Local food in the South brings to mind fried chicken, sweet tea and a few clogged arteries along the way. Café Love brings a fresh, new take on local cuisine with a menu composed completely of organic, soy-free, gluten-free and vegan items, all made from scratch. What started as a weeklong raw food cleanse for the two co-owners became a full blown business venture culminating in the recent opening of the restaurant.
Don’t be intimidated by their “vegan” or “raw foods” designation, even the pickiest palate can find something to love here (pun intended). Just a quick eight-minute drive from campus and a menu that rotates from week to week, Café Love should definitely be your new off campus go-to. Though Café Love is currently take out only, plans are in the works to introduce indoor seating in the near future. You can also find Café Love items at the Durham Whole Foods (labeled Triangle Raw Foods), in addition to Bean Traders and Cocoa Cinnamon where their Love Bars are available. I often enjoy Triangle Raw Foods’ products at Whole Foods, so I was excited to venture to Café Love in person for the first time.
Having previously tried the Pad Thai, I was excited to relish this dish again. By serving theirs with vegetable noodles and a spicy Thai sauce, Café Love makes their vegan version of this popular Asian dish unique. If you’re expecting an exact replica of traditional Pad Thai you may be surprised, but this version is great in its own way. The delicious fusion of the mild vegetables with the spicy, made from scratch vegan sauce is what leaves this Pad Thai with no comparison in its distinctive and delectable flavor.
The sweet potato sushi was a cool recovery from the heat of the spicy pad thai. The roll is wrapped in traditional grape leaves, filled with a sweet potato and carrot base and garnished with an avocado center. This roll is as good as any vegetable roll you could find at your favorite sushi restaurant.
After a clean meal, the highlight of eating at Café Love is “indulging” in a scrumptious but guilt-free dessert. Included in this week’s selection was what is sure to be my new fall favorite: pumpkin bars. With a creamy, palate-pleasing texture and a warm pumpkin flavor, these bars are the perfect mix of sweet and savory. Since being gluten-free for over a year, I have never found such a delicious crust on a gluten-free dessert as I did with Café Love’s creation. I may have dreams about these pumpkin bars until I can go back for more.
A quick grab-and-go or save for later option are the Love Bars. These bars pack a nutritious punch and are all made with less than 10 ingredients. My personal favorite, the goji cacao, has a taste reminiscent of the best fruitcake you’ve ever had and even resembles a thinner version of the holiday treat. The bar’s texture is similar to that of a regular granola bar with an amazing depth of flavor. The ginger spice energy bar is delicious as well, with an interesting blend of ginger and cinnamon flavors.
In a food culture where being gluten-free, vegan or both is increasingly becoming the norm, Café Love is a beacon for local, healthy, raw food fans. What could be better than a delicious meal with zero guilt? That’s right, nothing. My petition to get Café Love on Duke Food Points begins now. Check them out, and you’ll soon agree.
Location: 3219 Old Chapel Hill Rd #201 Durham, 27707
Hours of operation: Mon – Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 12-3pm
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