The original Source Café, a mellow healthy lifestyle restaurant, sits on mellow healthy lifestyle Pier Avenue in the midst of mellow healthy lifestyle Hermosa Beach. No big surprise. The new branch is a mellow healthy lifestyle restaurant on the far from mellow, definitely frenetic Sepulveda Boulevard in Manhattan Beach — an urban racetrack where cars rush north and south as fast as they semi-legally can.
But then, the Source Café is awash with surprises. Where the casual outdoor patio sits on the street in Hermosa, it’s hidden in the back on Sepulveda. You pull into the parking lot, and the world changes. There isn’t much people-watching; just car-spotting. But the controlled chaos of Sepulveda seems far, far away.
Not so far away is our need for at least one more natural, organic, healthy, good-for-you restaurant in the land where the beach towns are required by law to offer at least one eatery where those among us who are tired of eating ancient candy bars from our pantries, can find dishes that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and paleo, all affably sharing space on the same menu.
The staff, bubbly and good-humored, have much to say about the occasional odd term on the menu — who knew that maca is Peruvian ginseng? For food that would seem to be grounded in simplifying our lives and our world, this can be pretty complicated stuff. Though, of course, it doesn’t have to be. Order the tasty 3 Way Beets, and you get beets raw, pickled and roasted, with vegan almond ricotta and dukkah — an Egyptian/Middle Eastern mix of many herbs and spices that smells just great; very good light lunch and dinner dish.
Show up for breakfast, and the food is pretty much what you’d expect to get at a healthy eatery. There are no eggs Benedict on the menu. Instead, there are scrambled eggs served with a green herb salad and sourdough bread; and avocado (with cashew cream sauce) and banana bread French toast. There’s cured salmon on a bagel. And a biscuit sando of a fried egg, spicy aioli, arugula and avocado. There’s porridge — a 19th-century word that smacks of chilly nights on the moors. In this case, it’s made with buckwheat, amaranth (an herby plant ground into grain), coconut milk, jam, cinnamon and pecans; the laddies in Scotland wouldn’t know what to make of it.
There are actually two menus here, which overlap, one on the front and one on the back of a single sheet, one designated as “Day” (10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), the other not designated at all, but clearly a bit more serious. The “Day” is where you’ll find the eggs and the toasts.
Later on, there’s a snack plate of olives, spiced nuts and pickles, along with pappardelle pasta with anchovies and garlic. There are entrées of bison meatballs, sea bass with salsa verde, salmon with black rice and carrot turmeric curry, fries with spicy aioli. (The bison burger overlaps from Day to Night, as does the fried chicken sando. But dinner comes with fries with spicy aioli, which are always welcome.)
What I do like about The Source, aside from the tasty food — and often very tasty food — is that this is a healthy restaurant that doesn’t beat you about the head and body telling you its healthy. There’s wine. There’s beer. There are desserts under the heading “Sweets.” There are “mocktails” and “soft” cocktails, made without the hard stuff.
I’m reminded of the militantly healthy restaurant I went to years ago at 7 p.m. — only to be lectured by my server that I was eating too late, and wouldn’t sleep well. That’s not the vibe at The Source. Here, you can do whatever. Though a taste for almond ricotta doesn’t hurt.
- Address: 924 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach, 310-921-8505; also, 509 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, 310-318-1600
- Information: www.thesourcecafe.com