Monday, January 11, 2010

Native Foods Cafe - Tustin

Self-deception. That was the theme of a recent Saturday morning I had. First, it was Up In The Air, the excellent film with George Clooney who's self-deceiving mission is to believe that he needs no one and nothing. Then, for lunch we ate at Native Foods Cafe, a restaurant within steps of the AMC at The District, which allowed us, for an hour, to really believe that we did not need to eat meat.

(SPOILER ALERT) And like Clooney was for the first half of the movie, we were content to live in the delusion. But unlike him, our story had a happy ending.

We destroyed our nachos like as if it came from Alerto's itself (our go-to joint for the king of all faux-Mexican dishes). And if we were blindfolded eating it, we'd tell you it was just nachos. Nothing about the main components really deviates from what's already part of, say, a carne asada nacho. This was real pico de gallo, real guacamole, real corn, real black beans and real tortilla chips. Though I figure they'd use lardless tortilla chips, it crunched and shattered in shards just the same.

The only innovative component was the sour cream, which wasn't dairy-based, but made out of something that cannily approximated it. My tongue told me it tasted like a cross between creamy bean dip and hummus. And subbing for meat, there were light-brownish, textured curdled pieces of a substance that almost fooled us into thinking that we were chewing of the flesh of a creature that once walked, flew or crawled.

Same thing the margherita pizza, which I have to conclude is the work of an alchemist. How does one get a milkless cheese to melt? I have no idea. And neither do my friends. We just agreed this wasn't just a good vegan pizza, but a good pizza. The crust crackled. The pesto bit. The marinara, respectful.

Chicken wings, tube-like spears of soy protein masquerading as fingers rather than wings, were battered well and was still more chicken-like than McDonald's McNuggets.

About the only thing I didn't dig was the watermelon agua fresca, which had a grassy flavor that distracted from its sweetness. It was as if the whole green rind was included in the blender.

So yes, we deceived our carnivorous selves into not eating meat and were happy for it, not to mention full. The combo of Native Foods and Up In The Air, I dare to say, was even more fulfilling than a burger and Avatar.

Native Foods
(714) 259-0400
2453 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782

Continental Deli - La Habra


At 8:53 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

I adore a good vegetarian meal! Those nachos look really good! Not so much with the pizza, because I am not digging wheat lately. Baby hates wheat.

You should have gotten dessert. In my experience, vegetarian restaurants always have excellent desserts!

And be sure and let me know if you are going to be in Ann Arbor again. I know I have mentioned it before, but Seva is a HEAVENLY vegetarian restaurant! Dave and I could even treat you. :-)

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous JB said...

Not an easy place to review, so I bow to you. (And funny how Native Foods has to open in TUSTIN, your favorite city, before it gets some ink in Monster Munching -- LOL.)

I'd recommend the one in Costa Mesa as the atmosphere (in that circular tent, in the alternative Camp) is certainly better.

The 'bowls' are a recommended menu choice...the Soul Bowl is a big crowd-pleaser.

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Marvin said...

I'm usually always down for a good vegetarian meal, but hardcore vegan non-dairy stuff tends to taste like it sounds.

But if a place can successfully pull off approximations of "sour cream" and "cheese", it sounds like a worthwhile stop.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger mark said...

I agree; that 'chicken' tastes better than the chicken from Mickey D's. But I digress about the watermelon drink - it's the bomb!

At 6:12 AM, Blogger Bill said...

LOL If you didn't mention I would have been WTF! Nachos, chicken, and pizza - boring....
Regardless I dig vegetarian that could pass for meat or at least fooled me into believing so.

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a vegan and I always love to read an omnivore's opinion of a vegan restaurant. I'm not a big fan of fake meat (usually just tastes like a chewy, salty shoe!)but what you ate, sounds pretty decent.

Thanks for the review!

At 4:57 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Ooh, the veggie chicken was better than chicken nuggets? That is something to talk about. Like the nice presentations here :). I guess I'll also start out my year with a vegetarian restaurant review now.

At 6:19 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You know what? You're right. They say that this place has the best cupcakes. I was *THIS* close to getting some today when I went back to get lunch there. I was too stuffed afterwards to fit anything else after the tempeh fish taco.

And you're on for a meet up if/when I'm in AA again! Fo-sho!


I would've loved to have had my first Native Foods experience in the yurt. I'm at The Camp often, but it never caught me in the mood, and yep I was at The District when the craving for vegan struck. For the record, I like this place better than Veggie Grill.


It truly does make your forget you're eating vegan. At least if you're not trying *that hard* to remember.


I dunno what it is. I had it again today and I just couldn't get into that drink. I do like the iced tea though.


Yes, I would've been more adventurous had I been at a non-vegan place, but the way I approach a vegetarian restaurant is like I approach any cuisine unknown to me: start with the familiar!


It's been more than a week since I had that fake chicken, but I can recall that it even had a moistness to it, like real meat. Not saying that it could fool a hardended carnivore, but I still prefer it over a McNugget, which tends to do bad things to my stomach with whatever additives they put in there.


Since you're in the SGV mostly, have you tried the vegetarian buffet at Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights?

At 10:07 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

No, I haven't yet. The concept of a vegeterian buffet though sounds fantastic!

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Kurdistan said...

wow this is amazing dishes all is vegetarian??????

At 5:08 PM, Blogger TheHolyEnchilada said...

I wonder what the non-dairy fake crema was made out of. Do you think it was cashew cream? Was it a bit gritty?

At 5:43 AM, Anonymous Annabel @ said...

hey! would you be up for letting me borrow your pic of the pizza if i give you due cred?
lemme know :)

At 3:45 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yes, all veggie!


Not gritty in the least. I also wonder that that was!


Go for it! Link back the credit to or please! Thanks for asking!


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