In California’s ever-increasing health-conscious and ecologically aware society, diners are seeking new restaurants to make a change for themselves and for the environment. And with the threat of drought still persisting through this past weekend’s downpours, it’s worth recognizing that a diet of fruit and vegetables uses far less water than one filled with dairy and meat. So whether you’re a seasoned vegan or simply looking for a way to reduce your footprint on the planet, here are three dishes to try at three of Santa Barbara’s healthiest and eco-friendly eateries.
Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes at Adama Vegan Comfort Cuisine: With a menu that is entirely plant-based, Adama offers a safe haven for vegans as well as a unique dining experience for anyone simply interested in delicious and healthy food. Although Adama launched in May 2011, it wasn’t until about a year ago that they made the switch to a gluten-free kitchen — and they haven’t looked back since. Owner Deeahna Arrieta said the move has helped gain even more customers, 50 percent of whom have gluten-free diets.
“This kind of cooking is a daily science experiment,” she said. “I’m constantly manipulating basic ingredients to make sure a dish hits that comfort spot.” In other words, when you order a quiche at Adama, you’ll get something that actually tastes like quiche, even if it is vegan and gluten free.
To start your day off in that style, try Adama’s pumpkin-pecan pancakes, a crowd favorite and their best-selling dish on the breakfast menu, which is on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 9 a.m. The contrasting textures of the crispy toasted pecans and the creamy pumpkin make for a rich and warming meal. The cinnamon-pumpkin flavor is even sweet enough to forgo the maple syrup if you want to keep your breakfast light.
Walnut Kale Salad at Alchemy Arts Café: As part of the Alchemy Arts Center on the corner of Chapala Street and West Haley Street, Alchemy Café shares the center’s passion for health and wellness. The center, which opened three years ago, was the dream of founder Emma Narachi, a Reiki master and craniosacral therapist who developed her healing ideas during travels in Asia.
Alchemy Café prides itself on its raw, vegetarian cuisine, a rare find in Santa Barbara, and is also Farmers Market Certified, meaning they commit 25 percent or more of their total monthly food expenditures to the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association. Said marketing manager Stevie Mason, “We have a loyal clientele who knows our passion for clean food and wants to support us.”
For lunch, try the walnut kale salad with locally grown kale, toasted walnuts, and avocado, topped with sprouted crunchy quinoa, finely shredded Parmesan, and a lemon olive-oil dressing. The salad’s freshness and vibrant, bursting colors are a stirringly light option for these winter months. Clean food often tends to connote blandness but not so at Alchemy Café. The flavors of this salad are as lively as its colors.
Island Bowl at Backyard Bowls: As Santa Barbara’s quintessential beach-town eatery, Backyard Bowls combines eco-friendly business practices with nutritional powerhouse ingredients like the acaí berry and hemp to offer a healthy alternative for breakfast or lunch.
College friends Pete Heth and Dan Goddard developed Backyard Bowls out of “this crazy idea that we had when living in Hawaii, where we fell in love with acaí.” The acaí berry, valued for its high amounts of antioxidants, protein, and essential fatty acids, is the main ingredient in most of Backyard Bowl’s dishes.
Their most popular menu item is the Island Bowl, which is “beginner friendly” for diners who have never eaten an acaí bowl. With a blend of acaí, banana, mango, pineapple juice, and coconut milk and topped with hemp granola, strawberries, blueberries, coconut shavings, and honey, the dish is a tropical cornucopia of juicy, sweet fruit. Though it tastes like a dessert, guests can be assured that it is packed with healthy nutrients.
Joanne Howard’s longer profiles on each of these restaurants are online at independent.com/food.