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Staying true to your roots at Gaia Cafe

Long-standing vegetarian restaurant Gaia Cafe in East Hills offers up dishes forged from the earth, heavy with leafy greens, root vegetables and legumes.
Vegetable hash

Vegetable hash /Audrey Dalrymple

Gaia Cafe hours:

Tues- Fri: 8a.m. - 8p.m.

Sat- sun: 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Closed Mondays


Gaia's Facebook Page

Nestled near the corner of Cherry Street and Diamond Avenue in Grand Rapids' East Hills neighborhood, Gaia Café has been dishing out its vegetarian fare since 1983. In Greek mythology, the goddess Gaia was depicted as the mother of the earth and creator of all things. True to its namesake, the restaurant offers up dishes forged from the earth, heavy with leafy greens, root vegetables and legumes.

Gaia features a full breakfast and lunch menu, complete with appetizers and a variety of house-made cookies for dessert. They offer regular specials, but stick close to their roots with popular dishes like their Mex Brex, Veggie Hash and Stir Fry. In lieu of serving alcohol, Gaia puts its cocktail skills to work crafting interesting and tasty juice blends from the pineapple and spinach "Swamp Juice" to the "All Better" cure-all, packed with apple, celery, cabbage, garlic, ginger, carrot and aloe vera. They also offer a full complement of coffee and tea for those not as keen on juiced concoctions.

For my trip to this vegetarian haven, I chose Gaia's Stir Fry. The dish is packed with heaping mounds of steamed broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage perched on a bed of brown rice. On top, the vegetables are covered in a labyrinth of crisp sprouts and scallions mixed with cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Throughout the dish there are strong hints of garlic and ginger, with finely cut pieces finding their way to the bottom of the plate and mixing with a delectable broth that is easily sopped up with thick slices of wheat toast accompanying the meal. I would suggest caution towards this dish for those adverse to a garlic laden kick in the pants.  

To wash it all down and rid the spring chill from my bones, I opted for the hot Apple Ginger Snap. Part of Gaia's House Blends, the drink offers fresh apples juiced with ginger and hints of cinnamon. It reminded me of a quality apple cider, full of flavor with just the right amount of sweetness and lacking the processed after-bite.

Gaia opens its doors from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The interior is set perfectly for casual dining with ample seating for its size. The ambiance is open with an earthy charm and welcoming to conversation, making it both a perfect lunch destination and cozy dinner date. While some of the area's college students may balk at the slightly high prices, Gaia boasts one of the lowest prices for vegetarian dishes in the city.

In the end, Gaia gives off the vibe that it is more about the people that grace its doorways and the food they are served, rather than simply being in the restaurant business. Regardless of food orientation, a trip to Gaia is well worth it. In an age where diets come and go with the days, it is nice to have a true staple where ardent vegetarians and food enthusiasts looking for a slightly different experience can cozy up to the table and enjoy a meal.

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