By Eva Bloomfield, Vegan Editor
A bountiful haven of authentic Mexican cuisine and vegan fare, LA is shamefully overdue for a Mexican-vegan eatery. Not only does Gracias Madre in West Hollywood not disappoint – it ups the ante. These comidas aren’t just vegan, they’re plant-based. Not to mention organic AND locally grown. The holy trinity: healthy, environmentally friendly and supporting the local agricultural economy. While Gracias Madre originally hails from San Francisco, its south of the border style cuisine seems better suited to its new SoCal backdrop. But don’t expect $2 tacos and bottomless margaritas at this joint. This grub reeks of swank.
Case in point: the cocktails. On principle, I don’t routinely go for beverages equal in price to that of an entree. Not to mention — unless it contains bubbles (or rhymes with risky) — alcohol is rarely an object of temptation for this girl. Admittedly, though, these libations do sound pretty heavenly. Enticing concoctions of lavender, lime and tequila blanco adorn the beverage menu. I suspect that even I will eventually cave and take the pricey plunge for some of those seductive apértifs.
The food is not the only scrumptious thing that Gracias Madre serves up. The setting is equally luscious. An airy hideaway tucked away on Melrose, its spaciousness is exemplified by white-washed brick walls, high ceilings and sleek wooden floors. Enlivened by accents of mosaic tiles, small succulents, looming leafy plants, and brightly-colored Mexican textiles, GM nails the details. It straddles the aesthetically delicious line between unassuming and lavish – and is on trend as hell.
So, the drinks are works of art, the decor is exquisite, yada yada yada. Let’s get to the good stuff – the FOOD. Like the surroundings, the food is clean, elegant, and all-around satisfying. Expect to find the classics – the originality of this menu doesn’t lie in the types of dishes, but in the execution. The items may be predictable, but the flavor isn’t. On that note, let’s talk enchiladas: topped with a generous helping of mushrooms, sauteed greens and beans, the enchiladas are swimming in a chocolatey, smokey mole sauce. Lip-smacking goodness. Just, yum. As are the tacos, quesadillas, flautas…I could go on.
Go for the atmosphere, stay for the food. If you’re feeling really wild, splurge on a cocktail. But, whatever you do, don’t skip out on dessert. Dessert is rarely a must in my book. Don’t get me wrong, my sweet tooth is as incessant as the next sugar-addict’s, but an attempt at self-control (and an ever dwindling sum in my bank account) frequently leads me to dodge the dessert menu. A post-meal treat has always been a luxury – not a necessity. But Gracias Madre bulldozed its way through and broke that ideological mold.
Allow me to recommend the apple cobbler, a specimen of warm, flaky perfection. The spiced pumpkin cake is a close second; the balance of autumnal spices is tremendous. And both are garnished with a vanilla bean coconut ice cream that will tease and delight your taste buds. Again, there are no radical concepts or shocking flavor combos here – you won’t find molecular gastronomy on this menu. Despite the absence of a chemistry set in the making of these sweets, they are some of the best I’ve ever sampled. Get on it.
In short: drink in the atmosphere, chow down on the locally sourced, organic eats, get giggly off a cocktail, and split dessert. Buen provecho!
PHOTO CREDIT: GRACIAS MADRE