Tuesday Tip: Native Foods Cafe

There are plenty of dining options in Washington, DC, but few that are fast, reasonably priced, and manage to be both healthy and delicious. Native Foods Cafe–locations at Navy Memorial, Farragut North, and Falls Church–miraculously hits that sweet spot.

The menu is entirely plant based, but with options ranging from Baja Blackened Tacos to Crispy Chicken, Bacon, and Avocado Club Sandwiches, you’d never know it. The DC locations also have a range of eco-friendly beers and wines from which to choose.

In addition to a plant-based and organic-when-possible menu, the restaurant itself also incorporates sustainable practices. Compostable packaging, repurposed fixtures and furniture, LEED-certified lighting…it feels good to eat here.

Of course, plenty of Washingtonians feel the same way, and the small space at Navy Memorial fills up very quickly during the weekday lunch rush. If it’s a nice day, get your meal to go and then dine on the nearby Memorial steps.

Native Foods Cafe started in Palm Springs, CA. It now has restaurants throughout California as well as in Colorado, Oregon, Chicago, and DC.

The City of Angels

After visiting Orland in 2012, I flew down to Los Angeles to see a friend.

I had been dreading a little this part of the trip. Tremendously excited to see my friend, yes, but less so to see Los Angeles. My brain had been warped by James Ellroy’s gritty noir tales oddly juxtaposing with glamorous visions of Hollywood. I was expecting seedy streets and beautiful people, decadence and despair not seen since pre-revolutionary France.

Picture of hills around Hollywood in Los Angeles, California

Hollywood Hills

And, in a way, that’s what I found. Poor neighborhoods–slums, really–and overpriced tourist areas. Trendy, arty clusters in a sea of suburbia. Groceries and chain restaurants and malls abutting movie studios and Lexus dealerships.

Image of Hollywood sign in in Los Angeles, California

Obligatory Hollywood picture

Hollywood was neither glamorous nor beautiful. Unathletic men in Batman and Captain America costumes shilled for money on the sidewalks while the Church of Scientology’s art deco building loomed on the horizon. Homeless people slept along the Walk of Fame, their meager belongings spread out across the accolades of millionaires.

Image of Hollywood in Los Angeles, California


The Hollywood and Highlands Center was a strange homage to dynastic Egypt, with the idolatry of chain stores replacing that of the pharaoh.

Image of Hollywood and Highlands Center in Los Angeles, California

Hollywood and Highlands Center

Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills was lined with Cartier, Armani, and Bulgari, but the shoppers were tourists who had scrimped and saved for months to afford a small trinket of opulence with which to impress their friends back home.

Image of Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, California

Beverly Hills

Downtown was eerily vacant. The Music Center was a strange glimmer of modernity in an otherwise stagnant ghost town.

Image of downtown Los Angeles, California

Downtown LA

Image of the Music Center in Los Angeles, California

The Music Center

Olvera Street–the oldest part of Los Angeles–was lively and colorful, businesspeople mixing with curious tourists. The Avila Adobe, though, was empty, despite its free entry and its distinction as the oldest standing residence in LA. Tourists were much more interested in the overpriced taquitos outside the museum than the history inside of it.

Picture of Olvera Street in Los Angeles, California

Olvera Street

Picture of the Avila Abode in Los Angeles, California

Inside the Avila Abode

This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my time in the City of Angels. Santa Monica was hypnotic with energy, from the pier’s spinning Ferris Wheel to the open-air restaurants and swarming people of all nationalities and resources.

Picture of Santa Monica's pier in Los Angeles, California

Santa Monica pier

Picture of a fountain in Santa Monica in Los Angeles, California

Around Santa Monica

Hermosa Beach, too, was a welcomed sight. Less populated beaches, blue skies, and a laid-back mentality.

Picture of Hermosa Beach in California

Hermosa Beach

Maybe, in the end, LA is just like any other city. A lot to love, a lot to hate. Wealth and poverty, residents and tourists, activity and idleness all tied up in the same few square miles.

Have you been to LA? What’d you think?

Northern California in the Fall

Farm Sanctuary provided me with the opportunity to go to northern California in September 2012. Not having been to California since I was five years old, I was incredibly excited to see the legendary land.

My colleagues and I boarded a plane at the tiny airport in Elmira, New York. Two extremely bumpy connections later, we were in Sacramento, California. From there, it was a further two-hour car ride to our destination, Orland.

Leading up to the trip, I had constantly mistyped “Orland” as “Orlando.” This turned out to be rather appropriate as I found northern California to be just as desolate as central Florida.

Picture of Black Butte in Orland, California

Black Butte in Orland, CA

The early autumn is “fire season” in Orland–the water dries up, the crops wither away, the temperatures soar, and the area becomes one carelessly-tossed-cigarette away from total disaster.

Picture of countryside in Orland, California

A moment away from certain annihilation

I am told that it is a bountiful, beautiful land in the winter and spring after the rains fall, but it was difficult to picture such a scene while there.

Picture of the countryside in Orland, California

The greenest area I could find

Although I found the heat suffocating, the animals at our sister sanctuary didn’t seem to mind. They pranced around, smiling for the camera and photobombing when appropriate. It was certainly worth the trip just to see them so happy.

Picture of Scribbles the goat at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California

Scribbles, king of the goats

Picture of animals at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California

Birdies doing their thing

Picture of a pig at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California

Happy piggy

Picture of a chicken at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California

My favorite picture ever

Even the local wildlife was out in force despite the temperature.

Picture of a lizard at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California


Picture of a baby rattlesnake at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California

Baby rattlesnake!

Luckily I never ran into one of California’s most-famous critters, the black widow. (Side note: I just Googled “black widow” to find a picture and won’t be able to sleep for days.)

I suppose in the end I was disappointed with northern CA (the rural areas, anyway–I never saw the cities). The remoteness, the desolate surroundings, the run-down towns and long stretches of unpunctuated highway…I couldn’t fathom why anyone would choose to be there.

Perhaps it really does perk up in other seasons, but as it stands I never need to visit there again.

Have you been to northern California? What’d you think?

Beach Dreams

This has been an atypical summer on the US east coast, with low humidity and cooler-than-normal temperatures. Although I do prefer cold weather, this summer has put me in a bit of a funk. I find myself yearning for beach days that are not likely to come. So instead I’ll just reminisce about some of my favorite warm-weather spots in the hopes that it will tide me over until I can feel warm sand underneath my toes again.

What are your favorite beaches?

Picture of beach at Santa Monica, california

Santa Monica, California

Picture of pelican at Hermosa Beach in California

Hermosa Beach, California

Picture of Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Picture of Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Picture of Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico

Picture of beach at Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico

Picture of beach at Tulum, Mexico

Tulum, Mexico