I know I recently stated in a previous post that I was unable to find great Mexican cuisine in Southern California, but I guess the food gods were smiling down on me. They led me to Gracias Madre which is tucked away on LA’s tony Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. I was in the neighborhood with friends on business, and on a recent weekday we decided to stop in for a bite to eat. And I’m glad we did.
Their menu is vegan and 100% organic. But don’t let the word vegan scare you. It doesn’t mean less flavor or weird textures. On the contrary, Chef Chandra Gilbert created a great array of dishes packed with fresh Mexican flavors using locally sourced organic ingredients with nary a meat product in sight.
As it was a typically warm Southern California afternoon, we started the meal off with their fresh pressed juice. I can highly recommend the fresh pineapple, celery and cilantro juice ($6). It’s a light refreshing blend, not overly sweet and definitely thirst-quenching.
The menu is small, but I kinda’ like that. My feeling is do a few things but do them right, and so they do. We started off with the Brussels Sprouts with lemon, cilantro and almond ($10) and the Cauliflower with cashew nacho cheese ($10). It seems everyone’s serving brussels sprouts now, but these guys nailed it. With veggies this good, you won’t give meat a second thought.
We liked the dishes we saw on the table of the young hipsters sitting next to us, so we ordered the Flautas with sweet potatoes and caramelized onions ($10), the Potato and Chorizo Quesadilla ($10) and the Avocado and Coconut Bacon Torta ($11). Everything was extremely fresh and showed a respect for the ingredients. They’re not heavy-handed on the spices, yet all the dishes had a nice little kick to it. Shame on me for thinking El Torito was Mexican food.
Okay I thought, you nailed it with the veggies, but the real test would be show me a great vegan dessert. We tried two of their six desserts. They’ve got a Strawberry Cheesecake with fresh strawberry sauce and orange cream ($9) which unfortunately fell into that strange texture category , but none-the-less we had no problem finishing, and a Gluten-free Brownie with Salted Caramel Sauce and Coconut Bacon ($9). Vegan, schmegan, the brownie was great, and we literally licked the sauce off the plate. Yeah, I did that.
The restaurant itself is warm and welcoming. The space, during the day, is flooded with lots of natural light, rough-hewn wood floors and artisanal Mexican tiles. It’s actually a perfect complement to the food in keeping with that organic theme. Since the weather here is good 364 days a year, they have a stunning brick patio with a fireplace, trees and white umbrellas, making the meal feel like a mini vacation.
The service was friendly, but coulda’ been a teeny bit more efficient, but I still felt like they appreciated our business. We didn’t have a problem with parking either, there seemed to be plenty of metered parking on the streets.
Gracias Madre succeeds in paying homage to the fruits of Mother Earth, and to all the mothers who nurtured and fed us.
Gracias Madre, 8905 Melrose Avenue West Hollywood, CA 90069 (323) 978-2170