Wednesday night is the busiest night at the Goldengate. That's because it's fire night, and because it's drumming night. A fire rages or smolders in the stone fireplace on the patio, while bring-your-own drummers hypnotize themselves and the neighbors with free-form wallops and throbs.
Thursday night is open mic, Friday night is jazz, but you can get your colon irrigated four days a week. That's because the Goldengate is part of the Innate Healing Arts Center, founded by "Dr. Bob" Pizzamenti and home to all manner of chiropractic, massage, herbal tinctures and vitamin supplements.
The hydrocolon therapy is administered by, no kidding, a practitioner named Darcia Cheeks ("Cheeks Colon Care"). It takes place on the other end of the building from the café, chef Tom Spaghetti takes pains to point out.
A former clown (thus the moniker), Spaghetti serves a mostly vegan menu, with some dairy. He guesses, though, that a majority of his customers are omnivores looking for a healthy meal.
They'll find a good one, and they won't find the holistic trip laid on in a preachy way. They can sit outside on bright-painted chairs or log benches near the lovely garden and some Eastern-inspired stone statues; they can climb up into the tree loft; and they are free to browse the vitamins and teas, the business cards offering "art of living" and tarot, or not.
One evening, when we arrived, the chef was outside playing the accordion.
His most popular item is a vegetable stir-fry with soba mugwort noodles or brown rice. Deservedly so, as the purple cabbage, carrots, broccoli, green beans and squared noodles are each done to just the right al dente-ness (so difficult to achieve for every veg in one dish). It's ginger-flavored and sustaining.
Also delicious is mozzarella-Parmesan pizza with a whole-wheat crust that has a sourdough essence. Along with adding to the virtuousness of the experience, this crust is decidedly tasty, and the tomatoes have a fresh flavor. Pizza comes with or without cheese.
Bob's Super Sprout salad is excellent lots of nutty cooked lentils, gorgeous dark-green curly kale, currants, carrots, purple onions and a tangy dressing, probably raspberry vinaigrette. Spinach and kale-beet-carrot are other salad options.
A falafel wrap is served; it was fine but needed more sauce. Spaghetti: "I'm a baker trapped in a falafel joint."
I've never seen the point of tofu, for those who are willing to get their protein in other ways. It's not like it has any taste, and the texture is the kind we usually avoid, except in desserts, e.g., flan. But vegetarian friends have explained that it's what you do to the tofu that counts. One approved of Chef Spaghetti's barbecued version: "good texture, well-grilled." He'd whipped up an impromptu barbecue sauce that included pineapple.
I found the tempeh-burger (tempeh is a fermented soybean cake) not very flavorful, but it's one of the more popular items, so maybe it tickles some vegan taste buds I'm missing. It comes with an excellent tahini-dill sauce.
Soups were not a strong point, the miso rather weak, the wild mushroom not tasting of mushrooms. Asparagus soup was better, slightly nutty, but still a bit weak. You can appreciate why so many soups are "cream of."
It wouldn't be a vegetarian restaurant without smoothies and raw juices. The latter let you mix kale, carrots, beets, ginger and celery, any two $4, any three $5. We liked a protein-heavy banana-peanut butter smoothie (skipped the raw egg) and the Orange Goddess, with a whole orange, banana and strawberries (beige in color). In the latter you tasted orange first, then banana, then strawberry, and then the order might be reversed in the next sip, but they never blended into a boring whole.
We also tried an organic merlot that was on the sweet side.
Jazz artists who've played the Goldengate include Barbara Ware, Allan Barnes, Wendell Harrison, Mady Kouyate from Senegal, who plays an African harp, Fuego (Latin jazz) and Muruga and the Global Jazz Trio. Saturday night is reserved for "special events"; on Saturday, June 2, it'll be Native American singer-songwriter Joe Reilly with a kid-oriented show.
The Goldengate is nonsmoking inside. It's open every day, 11 to 11.
Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.