You walk toward a restaurant tucked between two large buildings, the walls around you painted with lovely images of flowers and produce. You reach a small, covered patio, each small table dotted with fresh flowers, with a mural that represents local, organic farming painted on the wall to your right. To your left, you glance into the brightly lit, warm interior of Seeds Community Café.
Smiling. Everyone in there is smiling and laughing.
Before you reach the door, it’s pushed open for you by a volunteer from Seeds, who greets you warmly, hands you a menu and asks if it’s your first time here. If you say yes, you’ll get a brief but informative explanation of how Seeds works: it’s a donation-based restaurant, which means you pay what you want. As you start to panic at the idea of not knowing how much is “okay,” you see an average donation amount displayed on the menu. You’re informed this is a place where everyone can come get a good meal, and those who can’t pay can volunteer in exchange for a good meal. (Be sure to watch the video above to see how a donation-based restaurant thrives – I know you’re curious.) You learn their food is organic, locally sourced, most of their produce harvested from local community gardens.
You look at their menu and you’re amazed by how delicious everything sounds. From hearty burgers to pasta to vegetable dishes and pizza, from lamb shanks to curry dishes, you’re offered a little bit of everything. You note nearly everything is gluten-free and many of the dishes can be altered to accommodate dietary restrictions. You’re informed that the menu changes regularly to allow for variety and natural seasonal produce.
You make your choice and step up the counter, where you place your order with a friendly volunteer (Caren or Colleen if you’re very lucky). You’re given a number and told you can donate now or after your meal. Why? Because at Seeds, they want you to leave with a full belly – so if you finish your meal and still want more, you can order seconds or even try a different entrée. And don’t forget the desserts in the case nearby! Nearly all of them are gluten-free and they almost always have vegan options – great for those with egg or dairy allergies. You linger in front of the glass, delighted by the selection of treats and secretly pick the one you want to eat now, but will force yourself to wait for after lunch.
You’re pointed to a self-serve drink station where you see a table of different coffees, tea, Kangen water and various fruit and herb-infused water pitchers. (Kangen is the only water they use there – be sure to ask for Ace if you want to hear about the wonders of Kangen – he’s a pro!) You get your drink, grab a set of silverware and pick a table in the full restaurant – maybe even share space with another happy guest at a community table. Once seated, you bask in the warm lighting, taking in the conversational din and admire the art on the walls.
This is a typical experience at Seeds – warmth, delicious and hearty food and generosity. When I went there with Dave, I ordered the vegan spaghetti and marinara (with zucchini “noodles”), the kale Caesar salad and one of the daily soups: sausage, pepper and bok choy. Dave ordered the Tejon Street meat lover’s pizza and the same soup.
We were both obsessed with the soup: incredibly flavorful and smoky. It was hearty with large pieces of onion, bell pepper, greens and spicy sausage. I’m sensitive to spice, but this was just right.
My kale salad was amazing: it’s vegan and the dressing has a tangy Caesar-like flavor to it. I was instantly addicted. If you’re into kale, this is the dish for you – dark, robust, raw leaves with a drizzle of dressing, topped with gluten-free croutons.
When my spaghetti came out, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure why I’d ordered it – I don’t even like zucchini. But to my surprise, it blew my mind. The zucchini was sliced so thin that it honestly could’ve been mistaken for spaghetti noodles. The marinara sauce was hearty with lots of flavor and spice. I loved the delightful taste of basil. Everything tasted so fresh! Dave was also a big fan and I had to fend him off with my fork.
Dave’s pizza was perfect. Their crust is gluten-free and vegan (and for those of you with dietary restrictions, you know how rare that is) and you’d never know it. It’s soft enough, but crisp enough. The pizza sauce was tangy and bright, topped with pepperoni, sausage, and gooey mozzarella. Dave said the cheese was unlike any cheese you’d get at a pizzeria – it was so decadent. He ordered seconds!
For dessert, Dave ordered a slice of the Mexican chocolate pie (if you see it, grab a piece before anyone else – the two pies arrived shortly after we did, and by the time we were done with lunch, they were nearly out of the second pie). The crust is incredible – it’s gluten-free and perfectly fluffy and tender. The smooth chocolate filling is sinfully indulgent with a hint of cinnamon and cayenne.
I ordered a slice of the strawberry balsamic pie (vegan). The crust was perfect – in fact, I would eat an entire tin of that crust if I could. It was filled with soft, delicate strawberries in a wonderfully sweet glaze that was kept from being too sweet with the balsamic edge.
Our meal at Seeds was amazing, as I’m sure yours will be. I love this restaurant and all it stands for. Seeds is all about giving back to the community and helping others. The volunteers love being there and giving – but don’t take my word for it. Watch the below video to see what kind of difference Seeds has made for them!
Are you already a fan of Seeds? Or are you now itching to try it? The founder, Lyn Harwell, has offered a generous deal: enter below to enter to win a FREE lunch for you and a friend! Be sure to take advantage of this amazing offer and see for yourself what Seeds is all about!