Having enjoyed vegan/vegetarian focused restaurants in the past (Cafe Gratitude, Real Food Daily), we started off a visit to Santa Barbara by visiting Mesa Verde for lunch. It had been positively reviewed on multiple websites, and its own website showcased beautifully crafted vegetarian cuisine.
Housed in its own quaint grey and green building, parking is a tight, only having a few dedicated spots in the parking lot. Although we arrived relatively late for lunch (around 2pm), we still had to wait more than 10 minutes for a table. The restaurant was near capacity, and employees were busy in the kitchen and serving customers seated indoors and outdoors. The environment was still relaxed, with locals enjoying a wide number of items from the menu.
The owner happened to serve us that day, and apologized for the wait. After ordering and asking for his input on recommended lunch items-- the Patatas Bravas Tacos and Picadillo Empanadas came highly recommended--he provided us complimentary samples of Helios, a cold-pressed juice composed of carrot, strawberry and lemon. This was quite light and refreshing, with the hint of lemon accenting the carrot and strawberry pleasantly. I loved the mason jar cups too. (A regular order of the juice would come in a glass bottle)
Avocado Bowl (13 USD)
quinoa. green tahini. hazelnut. mint and cucumber puree. pickles. radishes. carrot. herbs. V GF
Quite a number of tables ordered the avocado bowl, and it wasn't hard to see why. This cool, colorful bowl was both visually appealing and healthy. Moreover, it was quite crunchy, with black quinoa popping and crunching in the mouth and fragrant hazelnuts scattered on top. The mint and cucumber puree and green tahini smoothed out the textures and meshed the dish together with a light, bright creaminess. It was enjoyable in the winter and would be perfect on a summer day.
Falafel Sandwich (14 USD)
hummus. mixed greens. cucumber. mint. red onion. pickled beet. Radishes. Dill. lemon. tahini. V
This was probably the most creative plating of a falafel sandwich I've ever seen, with the warm, soft house made bread, falafel, and vegetables taking up two-thirds of the plate in a straight line. The organically shaped orbs of falafel were crispy on the outside and tender and flavorful on the inside, while the vegetables added crunch and complexity. Both the tahini and hummus served as helpful, creamy condiments to mesh the elements together.
Picadillo Empanadas (13 USD)
cashew cheese. cacao black beans. chimichurri. harissa. pickled savoy cabbage and carrots. V GF
Countering the other two dishes, these empanadas were served piping hot. A generous base of tender cacao black beans supported the two crispy empanadas, which were topped with a verdant chimichurri (not pictured), pickled veggies, and spicy harissa. It proved to be a pleasant blend of hearty, savory, spicy, and tart flavors.
Baklava (12 USD)
Vanilla ice cream. Pomegranate molasses. Pistachio. Mint. Sumac V GF
After paying our bill, the owner told us not to leave, as he wanted us to try their dessert. This baklava tasted as good as it looked. It was sweetened just enough, with the puff pastry still crisp and the nut and cinammon flavors shining through. The tart pomegranate molasses and the light and creamy vanilla ice cream served as perfect compliments. The ice cream was actually soy based, but we never noticed!
Mesa Verde is a vegetarian restaurant worth driving to enjoy. The food doesn't just look stunning, but also tastes great, and is coupled with a friendly and calm environment. Definitely a must visit for those interested in plant-based cuisine!
1919 Cliff Dr.