Natural Cafe

Review by: ayersian

There have been many forum debates dedicated to answering the question of “what is Roadfood?” Although a consensus has yet to be met, one defining criterion may be that the food is distinctive to the geographical region. In many parts of the country, roadfood is rich, heavy, and sticks to your ribs. However, in southern California, where the now-national juice bars first sprouted, and produce is in-season year round, the emphasis is more commonly on light, healthy meals.

Natural Cafe is a small chain, unique to California, which got its start in Santa Barbara. Its menu is filled with fresh, tasty dishes, including both vegetarian and carnivorous (well, at least chicken and fish) options. Characteristic of many SoCal eateries, the burgers here are made with soy, the chili dogs are meat-free, and if avocado is not already a part of your dish-of-choice, it can certainly be added for a small, additional charge.

On a recent visit, we opted to sample options from three different sections of the menu. The Local Favorite sandwich is thick slices of avocado, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, tomato, and red onion sandwiched between slices of whole grain bread painted with a garlic mayonnaise. As is customary with any of their sandwiches or burgers, a healthy handful of blue corn tortilla chips and a small serving of spicy salsa were served alongside.

What is normally a hand-held, portable meal, the Zog Dog, the veggie version of the chili dog, is definitely plate-bound as an open-faced sandwich. Sprawled out on a whole wheat bun, the wiener itself is a tofu dog, yet so firm and flavorful that one might not realize that it wasn’t an all-beef frank. Although chili is commonly considered to be a meaty dish, this chunky, semi-spicy chili contained kidney beans, celery, carrots, and olives.

In addition to the traditional bean burritos and cheese enchiladas, Natural Cafe offers another SoCal favorite: fish tacos, here dubbed Cabo Fish Tacos. Accompanied by black beans and brown rice, warm corn tortillas hold small hunks of marinated, grilled fish, cabbage, and shredded carrots. A lthough we are somewhat partial to tacos of the less heart-healthy, battered fish variety, the grilling marinade was very tasty and brought just the right flavor to every bite.

There are several juices, shakes, and smoothies from which to choose, all of which boast the fresh flavor that cannot be rivaled by the chain operations that abound in the area. Fans of carrot juice, on this particular visit we chose to try the carrot shake: carrot juice infused with a spicy creaminess. Blended with ice milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg, it was a taste that we could not quite anticipate, but which made perfect sense upon first sip.

We also couldn’t pass up the Crystal Blue Persuasion smoothie, blended with blueberries, bananas, and papaya juice. We opted for a free powdered supplement, and bee pollen seemed the most apropos. All fruit with no ice or sherbet, each sip was explosively tangy and deeply satisfying. We slurped both drinks to their bottoms, and all of us cleaned our plates easily, leaving us comfortably full with food that was doing our bodies good.

Natural Cafe’s expansive menu begs multiple visits in order to try everything, as this will be a permanent addition to our must-visit list on future trips to California. We generously thank our foodie friend Kelli Malella for always picking a magnificent lunch spot in Simi Valley!

What To Eat

Zog Dog

Local Favorite

Cabo Fish Tacos

Carrot Shake

Crystal Blue Persuasion Smoothie

Soup and (1/2) Sandwich Combo


Natural Cafe Recipes


What do you think of Natural Cafe?

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