For vegans, gluten-free eaters, allergy sufferers, and those concerned about added hormones and antibiotics, going out to eat must be like stepping into a mine field. Is the food truly toxin-free? Has there been cross-contamination? For sufferers of celiac and other diseases, the threat of a negative reaction is very real.
Enter Green Corner Cafe. This little restaurant in the corner of a mini-mall doesn't just pay lip service to clean eating. They're serious about all their food being organic with no antibiotics, hormones, steroids, animal by-products or GMOs. Every food category including sandwiches, pizzas, crepes and salads, comes with gluten-free options. Many dishes are vegan or vegetarian and all are clearly labeled. They use stevia instead of white sugar and only Himalayan pink or sea salt. On top of that, the chef knows how to properly cook with unconventional ingredients creating tasty dishes that seem to radiate vitality. It's a clean eater's paradise.
The cafe itself is painted in warm colors with pretty artwork on the walls and classical music on the sound system. It was empty save for my friend and me so we got the full attention of our young waiter. He was well-versed on the menu and asked the chef when he wasn't. We started off with iced tea and hot tea. I was a little surprised that the house iced tea was yerba mate in a bottle, which luckily my friend prefers. I was able to choose from a wide range of hot teas.
Next we tried the butternut squash soup ($4). Creamy and full-bodied, we scraped the bottom of the bowl. I had heard that the service was slow so we were delighted when all of our dishes came out in a timely fashion. The grilled chicken pesto panini ($12) featured slices of hormone-free, delicately flavored chicken on thin slippers of fragrant whole-grain bread cross-hatched with attractive grill marks. They promise me the gluten-free bread is just as delicious. Inside was gently wilted fresh spinach, organic provolone cheese and homemade pesto sauce. Every panini (and other type of sandwich) comes with field greens and homemade dressing. We enjoyed the honey-garlic. It's a little sweet and a little spicy.
The quinoa tabule salad — vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free — is a top seller ($11). It sparkles with lemon, mint, red onion and Persian cucumber. However, it's the rare person who can finish a full platter of tabule. I asked to go half and half with another similarly priced salad but they were unwilling. I was also disappointed to learn they were out of gluten-free pizza and gano coffee with reishi (a mushroom extract).
The Green Corner Crepe ($11) stuffed with chicken, spinach and vegan mozzarella had a nice floppy quality to it with an airiness from what must be whipped egg whites. The side of grilled sweet potato ($4) come shredded like carrot peelings then grilled on a dry griddle. They're fun to eat with your fingers or fork. Any oil that might be added comes after cooking to preserve the beneficial properties of the oil. The "fries" were good as is but adding a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt took them into home-run territory.
We were charmed by complementary slices of piping hot quesadilla on vegan organic tortillas with organic mozzarella. Like most other dishes it came sprinkled with impossibly tiny bits of fresh parsley.
Their homemade gluten-free brownie ($3) is indeed brown but not all that chocolatey. Coconut sugar, coconut oil and coconut flour are used along with cranberries rendering something more like a carrot cake. The vegan cream cheese frosting brings it all together.
As delicious as everything was, I knew my son would prefer a wrap from Best Shawarma next door so I popped in for some take-out. Best Shawarma is the delicious antithesis to Green Corner Cafe. Processed white flour, meats of undeclared origin and mayonnaise abound. But the wrap with its sliced tender lamb, onions, tomatoes and sauce of red pepper and tomato paste is awesome, according to him ($7.99).
This mini-mall in fact has many options for takeout: Hungry Howie's Pizza, Yum-Yum Donuts, Middle Eastern wraps and for some of the tastiest, healthful food around, Green Corner Cafe.
Where: 604 W. Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale
When: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Prices: Breakfast, $5 to $13; Panini, wraps, salads, pizzas, $9 to $15; sides, $4 to $6
More info: (818) 507-5003, organicgreencornercafe.com
LISA DUPUY has written for Westways, the Pasadena Star-News and the Los Angeles Times Community News. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.