The Natural Cafe - Hitchcock Way

  • Veg-options Veg-options
    ( 6 reviews )

361 Hitchcock Way, Santa Barbara, California, USA, 93105

Serves meat, vegan options available. Several locations in California. Extensive menu includes many vegetarian dishes: sandwiches, salads, pasta, smoothies, two veggie soup of the day (one of which is always vegan and usually gluten-free). You can ask to veganize many dishes using veganaise, etc. or by omitting dairy products. Open Mon-Sun 11:00am-9:00pm. Open on most holidays.

Categories: Vegan-friendly, Lacto, Ovo, American, Fast food, Juice bar, Non-veg

6 Reviews

First Review by jlautner

Great Place with Lots of Vegan Options - Edit

I love this place and come to it quite a bit. Many dishes have to be made vegan by removing items (e.g., cheese or sour cream), and I've never had an issue with them forgetting to do so. They now offer Chao "cheese" in place of regular cheese for no extra charge! (2018) In my experience, the staff is pretty well-versed on what's vegan and what's not.

Depending on who's at the register, they can substitute in guacamole for sour cream for free, but their guac isn't the best...

Salads are awesome here, with lots of variety and vegetables available on them. And you can never go wrong with adding sauteed tofu, which is deliciously seasoned! Just make sure you keep an eye out for sour cream on some of the salads, which is stated clearly on the menu.

It does seem like most of their food is pretty healthy - lots of vegetables, black beans, brown rice. Of course, if it's covered in cheese and sour cream, it's not all that healthy. Someone mentioned that their bread isn't vegan - I'm pretty sure that's true, so avoid that if you're vegan.

Natural Tamale - great filling, tasty beans and rice + a side salad (I like the tahini salad dressing all over the dish). Take off the sour cream.

Black bean enchiladas - substitute chao and take off the sour cream.

Tempeh Tacos - not the best seasoning, but you can substitute cheese for the vegan chai cheese, which is pretty good.

Natural Salad - pretty simple but lots of veggies (lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, jicama, cabbage, sprouts) very tasty salad, especially if you get tahini dressing and sauteed tofu.

Tostada Salad - filling salad with beans and rice (remove sour cream). Again, I love the tahini dressing and tofu added on.

Stay away from the falafel. In my opinion, falafel is best fried in oil. Being a "healthy" place, they seem to just bake it. Not very good. You've been warned ;)

Updated from previous review on 2018-05-21

Pros: Lots of options, Nice atmosphere, Really good if you know what you're getting

Cons: Hit and miss depending on the entree

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Good - Edit

Like a lot of the order-at-the-counter natural food places. Being whole-food wheat-free vegan it's a cross-over place and I need to be picky and choosy here, but it is not a complaint.

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Good food! - Edit

This casual restaurant has lots of healthy veg choices that are very tasty. Can't beat the tempeh tacos, the Super natural platter, and the vegetarian daily soups.

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So-so: acceptably tasty, marginally healthful - Edit

All the Natural Café locations serve the same middle-of-the-road fare: nothing stellar, but plenty of OK options.

Our main complaint about the Natural Café, besides the fact that it serves meat and doesn't always get special orders right (e.g. vegan dishes without dairy, etc.), is that the food is neither remarkably flavorful nor remarkably healthful. It's perfectly acceptable and better than a restaurant that makes no effort to use healthful, natural ingredients, but that's about all we can say in praise of the food. They do not make a point of using organic produce, and a lot of the food is fattening, so though "natural" is in the name, that doesn't strongly equate with genuinely healthful food.

Put less delicately: the Natural Cafe serves food that tastes like "health food" but isn't in fact especially healthful.

That said, we still prefer it to most other restaurants in Santa Barbara because at least they do have some OK vegan options and at least they do make a minimal effort to use fresh and "natural" (though not organic) ingredients.

Recommended (though not very enthusiastically) are the tempeh tacos (order without cheese) and the "natural tamale" (order without sour cream).

In the end, if flavor is more important to you than the minimal attempt at "natural" cuisine, you might be happier with one of Santa Barbara's several veg*n-friendly Asian and Italian restaurants.

Pros: Several vegan options, minimally healthful

Cons: Serves meat, Not organic, Not especially tasty, on the whole

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Beware Vegans - Edit

All the bread at the natural cafe' is not vegan it contains honey. The item I usually order the old town salad with out feta cheese and tahini with grilled tofu, the soup is really good and I usually get it with out bread. What I get is really good and recommended but be careful of the employees will tell you all the burgers are vegan which is technically true but they forget to tell you about the bread. I ate there for years thinking it was vegan so bummed I was lyed to.

Pros: Fresh Food, Good Tofu

Cons: Expensive , Not much vegan food

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A lot of choices for veg people - Edit

I have been to several Natural Cafes, many times to the one closest to me - San Luis Obispo. I just tried this one last Monday. I cannot resist the sauteed tofu here, even when I am trying to reduce the amount of fat in my diet. It is just not to be missed. The restaurant is large, airy, has a nice outdoor patio (dog-friendly perhaps?). As with the other Natural Cafes, you order at the counter, then find a seat and wait for your food to come to you. There are more veg choices here than there are meat, which makes this cafe stand out in my opinion. You can also get sides to make up a meal that meets your dietary needs - brown rice & steamed veggies, for example. I always enjoy eating here.

This location has the advantage of being on the way out of town for me, not caught in the downtown parking dilemma.

Pros: attractive restaurant, good food, earth-conscious

Cons: not all vegetarian

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