While the title of this blog post may seem overly dramatic to most people, it isn’t to me nor to the countless number of Cafe Gratitude die-hard fans.
Because of an impending lawsuit by former employees that is too costly to fight, owners Matthew and Terces Engelhart have made the tragic decision to close all of Cafe Gratitude’s locations in Northern California.
Why would a restaurant’s closing elicit such a response from me and so many other individuals?
If you’ve been there, you know.
If you haven’t been there and are not an organic food lover, you probably don’t know but let me try to explain.
Aside from the fact that Cafe Gratitude is one of the most well-known organic restaurants in the country, it is just a very, very special place.
Yes, the raw and cooked organic, vegan food is simply amazing. But Cafe Gratitude is so much more because it is a place where the owners truly “get it”.
While many other restaurants that I go to are equally committed to organic, none has the environment or energy of Cafe Gratitude.
Here are a few examples of what they do differently.
You don’t order a “salad with mixed greens” or a “BLT” or a “shot of wheatgrass”.
You order a “I am Fulfilled” or a “I am Extraordinary” or a “I am Renewed”. That’s how they name their dishes: I am ________.
All of the plates have inscribed on them “What Are You Grateful for Today?”
All of the tables are community tables, which means you get to interact with other like-minded individuals, something that most of us in the organic community love. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have left there with phone numbers and emails of people we just met.
At the table there is a specially-designed board game, and the waiter/waitress offers an intriguing and thought-provoking “question of the day”.
When someone has a birthday, every single employee sings and goes completely nuts. The rest of the restaurant always joins in.
The wait staff emits an infectious and positive energy like I’ve never seen at any other restaurant. They’re all super-happy to be there and are committed to making your experience at Cafe Gratitude an amazing one.
Whenever I go to San Francisco and as soon as I drop my bags off at my friend David’s apartment, the first thing he and I do is drive down to the Cafe Gratitude in The Mission. It’s been our routine for years, it never changes and it’s always the best.
David told me the other day “Aside from the great food, we are losing a community, a beacon of hope, and the owners’ hope and ideals of how the world can be. It’s like a kick in the gut.”
I couldn’t agree more. Cafe Gratitude is that special.
A FEW THINGS OF NOTE
– From everything that I have read, the lawsuit from two former employees claims Cafe Gratitude (1) enforced a tip pooling policy that they did not like and cost them thousands of dollars; and (2) obligated the managers to attend and pay for the Landmark Forum, a very popular self-help program.
According to SFist, the lawyer who filed the wage claims, Stephen Sommers, says that these lawsuits “are not huge cases…they (the owners) are not closing these restaurants because of these lawsuits. There’s something else.”
– Cafe Gratitude’s website says that it will be open for a few more months but no exact closing date was given. DEFINITELY go before they shut the doors for good.
– The Cafe Gratitude located in Los Angeles will remain open, since it was opened with joint partners and under a different LLC.
In case you didn’t see it, I wrote a review of my visit to the Los Angeles location earlier this year. It doesn’t have the community tables or similar energy but it was fantastic nonetheless.
Unfortunately for myself and the many other people who were touched by this wonderful oasis of organic food, positive energy and hope, the Cafe Gratitude as we know it will be no more.
If you have any memories of Cafe Gratitude or anything you’d like to share about the restaurant, please leave them below.