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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jonathan Kauffman: Gracias Madre Ditches the Gratitude, Finds the Food

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 10:59 AM

click to enlarge The vegan Mexican-food restaurant opened last December on Mission Street
  • The vegan Mexican-food restaurant opened last December on Mission Street
Strict vegan or raw-curious meatatarian, it's easy to have issues with Café Gratitude, the local live-foods chain preaching a self-help gospel stiff enough to curdle your mug of I Am Super Hot. It was Gratitude issues that made Jonathan Kauffman initially skeptical about Gracias Madre, the vegan (but not raw-gan) Mexican-food spinoff that landed on Mission last December. In today's "Eat," Kauffman offers a sort of mea culpa, loaded down with bites of butternut squash and cashew cheese-filled quesadillas, vegan posole, and fantastic heirloom corn tortillas. Gracias Madre, he finds, serves up only trace amounts of credo in dishes that respect their genre even as they shun crema from cows. Read SFoodie's sizable excerpt after the jump, then click on over to to read how Kauffman hashes out the particulars.

In the early days of Matthew and Terces Engelhart's raw-food restaurant, I fell for its rambling 1970s-style decor, its menu of dehydrated-seed "nachos" and dried-tomato and cashew-cheese "pizzas," even the way all the dishes were named "I am [affirmative adjective]." I always walked out feeling like I'd snarfed the contents of a CSA box, counteracting weeks of carnitas tacos and almond croissants. As Cafe Gratitude turned into a chain, though, the prices almost doubled and the affirmation shtick grew wearisome. When faced by the prospect of Cafe Gratitude, Mexican edition, I was put off by the thought of ordering "Soy intuitivo" tamales and exhortations to "Exprese la gratitud!" from servers who weren't doing much to earn mine. Then veg friends who had stopped going to Gratitude for the same reasons started telling me how much they'd enjoyed their meals at Gracias Madre. They were quick to mention that the Engelharts' beliefs ... had disappeared into the background.

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