[Hole in the Wall] Greens Cafe for an Emerald City

Emerald City

I hate to heap praise on anyone who trashes the Weekly, but a shout-out to Larry Agran. The current Irvine council member, former mayor and for-life politician is succeeding at making his city a shining emerald in the world of green, eco-friendly living, both by fiat and by inspiring like-minded businesses to relocate or open there. We’ll concentrate on the foodie aspect for the purposes of this column—and what a roster: from the Irvine Farmer’s Market to Britta’s Cafe to Veggie Grill to Wheel of Life to the city’s contracting of our Best of 2008 Best Restaurant winner Avanti Cafe to cater events for the Great Park’s summer concert series last year, no OC city can match Irvine in healthy, sustainable eating.

Add Greens Cafe to this list. It’s a hole in the wall as only the Irvine Co. can imagine it: beautiful, with brand-new tables and wood flooring, seeming more spacious than its small room. To use a cliché: very Zen. And some of the items on the menu skew toward the vaguely Asian, completely New Wave philosophy that haunts so many vegan eateries, with entrée names such as Ocean Beauty wrap, Loving Earth salad and Joy burger. But disregard the cloying cuteness (although I guarantee you’ll be mesmerized by the flat-screen television flashing mantras in 15 languages as broadcast on the Supreme Master Television channel). That Joy burger, for instance? Not just your usual veggie burger: Savor the crispy patty, its garnishes of sautéed purple onions and a tangy tomato salsa, served with a side of oily fries. Wash it all down with a smoothie made from organic fruit (all fruits and veggies are organic here, and you’ll taste the difference). Repeat.

Greens’ menu is limited, and some of the items have already been stricken. But what surprised me most about the dive was its emphasis on spaghetti. Most veggie eateries stick to Asian noodles such as those found in stir-frys and pad Thai for their pasta needs, but Greens whips out the spaghetti like an Italian nonna. Their Color of Love dish is wholly filling, but substitutes meatballs with sautéed peppers, onions and crunchy tofu bits so that you can scarf down their substantial serving and not feel like a bowling ball went down your esophagus. More expected, but no less delicious, are the rice dishes—really nothing more than rice jumbled with veggies and sauces, but as luxuriant as anything Persian restaurants may sell.

Finally, the dessert: I saved a carrot cake for tasting while I concluded this review . . . dense, nutty, supremely sweet without any frosting, wholly vegan. Must go again; must go now.

Greens Cafe at 15435 Jeffrey Rd., Ste. 110, Irvine, (949) 653-1241; www.thegreenscafe.com.



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