Margaret and Phillip Nabors were ahead of the curve in championing natural and organic foods when they opened Mustard Seed Market & Café in 1981. To ensure the integrity of every item stocked on their shelves, the Nabors developed a list of golden standards—nine guidelines that range from a ban on high-fructose corn syrup to selling only cruelty-free cosmetics. This combination of rigor and passion has propelled Mustard Seed for more than 30 years, filling two locations with locally grown produce, fresh-baked vegan cookies, and naturally lean-but-tender beef from certified Piedmontese cattle, which are raised on an all-vegetarian diet free of steroids and antibiotics.
Today, the Nabors' children, Abraham and Gabe, have joined their parents in leading Mustard Seed's team of natural-foods experts—who include everyone from the customer-service associates to the stockers, ensuring that shoppers can find answers to their questions around every corner. The store also educates customers through classes and free lectures on topics such as California wines and what’s going to happen when they run out of letters to name the vitamins.
At Sakura Sushi House, fresh morsels of fish, eel, and octopi nestle into handcrafted rolls, a hibachi grill sears steak, and teriyaki sauce infuses chicken and tofu with savory flavor. Patrons perch at the granite-topped sushi bar and browse a menu brimming with four pages of specialty sushi rolls, or lounge in maroon booths, filling squirt guns from bowls of udon noodles. In the kitchen, chefs season meats ranging from filet mignon to lobster and augment shrimp tempura with teriyaki. After chopsticks ferry the final pieces of maki to tongues, punch their timecards, and head home, diners sip hot or cold sake to finish the evening with a final gustatory flourish.
The Flaming Ice Cube might as well be a good vibes factory. Part cafe, gift shop, and yarn shop, visitors can stop in for a veggie burger, knitting lesson, or soy candle. At the cafe, chefs craft homemade vegan plates from a menu that includes a BBQ chick'n sandwich and brown rice bowls layered with asian vegetables, marinated organic tempeh, and the cafe's signature plum sauce. Meanwhile, instructors get needles moving at knitting classes, during which participants learn knitting basics or more advanced techniques for creating hats, scarves, and impractical bikinis.
The hybrid vegan café and gift shop deals in good vibes, whether they take the form of sandwiches and soups made from scratch, eco-fashions, or candles that both soothe the senses and keep away ghosts that are wearing flammable bed sheets. After tasting the zing of a spicy plum vinaigrette or biting into organic sprouted-grains bread at the Compassionate Café, guests can browse a selection of eclectic wares. Vegan jewelry sparkles with gemstones alongside Dead Sea mineral soaps and colorful socks made from recycled cotton, which are ideal for keeping a giant caterpillar warm.
The Boardman location also delves into the world of knitting with a lounge where needle artists can pick up skeins of silk or bamboo yarn, sink into armchairs, and clack away until they have a spider web to sleep in that night.
Owner and chef Matt founded the The Souper Market to brew up original soup and salad concoctions from preservative- and additive-free ingredients. Chicken andoullie sausage mingles with shrimp and its poultry namesake within hearty scoops of jambalaya ($3.75–$7, or $13.75 for 32 oz.), and the roasted ratatouille’s vegetable medley sets tongues to merrily dancing ($3.25–$5.50, or $10.50 for 32 oz.). Guests can gussy up the blue greens salad ($5.25) with a less tasty Bedazzling gun or a more delicious blue cheese dressing made by hand in-house, which, along with other dressings and vinaigrettes, is available for purchase by the pint ($5).
Taylor Hackett knows a thing or two about feeding a crowd. The head chef of Simply Gourmet Catering spends her days preparing light hors d'oeuvres, deli sandwiches, salads, and hearty entrees for groups of 8–16 people at small special events such as baby showers and birthdays. She draws from across the culinary spectrum, whipping up pastas such as vegetable lasagna and baked ziti with gouda, as well as more than five types of sandwiches, including a turkey and cheddar wrap, muffuletta, and BLT. She’ll even work around food allergies or dietary restrictions, preparing vegetarian and gluten-free selections upon request.