Imagine this: you have just walked to Whole Foods from Rollins to buy your groceries (a pretty unpleasant 25-minute walk on the cracked sidewalk next to Fairbanks, I might add). Your shoulders and arms are sore, and you are tired and hungry to boot. Where do you go for solace and a much-needed break? Café 118, of course! I am a senior this year, and one of the places that I will miss most is this raw vegan restaurant, which is the only one of its kind in the state of Florida.
If you know me, then odds are you probably have heard of this restaurant, because I make it a habit to inform every person that I know about how wonderful it is. Located right off of Park Avenue on Morse, right across from Gurtzberry, Café 118 serves only raw, vegan cuisine that has not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
The raw food philosophy states that food loses its integrity when cooked above this temperature, killing vital enzymes that make digestion much easier, and that keeping food raw allows the nutrients to be made readily available for use by the body’s cells. Additionally, because Café 118 is a vegan restaurant, all of the dishes are made of only unprocessed, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. No dairy, soy or animal products of any kind appear on the menu.
Joe Diaz, raw food chef and owner of Café 118, opened the restaurant in the fall of 2008. When asked about the concept for his restaurant, he said, “All diets include fruits and vegetables, and healthy food does not have to be boring and bland. Food is an expression of your genes, and an expression of who you are.” When I eat any of the amazing appetizers, entrees, desserts, “milkshakes,” or smoothies on the menu, I know that I am making not only the healthiest choice possible, but also that anything I order I will enjoy. Since its opening over two years ago, Winter Park Magazine has featured the café in a nine-page spread, and it has received awards such as 2009 Silver Spoon Awards Best New Restaurant.
Although not quite as exciting as the opening of a medical school, Café 118 also had the honor of hosting me and 17 of my friends for my birthday dinner in Nov. 2010. We started off with macadamia nut hummus with sundried tomato crackers (made using a dehydrator), and some of us indulged in the array of fresh-squeezed juices available, such as the beet and green apple and the pineapple with celery and mint (my personal favorite). I had one of my favorite entrees, the raw lasagna: thinly sliced zucchini noodles, ground-up cashews as the ricotta (ground in a food processor), and sliced tomatoes with a hearty sundried tomato-based sauce presented in a beautiful, tower-like construction. When it arrived, I almost did not want to eat it because of its aesthetic appeal, but I got over that quickly enough.
Dessert, a must each time I go to Café 118, made me choose between mint chocolate chip ice cream (made of cashews and coconut milk) and chocolate hazelnut tart. When asked to recount her favorite dish at Café 11, Dorie Nelson ’11 (party guest and roommate) answered, “Their mint chocolate chip ice cream is phenomenal! It is even better than regular ice cream. I have been there a bunch of times, and I have yet to order something that I did not like.” At the end of the delicious birthday meal, I asked for my check, and our server, Natalie, told me that it was on the house. Not only is Café 118 a restaurant where it is impossible to order something unhealthy, but they also know how to take care of their customers. For more information visit Café 118 online at www.cafe118.com.