green find: the natural café

May 11, 2010

naturalcafe

So there I was strolling down State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara for probably the eighth time in half as many days when my blissed-out gaze fell on The Natural Café.

It took me a couple of minutes in the Mediterranean breeze to study the menu.  The Natural Café is, naturally, big on plant-based food sourced locally, although there’s a separate section for chicken and fish.

I was initially swayed by names like Spiritual Spinach Salad and Buddha Burrito before the Natural Tamale put an end to any kind of indecision.  In I went.

There’s definitely a Bohemian vibe here, and the place is overflowing with the college kids that call this town their crib.  You order at the register and then take a plastic number to your table – all the outside spaces were taken, so I nabbed one by a stack of The Independent, the city’s free local newspaper.

Just as I was drooling at the event listings for the week – candlelit yoga, sailing lessons, organic wine tasting – my Natural Tamale arrived.

I haven’t been this excited since I first laid eyes on Sharky’s two-taco combo late last year.  You can’t really see the scale from this photo, I know, but this was generous at $7.95 and tremendously tasty.  The brown rice was cooked perfectly, the beans were robust but not soupy, and the tamale – which was filled with chiles, pinto beans, ground peanut, and garlic – was better than any traditional one I’ve had.  I asked for it sans sour cream, which meant the ranchero sauce could shine on its own.  And then there was the perfect salad with crisp jicama.  Just beautiful.

Check out The Natural Café’s Ten Easy Ways To Live a “Greener” Lifestyle.  Not sure what the quotation marks are for, but I can’t wait for my next tamale taste.

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