PLANTD CAFÉ + MARKETPLACE

Food: () Vegetarian and gluten-free dining emphasizes “holistic nutrition”

Service: () Counter service is fast and friendly, but there’s no table delivery

Atmosphere:() Bright, open seating area encourages diners to view the kitchen

More Info

Location: 1900 NE Division St., Bend

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

Cuisine: Vegan and gluten-free

Price range: Breakfast $3.25 to $10, lunch $7 to $10.50

Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa

Kids’ menu: On request

Vegetarian and gluten-free menu: Yes, in its entirety

Alcoholic beverages: No

Outdoor seating: Rear courtyard

Reservations: No

Contact: beplanted.com, 541-2668-7699

For more area restaurant reviews, visit bendbulletin.com/restaurants

I can’t imagine that I will become a strict vegan. But I’m glad to know there are numerous options for my Central Oregon friends who do choose a plant-based diet.

Not too many years ago, Bend did not have a single, dedicated vegetarian restaurant, let alone vegan and gluten-free. Even those restaurants that did offer veggie options often put them in the form of entree-sized plates of carrots and broccoli, with little consideration for seasoning or taste.

Times have changed. Dietary awareness in the 21st century has inspired at least a half-dozen plant-based restaurants in Bend alone — including the Plantd Café + Marketplace, which has taken root in the former Fearless Baking space on NE Division Street.

Open Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch, Plantd is the dedicated kitchen of holistic nutritionists (and yoga instructors) Manya Williams and Gretchen Ulrich. The Plantd website defines holistic nutrition as “the modern natural approach to developing a healthy, balanced diet while taking into account the person as a whole.”

As that mantra inspires an educational function, each menu item is accompanied not only by a description of ingredients, but also an explanation of its benefits. When you take out an order of $10 Butternut Mac, for instance, you learn that it is made with gluten-free brown-rice noodles, butternut squash, sweet potato and a dairy-free sauce. And you’ll find it “protein-powered, energizing, high fiber, natural detoxifying properties, healthy fat, and loaded with phytonutrients.”

Vegan dining

For readers who may not know the difference, a vegan is a sort of “ultra” vegetarian who eliminates not only meat, poultry and seafood from his or her diet, but who also avoids all animal products, including milk, cheese, eggs and honey. Gluten-free diets, meanwhile, are free of wheat, barley and rye, all grains that include gluten, a protein dangerous to sufferers of the autoimmune disorder known as celiac disease.

Plantd covers all the bases. The $8 Breakfast Sando, for instance, has no meat, but it can’t be considered vegan because it includes a fresh egg from a local farm. Served on a gluten-free roll, it incorporates a slice of heirloom tomato, avocado, sprouts and greens.

I liked the Power Porridge ($8.50), a bowl of oatmeal cooked in rice milk, sweetened with honey (maple syrup was another option) and topped with a generous scoop of probiotic coconut yogurt. Nuts and seeds were sprinkled into the meal, which was served with a compote of fresh seasonal berries and melon.

My dining companion’s breakfast, The Grain Free Nest ($10), didn’t excite me but suited her tastes perfectly. A bed of yams, puréed with coconut milk, was topped with a layer of arugula and other greens, and finished with a sunny-side-up fried egg. It was accompanied by a thick slice of dark, grain-free paleo bread, infused with kale and topped with smashed avocado.

Curry and falafel

On a lunch visit, I chose a Nourishing Curry ($9). The selection changes weekly; on this occasion, it was a thick and mildly spicy red curry with diced kabocha squash. Seasoned with turmeric, cumin and coriander, it incorporated yellow lentils and additional local vegetables with a sprinkle of parsley.

I do wish it had been served with rice. White or brown, it wouldn’t have mattered.

My companion’s Heart Bowl ($10.50), another special, highlighted falafel, which turned out to be quite different than any she’d had previously: The trio of cakes were so dry that on her first bite, she questioned whether they had been made from cardboard. And they were presented on a bed of quinoa that also lacked much moisture.

The falafel “got better” as she continued eating, however, reassuring her that ground chickpeas (garbanzo beans) were the principal ingredient — even if the blend of other eastern Mediterranean herbs and spices was unfamiliar.

Greens, including mizuna, were fresh and delicious. Hummus, presumably made from the same chickpeas as the falafel, was delicious.

But a ramekin of tzatziki, a popular yogurt-and-cucumber dip, was thick like cream cheese and overly heavy with dill.

My friend also ordered a warm drink called Ruby Ginger, made with beets, ginger and ayurvedic herbs, a favorite of Williams. Without sweetener, it was very bitter; with sweetener, she thought it tasted a lot like chai tea.

With the removal of room dividers during pre-opening renovation in summer, Plantd seats about 20 dine-in guests at wooden tables and window-side counters. Decor is simple but inviting, with fresh flowers and herbs as centerpieces.

The kitchen prep space is wide open, hiding nothing from curious diners. Indeed, “transparency” is something Plantd strives for, both in the food it prepares and in its efforts to educate.

— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at janderson@bendbulletin.com .

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