Berkeley: Nature's Express - Vegan fast food chain that sources locally
- rworange Jan 28, 2010 11:10 AM
I'm not sure how much is sourced locally, but the bread is from Berkeley's Bread Workshop.
They have some tasty items for a seriously vegan shop. For example, they don't have whole wheat burger buns yet because they haven't found good ones that don't use honey.
Nature's Express is a vegan fast food chain which started in Yuma, Arizona by oncologist Carl Myers. There is an article about it in the East Bay Express which can be found at the bottom of the Resaturant record. Website and hours are there as well.
Some of what I tried was samples or small bites of lunch. If after eating an entire item, I get bored with it, I'll report back.
The best baked good by far was the banana bread. Good banana flavor with a few walnuts
Muffins: The blueberry sample was very good, moist and full of blueberries. The carrot cinnamon sample was a nice moist struesel type of muffin. Unfortunately, I bought the pumpkin which was dry compared to the other two. Heated in the microwave, it perked up and there was enough pumpkin flavor to make me happy and very muted spice.
Donut: Maybe it was the donut I selected, but I far prefer Pepple's vegan donuts. The donut itself tastes like a muffin, only in round shape. The 'chocolate' icing (the same they use on one of the cakes, tasted like chocolate colored peanut butter mixed with nuts. No chocolate flavor ... none ... zilch. it is the sweetest item I tried and very gooey. It adhered to the white paper bag. They said they were going for German chocolate ... well, sort of with nuts and maybe coconut.
The carrot cashew pate is good but calling it pate raises expectations too high. It is a spread of ground carrots and cashew and probably other things that has some nice spicing and hints of citrus. It comes with two lettuce leaves and two sticks of celery.
There were two soups today squash and kale. Since squash has been done to death by every restaurant in the Bay Area this year ... it seems to be the current huckleberry ... I got the kale.
I liked this quite a lot. So much so that I ate it for breakfast though it was intended for lunch. That being said, there is a big caveat here ... they don't salt it. That is a big plus for me, and I enjoyed the light, clean vegetable broth full of chopped kale, a few carrots, an occasional garbanzo and a few white thingies I assume are quinoa. Think of it as miso ... with more stuff in it ... and without the umami.
I'm saving the rest of my breakfast burrito for lunch. I got the "The Moby" Potato / Cilantro / Black Beans / GuacamoleGreen Chili / Salsa
This came wrapped in a green tortilla. Surprisingly it is very spicy ... for me too spicy early in the morning. The potatoes are finely shredded almost like rice. The beans are scattered here and there ... not too many beans. There are nice pieces of avocado and a piece of cilantro here and there. There's also unlisted lettuce in it which kind of ticks me off since I decided against the Enstein burrito because it had mixed greens in it (Tofu Scramble / Bacon / Cheese / Mixed GreensTomatoes / Avocado / Black Beans)
They have some natural sugar sodas like Hansen's plus three fountain drinks - hibiscus tea, lemonade, and Anrnold Palmer, a mix of the two. Skip the hibiscus tea. If it was sweetened, it was extremely minimally. The worst was there was no hibiscus taste. It was like driniking pretty pink water.
There are also whole white coconuts if you want coconut juice.
They only make three of the 'burgers' - almond sunflower, black bean and lentil. I'm not sure which patty they use for the other burgers. Yelpers seem to think it is Boca. However, they said you can request any burger. So you can request a sunflower buger for the mushroom, bacon or other burgers.
One sandwich that seems to be popular both in the EBE review and yelp is the grilled tempeh Rueben. On the other hand, the air baked fries aren't getting much love ... the tiny portion is also a complaint.
There is a glass case in front with baked goods on top and other salads soups and desserts in the cooler.
It is counter service. There's a window seat and a half dozen bar stools against the wall counter. However, take-out seems to be the focus here.
I like the concept and some of the baked goods. There's Peet's next door for the coffee. I like that portion sizes are not excessive. The muffins are closer to mini muffin size ... though more expensive than most large muffins.
I wish they went fast food all the way and had a drive thru instead of locating at one of the worst parking areas on Solano .... across from La Farine (heh).
It seems to be a step up in vegan food. It is no stern, puritanical Manzatina. However, it doesn't reach the giddy, lofty heights of Ubuntu or even Encuentro.
The staff is nice and normal, not like the Stepford vegans at Cafe Gratitude ... that place always creeps me out. I would put the food a slight notch above Gratitude
I'll be back here, especially at those times when I'm trying to eat healthier but would like to still eat out. With all the noise they make about healthy fast food, I wish they would put their nutriional info on the website.
There's a contest on the website. They want a punch line for their turnip mascot. The question
"Why did TurnipMan cross the road"
So far one suggestion was "Because he wasn't chicken"
1823 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707