In an age of fad diets Gaia Café has held on to the roots of vegetarianism. Offering a complete plant based menu since the 1970’s, the restaurant defies ever-changing dieting trends. Fittingly situated in the progressive East Hills district of Grand Rapids, the restaurant truly embodies its namesake. The Greek goddess Mother Earth is integrated in the restaurant’s humble façade, natural décor, and commitment to sustainable foods. The original brown brick exterior, weathered wooden front door, and storefront sign swaying gently above the entrance welcomes those looking for a home kitchen atmosphere and a feel good meal.
The semi-self serve dining room offers a unique hands on dining experience thereby adding to the familial vibe. After crossing the original wood floor and choosing your table, you are encouraged to help yourself to fresh coffee and water. Once the food arrives you may pick from an array of sauces. The seemingly endless supply of Sriracha and Gaia salsa are behind the coffee pots and water.
The main dishes are anything but barren and bland. The flood of flavors lead you to believe that Mother Earth herself nursed the edible foliage to fruition. The Veggie Hash beautifully marries the naturally sweet flavors of vegetables with the sharp bite of garlic and is displayed over a bed of seasoned potatoes. The Cuban Grilled Tempeh is the precious love child between soy and latin spices wrapped in a corn tortilla. If the thought of tofu, tempeh, and other soy based products makes you skeptical, try one of their remedial fresh juice blends. No matter if you are nursing a hangover with the Mac Truck or locating the fountain of youth with the Tiones Elixir you are guaranteed a natural energy boost soon after your last sip. Of course, if the main course fails to satiate your appetite, do not hesitate to indulge in at least one of Gaia’s hearty cookies packed full of walnuts, dried cherries, and dates that are tauntingly perched next to the cash register.
While the aged look may weed out those looking for a fine dining experience, it certainly preserves the 1970’s essence of true vegetarian cuisine. True to form Gaia represents whole foods, fresh vegetables, and a co-op atmosphere. Trendy diets may come and go, but this East Hills neighborhood staple has proved that its roots are lasting.