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The latest Cafe Gratitude prototype comes equipped with a full bar
<p>The latest Cafe Gratitude prototype comes equipped with a full bar.</p>

L.A. operation elevates plant-based dining, drinking

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The founders of the new restaurant Gratitude in Newport Beach, CA, which opened Feb. 10, contend there is growing demand for organic plant-based dining—served with a nice cocktail in an artfully designed dining room.

Gratitude is a more elevated iteration of the Café Gratitude brand operated by Los Angeles-based Love Serve Remember.

Known for its vegan menu, Café Gratitude was founded in San Francisco in 2004 by Matthew and Terces Engelhart. In 2011, Lisa and Chris Bonbright joined in to form a new company under the Love Serve Remember banner and grow the brand.

Café Gratitude now has four units and two Mexican-inspired versions of the brand have opened called Gracias Madre, though one of those restaurants is owned separately by the Engelharts. Now the new Gratitude takes some elements of the original brand and adds in a full bar and more upscale design.

“It’s really a combination of what we learned from Gracias Madre,” explains Chris Bonbright. “It’s a little more elevated, both from the food we serve and design. It’s more of a restaurant than a café.”

At Gratitude, for example, the bar features only organic spirits with cocktails crafted by Jason Eisner, who is also beverage director at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood. Gracias Madre, however, focuses mostly on tequilas and mescal, where Gratitude has a broader range of organic spirits, as well as ingredients like house-made bitters and various infusions.

The restaurant also serves cold-pressed juices, also used in cocktails, such as the caipirinha made with Brazilian rum with pressed lime juice and a house-made rock-candy-stick garnish.

Gratitude’s small-plates menu was developed by chef Dreux Ellis and will spotlight seasonal produce from farmers markets but also from the Engelharts’ farm in Vacaville, CA. On the winter menu are options like Brussels sprouts sliders with maple-miso glaze; curried garnet yam-and-cauliflower griddle cakes with red pepper harissa; or larger plates like hand-crafted truffle ravioli pasta with braised mushrooms.

Gratitude is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring some dishes also on the Café Gratitude menu, like the whole-grain Sushi Bowl with blackened tempeh, shredded kale, avocado and sesame wasabi dressing over sprouted grains.

The 4,300-square-foot restaurant also has an adjacent 200-square-foot Gratitude To-Go space that will offer grab-and-go items, fresh juices and to-go orders off the main menu.

The choice of a plant-based diet is no longer limited to yoginis or people dealing with health or lifestyle issues, says Lisa Bonbright, who serves as c.e.o. for Love Serve Remember. In fact, she says, the vast majority of Café Gratitude customers are not vegan or vegetarian.

“It used to be that if you wanted to eat healthy, you were almost put into a situation where you couldn’t go to a great restaurant with a beautiful environment,” she says. “Now we’ve found that people want to eat healthy in a beautiful environment and have a cocktail.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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