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Healthy and Chowish in O.C.

I'm drawing a blank here... I'm going to pay a visit to my very frazzeled about to be married girlfriend down in Irvine. She's a total chowhound and is usually partner in crime when I go exploring ethnic places in O.C. But as some of you know, slipping on an engadgement ring can cause temporary insanity in some and she wants to slim down before the wedding and has been eating pretty much only salads and green tea for the last 2 months.

Yeah, she's sick of it and wants to go hounding...

But she's not quite ready to re-introduce the carbs... :/ Sushi is also out...

She was really happy when I took her to Urth Cafe this weekend, so I'd like to find something similar, great salads, laid back vibe, not too expensive (Gotta save up for the honeymoon...)...

Any suggestions?


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  1. In Costa Mesa there is a place on Bristol at The Camp (across the street from The Lab shopping center) called Native Foods. It should be just the ticket.

    While not quite as health minded, The Gypsy Den at The Lab has good food.


    1 Reply
    1. re: cdmedici

      I really like Native Foods and even though many of their most popular items are rice based, they are happy to sub it out for steamed veggies. Try the Ghandi bowl or the various salads (remembering you can sub out the rice).

      Zovs Cafe (as well as the Bistro) makes tastey salads with interesting mediteranean twists, and dining on their patio is a nice way to spend the afternoon.

    2. Dommy - Zinc Cafe in Laguna Beach or Corona del Mar has wonderful, healthy vegetarian food. The Health Emporium in Corona del Mar actually has some great food, as well.
      Good luck!

      1. Haveli (Indian) on Newport Ave, Tustin or Irvine? Great Buffet.
        Barolo Cafe (Fresh Italian) on Newport Ave, " "
        Whole Foods (Tustin)
        Pina's Bistro (Tustin)
        Avilia's , 1st , SA. Good Salads and Chix Soup
        Roma D'Italia (incredible Antipasta Salad)
        Opah , Irvine (fresh fish, etc)

        1. Wheel of Life, Irvine (Culver/Walnut off the 5) between Ralph's and Sav-on


          1. Have not yet been,but have heard good things about Avanti Cafe,an organic gourmet spot in Costa Mesa.Looks a bit divey from the outside,but have heard it's good.Check out the press and menu on their web site.http://www.avantinatural.com/home.html

            1. There's Rutabegorz in Fullerton; also in Tustin & Orange I haven't been to.


              It's comfort food for vegetarians.

              1. I like Rutabegorz very much, but weird as this sounds, I end up eating way more calories then if I got a fish taco at Los Cotijas down the street.

                Their servings are HUGE. These are the biggest salads I have seen in my life. I know I could just not finish it but...the are good.

                7 Replies
                1. re: cdmedici

                  This place looks great. What do you get there? How are the non-salad items like the burgers, sandwiches, etc?

                  1. re: MEalcentric

                    The sandwiches & soups are as freshly prepared--and delicious--as their salads.

                    IIRC, I haven't had anything cooked there--b/c their salads, soups & sandwiches are just so good--except their crepes, which are good/okay.

                    If you do order their salad, it's served in a large bowl, so be sure to split. Their coffee drinks are very good too.

                    1. re: OCAnn

                      Thier cooked food is really good. Though i highly doubt its very healthy. They tend to use A LOT of cheese in everything i've had so far ( a lot meaning sometimes i feel like cheese is my main course with enchilada as a side) which, combined with the huge portions means very high caloric intake. If your friend is tryign to lose weight, best to stick to a salad ( maybe split one between 2 ppl) and/or a sandwich

                    2. re: MEalcentric

                      I have like all of the salads. My favorite sandwich is The Walnut that Kissed the Chicken.

                      Not the best for a diet or being sober, but the coffee drink called Basic Lust is quite tasty.

                    3. re: cdmedici

                      i'm a vegan and have been dining at rutabegorz for years. unfortunately, last time i ate at their tustin location, the quality of the food was extremely poor; envision brown, wilted lettuce and mushrooms past their prime in my salad.

                      there is a "health food" restaurant called ivy's cafe just around the corner from rutabegorz in the same plaza as my beloved honda-ya, though i haven't been (as weird as it sounds, i kind of have "issues" with restaurants characterized as "healthy"). to me, their menu looks a little unimaginative. http://www.ivys.com

                      i like native foods, but it's not necessarily low-fat, though she could do a steamed greens and beans kind of plate (skip any savory sauces, as they contain flour). they're flexible. you can check out their menu here: http://www.nativefoods.com

                      if it were me, i'd probably go ethnic - i've heard good things about ml22's rec wheel of life, irvine, au lac, fountain valley (they have a raw menu in addition to a veg menu) and dosa place, tustin. be careful of "faux meats" like setian - is wheat gluten.

                      1. re: wowimadog

                        According to native food's menu, wheat gluten (seiten) is 100% protein, i.e. no carbs.

                        1. re: MEalcentric

                          really? i'm surprised they state that since all the packages of seitan i buy indicates carbs are present (granted, they are low - white wave has 3g or just 1% per serving). maybe native foods indicates that fact since they are "fiber-soluble" carbs? anyway, thanks for the info.

                          good sources for info on vegetarian nutrition:

                    4. How about Chinese / Viet / Thai restaurants that do fish well? If you stay away from the rice and get things like beef salad or soup, will that work?

                      Off the top of my head, how about the whole grilled catfish at Thai Nakorn?

                      Also - Korean soon tofu at Cho Dang. The best version in Irvine, by far. Is tofu a carb or protein?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Professor Salt


                        Anyway, thanks so much everyone for the recs! Some are truly new to me!! I'll pass them along to to her (With me leaning towards Gyspy for the shopping and Dosas for the DOSAS... yummmm... :))


                      2. mustard deli in irvine

                        i like gypsy den as well

                        1. How about Bodhi Tree Vegetarian Cafe in downtown Huntington Beach? Its been named as one of the healthiest dining experiences in all of OC. Its a fusion of asian styles (I loved the Chinese Chicken Salad (tofu for poultry). The best part is that you can walk your food off by taking a stroll down Main Street or visiting the HB Pier.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: HBfoodie

                            that looks great: http://www.bodhitreecafe.net/ (um. let's hope they mean bean "curd.")