Interim Cafe

Super Food veggie burger

Anti-hero: The Super Food veggie burger

Medicinal: White bean soup with lots of other stuff

Kitchen sink optional: White bean soup with lots of other stuff

Having passed Interim Cafe countless times when it was closed or about to close (the hours are Monday to Friday till 8 p.m.), we often speculated about what we might find at this apparently health-oriented, veg-friendly Santa Monica spot (530 Wilshire Blvd., at 6th St.). Aside from the temporal limitations, there was something inaccessible here, starting with our uncertainty about the name itself, which we pinned down only with the help of Eco-Vegan Gal (see blogroll for link). The menu too is daunting, a thicket of soups, salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, “hot bowls,” and veggie burgers, with more permutations and descriptions than you can shake a vegan drumstick at; nor does the website offer a mission statement, a history, or anything else, beyond the menu, that might help a customer get a handle on the place. Finally inside tonight, we stood at the counter in a daze until, with help from the proprietor, we settled on white bean soup, the Super Food veggie burger, and the Woodsy Mushroom quesadilla. The soup was not quite what we expected, which is to say we had a hard time locating the white beans. What we found instead was a hearty vegetable broth loaded with everything but the kitchen sink: peas, potato, celery, carrot, spinach, tomato, black beans, quinoa, barley, and several kinds of rice. Though the effect was indeed clean and healthy, an overabundance of fresh dill made the taste almost medicinal; the toasted “health bread” on the side was pleasant enough but still had an off-putting air of virtuous austerity. The Super Food veggie burger, like all its Interim siblings, boasts a house-made patty, which escapes the usual mushiness but still ends up tasting like dry Thanksgiving stuffing, though it is helped along by caramelized onion, avocado, sharp raw cheddar, pickles, lettuce, tomato, and Thousand Island dressing, as well as a crisp but chewy whole wheat bun and a salad of mixed greens, shredded carrot, walnut, and orange. What we really liked, however, was the quesadilla, which, though undoubtedly healthy, made us think less about internal hygiene than the sensual ensemble of tastes and textures: juicy, savory sautéed mushrooms; crisp whole wheat tortillas; hot chilis; sweet fresh corn; cool, silky avocado; and just a little gooey (albeit low-fat) mozzarella. Cut into quarters, the quesadilla was beautifully arrayed around a mixed-green salad with sweet slices of strawberry. We also greatly enjoyed our frozen dessert, Chocolate Salvation, a sugar-free vegan soft-serve that was smooth, creamy, and chocolaty enough to stand on its own merits. If, in fact, the menu were oriented more toward items like the quesadilla, indeed, if the menu were only simpler, we would be more enthusiastic about this unquestionably conscientious eatery. As things stand, however, we can give Interim Cafe only a provisional endorsement.

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