Gluten-free at Dharma’s Vegetarian Restaurant in Capitola, Ca

Dharma Restaurant: Natural Organic Vegetarian Food
4250 Capitola Rd
Capitola, CA 95010
(831) 462-1717

I love finding a new, local restaurant with a well-developed gluten-free menu, and I love finding vegetarian restaurants that have food that I can eat. Finding them both in one place is a rare and exciting event. When I discovered Dharma’s gluten-free friendly, vegetarian restaurant in Capitola, California through an online search, I was thrilled. Dharma’s Vegetarian Restaurant is a very large, almost cafeteria style restaurant with a warm and cozy family dining atmosphere. You place your order at the counter, since it isn’t a traditional sit down and place your order type of place. To tell the truth, this kind of ordering situation always makes me twitchy because I find it hard to make a decision standing staring at a menu above me. It is even harder with a toddler in tow. Baby Yum got a little hyper so the DH carted her off to a table with some of the resident dinosaur toys and left me to pick food for all of us.

As soon as I saw it on their online gluten-free menu, I knew that I wanted the Indian curry, which you can get with gluten-free bread if you order it specially. But I didn’t think Baby Yum would be too thrilled with all the “spice, spice” as she refers to anything with seasoning. So. when I saw the daily special was a dish with quinoa, sweet potato and soup, I had to order it… for the DH to share with Baby Yum. Then I felt bad later, because it really wasn’t the kind of thing he would order for himself. What can I say, I don’t order well under pressure.

The Indian Curry, though, that was right up my alley and exactly what I would order if I could choose anything in the world. When I saw that curry I just about swooned. Lots of fresh veggies married to a creamy, coconut-rich sauce and sprinkled with cashews- yum! The brown rice was fine, the yogurt sauce was tangy, the chutney was sweet, but the curry, now that was a real treat. I would give it a 4 out of 4 stars. It was served with a bit of what I think was Kinnikinnick bread. I don’t know how they manage their toasters, so I still didn’t eat it. I didn’t need it, even with giving Baby Yum some of my plain rice.

Because it was Mother’s Day weekend I ordered the raw foods strawberry cheesecake, too. I have decided that cheesecake is my favorite raw foods dessert. How can you not love that creamy, nut-based goodness that seems so naughty but is full of good things? This was a lovely, silky smooth and delicate raw foods cheesecake with a tangy hint of lime. Even the DH approved.

The quinoa sweet-potato special really got my attention because the specials menu mentioned a tahini sauce. I don’t care what you drizzle it on, tahini makes everything yummy. Between thinking of my quinoa-loving Baby Yum and drooling over the tahini, I couldn’t resist. I selected a potato leek soup that was recommended by the guy at the counter, and it was a nice soup but looked so very plain when it came out of the kitchen that I felt quite bad about having ordered it for the DH. On the up side, Baby Yum gobbled down the rice and quinoa we gave her from our two plates. On the down side, this meal just didn’t look sexy or very hard to make at home. Teach me to order the bargain lunch special!

I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me to find a gluten-free friendly vegetarian restaurant on our little road trip. The first restaurant I ever really enjoyed was a little place called the Creative Vegetarian Cafe in Boulder, which closed a few years later. I loved the international take on vegetarian dining, and I’ve missed having the experience of eating good, thoughtful vegetarian recipes out. Here in Silicon Valley it seems the only vegetarian restaurants are based on Chinese/ Taiwanese Vegetarian cuisine, which is so full of wheat-based soy sauce, wheat flour and wheat gluten that it is completely off limits. Or, they are based in Indian cuisine, which I love but often has mystery spice mixes or cross contamination issues. Finding a place that gives me the international dishes I crave but has gone to the effort to have a gluten-free menu was the best Mother’s Day present ever! If you happen to find yourself in Santa Cruz and take an excursion towards Capitola, definitely check out Dharma’s Vegetarian Restaurant and their fantastic gluten-free menu!

*Please note, they do prepare gluten dishes in their kitchen, so you may want to ask questions about preparation and cross-contamination issues.

How we found the restaurant:

I have a crush on Santa Cruz. I’ll admit it. Santa Cruz is the home of New Leaf Health Food Stores, my favorite REAL natural food store in California, and also the home of Love Apple Farm, an organic farm that produces gorgeous produce for a local gourmet restaurant while also cultivating and selling amazing heirloom tomatoes. Love Apple Farm has become increasingly involved in education, providing classes on topics from backyard chicken-keeping to preserving to summer or winter organic gardening. Ever since we bought our first house with a yard, the DH and I have been burning to start a garden. And, shortly before Mother’s Day, we attended a class at Love Apple Farm to get an education on organic gardening. At that class, we learned about the Mother’s Day Plant Sale at the Cabrillo College Horticulture Center where you can buy beautiful organic heirloom plants the likes of which would never be found at Lowe’s or Home Depot. This is how I found myself in Capitola, California on Mother’s Day Weekend with a car full of gorgeous plants including purple tomatillos, quinoa, and a rainbow of lettuce. I had all this potential food in the car, and yet- I was hungry! Luckily the DH has an Iphone, and so we did a search and I found a vegetarian restaurant in the area with a gluten-free menu. Yippee! I knew I liked the Santa Cruz area.

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