Meals fit for a vegan, gluten-free caveman

Meat, grains, and gluten are optional in Leucadia

Thin toast, but good toppings.
  • Thin toast, but good toppings.

What do vegan, gluten free, and paleo diets have in common? Nuts and seeds, mostly. But, if you’re in Leucadia, they also have Nectarine Grove. The counter restaurant opened a couple months ago, and, against the odds, it furnishes a menu that can accommodate all three, sometimes even in the same dish.

Nectarine Grove

948 North Highway 101, Encinitas

What does that mean? While there are overlaps between the three diets, they clash enough that you probably wouldn’t host all three at a dinner party. Vegans refuse meat and dairy, of course, but might enjoy meat substitutes that are made almost entirely from gluten. Gluten free diets may include meat and dairy, as well as gluten free grains such as rice, oats, and quinoa. Paleo diets focus on grass-fed meat, no dairy, no beans, and no grains whatsoever.

A grain-free roasted veggie bowl: vegan, paleo, and gluten-free.

A grain-free roasted veggie bowl: vegan, paleo, and gluten-free.

If sounds confusing, then you’re free to enjoy anything on the menu, which covers breakfast through dinner. If you’re sticking to one of the aforementioned diets, or you’re simply cutting out dairy or eggs, focus on the series of small icons next to each dish, which label: V for vegan, P for Paleo, and GF for gluten free. In some cases, it will indicate Vegan Option or Paleo Option if ingredients may be substituted to satisfy one or the other.

Nectarine Grove is a narrow strip of a restaurant with a narrow strip of patio, so walking through either can be tough when it’s crowded — which seems to be often, because let’s face it: greater Encinitas is the perfect place to open a spot like this.

I got in line and made my first order from the Toasts section of the menu. Most of them actually meet all three diets, including pumpkin and pecan, heirloom tomato with cashew spread, and berries with almond milk ricotta. I found this impressive not so much for the gluten-free bread, but because there’s somehow something called paleo bread, which seems to involve some combination of nut flour, coconut, and apple cider vinegar.

I went for the $6.50 avocado and bacon toast, which is gluten and dairy free, but not vegan (paleo option when you request that paleo bread). The bread was sliced thinner than most hipster toasts I’ve encountered, but the crumbles of relatively lean bacon were a flavorful match for diced tomatoes, mirco-arugula, and balsamic glaze. Upon reflection, I think I ordered a bacon dish mostly to rebel against all the health-conscious dieting going down around me.

However, I returned to go all the way, ordering an $11.50 roasted veggie bowl that satisfies every combination of eater. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but that means this could not be the quinoa bowl I’ve gotten used to ordering off vegan menus. Cavemen didn’t eat quinoa, so neither do paleo dieters (I’m not sure cavemen ate apple cider vinegar bread either, but I paleo dieters tend to be muscular folk, so I'll shut up now).

This bowl features spinach, sweet potatoes, zucchini, cashew cheese, and chili lime pepitas, dressed with lemon vinaigrette and balsamic reduction. I suppose the argument could be made this (or any veggie “bowl”) is just a tricky way of saying “salad.” That didn’t stop me from being impressed. Nectarine Grove strives to feature local produce, to some extent, and these vegetables all tasted very clean, fresh, and flavorful in ways grocery store produce often doesn’t. And those pepitas really made it for me.

If they can do this with a salad, I’m really curious to see how the place does with its grass-fed burger.

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