San Francisco. The very name evokes some powerful images: sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll. The sixties, Haight-Ashbury, Berkeley, student riots. Peace, love, and goodwill. Beautiful scenery, gorgeous buildings, the Golden Gate Bridge, and temperate weather.
It is an iconic American city, and perhaps the most beautiful city in the entire country.
It’s also a delicious contradiction that has spawned Silicon Valley and hippies, Dirty Harry and parakeets living on scenic Telegraph Hill, and the human potential movement (such as the est training) and the groovy Grateful Dead.
If you have never been there, you owe it to yourself to go. It’ll stir your soul.
It is also the home to possibly the wildest, grooviest, healthy restaurant on the planet: The Café Gratitude.
Its fare is unique and original enough. The Café serves raw food, organic, and vegan dishes – very trendy stuff. And the food is absolutely to-die-for-delicious.
But as good as it is, the food is the least interesting thing about the Café Gratitude. This may sound like a contradiction, after all, the whole point of a restaurant is to serve food! But it’s not, and I’ll explain why.
Entering the Café Gratitude is like setting foot in a meditation or yoga retreat. It’s an experience that delights and overwhelms all five senses. From the moment you walk in, you are struck by a unique ambience that is quintessentially San Franciscan; a mixture of hippie and hi-tech. The servers look like throwbacks to the sixties, men with long hair, dressed in jeans and t-shirts, and beautiful young women with long flowing hair and warm smiles. There is a buzz of conversation and activity at the tables, and there is a powerful aura in the restaurant, an aura of happiness.
But it’s not just the patrons that are happy, you would expect that, after all, they’re with friends and they’re eating good food in a pretty cool restaurant. The serving staff and hosts and hostesses are brimming with joy, too, and not a fake put-on, but a genuine warmth that seems to seep up from the depths of their souls.
The place is alive with emotion. The colors are psychedelic yet calming, and the walls are alive with beautiful, eclectic paintings full of gorgeous vibrant colors, and scenes that evoke beauty, possibility, and power in the viewer.
The menus are equally evocative. They are beautiful designed, with really gorgeous soft-focused background colors. Each begins with a manifesto:
Café Gratitude is our expression of a world of plenty. Our food and people are a celebration of our aliveness. We select the finest organic ingredients to honor the earth and ourselves, as we are one and the same. We support local farmers, sustainable agriculture and environmentally friendly products. Our food is prepared with love.
The dishes have names are meant to enliven and inspire. For example, one of their appetizers is called “I AM BOUNTIFUL”. It’s a live bruschetta - Four slices of live toast topped with fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, stone ground olive oil and Brazil nut parmesan.
Another is called I AM GENEROUS which is guacamole and spicy tomato salsa with live flax chips.
All the dishes have names like this I AM ELATED, I AM GRACEFUL, I AM FLOURISHING, I AM DAZZLING.
My personal favorite is one of their dessert dishes, soft serve ice cream made from organic nut milk, dates and vanilla bean, called, I PRAISING. It is delicious, and best of all, it’s actually good for you.
Water is served in glass bottles with rubber cork stoppers. It doesn’t taste like tap water, it tastes like it came from a cool mountain stream. The bottles are each emblazoned with a power word, like LOVE, ABUNDANCE, or TRANQUILITY.
The bathroom is scented, and has an inspiring poem and a beautiful painting on the wall.
The tables are stocked with copies of the Abounding River Board Game, a gorgeous game alive with color that invites players to create a world of abundance for themselves, by being in a space of abundance and limitless supply. You can chose to play the whole game, or draw cards from the baskets discreetly laid out on each table, 120 cards with inspiring messages intended to be thought provoking and spirit illuminating. I loved the game so much, I bought it for my wife as a birthday present.
All in all, the Café Gratitude is San Francisco’s best kept secret, out on the corner of Harrison and 20th. They just opened up 2 more locations, one on 9th street, and one in nearby Berkeley.
Next time you are in town, check it out.
You’ll be glad you did.