seemed to enjoy their orders as well and complimented the restaurant on it’s menu for serving so many healthy options. They were happy to find themselves a bit more conscious of the plant-meat ratio and I even had a omni-friend go completely vegan for lunch that day and like it!
All in all, this place was great casual venue for a group and had plenty of high chairs if you’re bringing your family. It has a menu for omnivores and herbivores (70-30 respectively.) It is also in a location that will allow you to do a bit of shopping or strolling around as well if you’re looking for a hangout walk after dining. For my first lunch out in Simi as an herbivore, my tummy and morals thank you. Aloha Natural Cafe!
The Handy Vegan,