Executive chef Chandra Gilbert conceived the concept of a vegan Mexican restaurant during her tenure as director of operations with the Café Gratitude family of restaurants. She and founders Matthew and Terces Engelhart co-designed and created the meat-free and dairy-free menu, opening the first Gracias Madre in San Francisco in 2009.
The West Hollywood location, which opened January 2014, features a bright space with vaulted ceilings and plentiful indoor plantings. Expert tile work contrasts beautifully against the light wood floors. An outdoor patio with a roaring fireplace and a bright splash of patio cushion colors more than doubles the restaurant seating space.
The 100% organic menu contains many of the same traditional Mexican food items found anywhere, including guacamole, flautas, enchiladas, tacos, and chiles rellenos. Gilbert and her team, however, create plant-based ingredients, such as a vegan nacho cheese sauce made out of cashews. Diners devour the avocado toast, which includes the creamy cashew nacho sauce with chili-infused avocado – look for it on the starter menu.
Gracias Madre joins the Café Gratitude restaurants in the Seed Initiative, an effort to preserve non-GMO seeds for future use. The restaurant uses heritage corn grown at organic farms for delicious house-made masa and tortillas.
Beverage director Jason Eisner trained with world-renowned bartender Jaymee Mandeville at Drago Centro before coming to direct the creative beverage mix at Gracias Madre. Details like jalapeño basil ice in the michelada and spicy margaritas give the high-class cocktail menu an extra kick. Guests also enjoy the small-batch mezcals and wide tequila selection.
Parking remains a pain in West Hollywood, and Gracias Madre fills up fast. Guests who remember to reserve early and leave plenty of time to search for parking will have a great vegan Mexican food experience.