KindKreme is not something you slather on your dinosaur-skin elbows or use to whiten your teeth. Neither is it a concoction from Harry Potter that turns bullies into sweethearts. Rather, it’s a vegan, organic, sustainable café that has a rocking ice cream counter, a smoothie/juice bar, coffee and some damn decent lunch choices.
If you’re put off by the vegan label, please don’t be—many cooks, including the people at KindKreme, can do wonders with vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices. I find it annoying that they (and other vegan establishments) put “cheese” in quotes, when in fact it’s a silky, nut-based sauce, delicious in its own right. But if it gets skeptics in the door, what the hell.
KindKreme (this is store number three) has a terrific bloodline , if one can say that about a vegan restaurant. The parents of owner/founder Mollie Engelhart ,who calls herself “a vegan from the womb,” run Café Gratitude in Berkeley and beyond (and you can get their granola here). The Bay Area vibe is strong, with plenty of coffee choices to go with the inventive cuisine. You can almost feel the delight in experimentation, the thrill of discovery at the farmers’ market, in this sleek little place.
Lunch, for instance, can be a crunchy, sustaining kale, celery and raisin salad with some of that “cheese” to smooth out and combine the flavors; a neatly mosaic’ed open-face sandwich of avocado, carrots, cucumber, spinach and dill cheese (I’m dispensing with the apostrophes, but you can put them in if you want) on delicious crispy bread with a side of homemade hot sauce, and a juice combo called the Fresh with ginger, cucumber, lemon and apple. For a buck you can add a shot of kale to your juice (hey, it’s the super-dense nutrient food, it’s in season, and it’s tasty).
And the icekreme! Here’s where the creativity really comes in. The daily-changing offerings are about 20 at any given time: chocolate, salted caramel, kale (really!), coconut-carrot-ginger, mint cacao nib, beet-ginger-grapefruit, caramel apple. Tastes are cheerfully served on itty-bitty bamboo (of course) tasting spoons. My advice, as with the “cheese,” is to not compare it to gelato or ice cream—try it on its own merits. Let the flavors and textures mingle and sing in your mouth. And you can even get an icekreme sandwich with vegan cookies or a North Beach–like affogato. Now we’re talking!
The only down side to KindKreme is that it’s not open before 11 a.m., because the smoothies, waffles, granola and coffee would go down great on the way to work. Blame that on their Echo Park and Studio City roots. Once they get the hang of hard-working Pasadena, they’ll be open at dawn. After all, (eager) beavers are vegetarian, even if (worm-eating) early birds may not be.
Oh, and it’s expensive, due to the organic and sustainable focus (the meal above, with tip, was great, filling and $16; icekreme is $3.99 a scoop), but what price virtue? Treat yourself, and your self will treat you.
319 S. Arroyo Pkwy. , Pasadena, kindkreme.com. Open Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m- 10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.