I was hoping to avoid ever having to write a negative post about a vegan restaurant in Arizona. However, my recent experience at ChocolaTree Café in Sedona left me with no choice.
With the demise of D’lish, the only other 100% vegetarian restaurant in Sedona, former raw turned vegan restaurant ChocolaTree became our focus for a day trip out of Phoenix.
The menu online looked promising enough, with a variety of standard vegan food options plus some interesting looking desserts. We arrived at about 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday, well past lunch hour, and found a line at the order counter of about six people. It was pretty clear from watching the not-so-streamlined order process that we’d be in for a bit of a wait. The counter person told the people in front of us it would be about 15-20 minute for any cooked food. Okay, no problem, we’re patient types. When it was our time to order, we selected a raw appetizer since we were hungry, a raw veggie sandwich and a cooked veggie burger, plus two deserts.
The small dining area inside was full, so we went to the garden in the back, which was nicely shaded even if the rickety patio tables/chairs were less than comfortable. It was pleasant enough, but the guy serenading his dining companions with folksy acoustic guitar tunes didn’t provide the type of peaceful ambiance I was after. Our next warning signal that our experience at ChocolaTree wasn’t going to go well came in the form of a seminar taking place on the ground next to us on fasting and cleansing. Aside from not wanting to hear about the importance of “poop” while I’m waiting for my meal, the more they talked about not eating, the hungrier I got. From looking around at the other tables full of people with no food, it felt like the entire restaurant had decided that fasting was the way to go that day.
From what we could tell, there was one person serving all the food, and she was stressed. She brought free appetizers to everyone else in the garden to apologize for the wait, but completely ignored us. We watched as various people got up and went inside to complain, came back with desert before lunch, etc. and then we eventually started to see some food come out. Forty-five minutes later, our raw appetizer of Thai Spring Rolls emerged.
Truth be told, they weren’t bad, but then again, we were starving by that point. The coconut-curry wrap was interesting and different from anything I’ve had before, but the massive amount of sprouts with a few other veggies inside the wrap left me cold (and still hungry). The sprouted nut dipping sauce was intensely garlicky, but palatable.
I lost track of how long it took for our lunch entrees to emerge, but it was probably another 15 minutes. My husband stuck with the safe option of a veggie sandwich.
As you can tell from the picture, sprouts must be on sale in Sedona. There was nothing interesting or unique about this sandwich, other than it being vegan, and I suppose the $9 price tag for $1.50 worth of veggies is worth a comment. The sprouted grain bread was decent enough though.
My choice was the veggie burger.
That thin red layer at the bottom of all those sprouts and lettuce is the veggie burger. It didn’t taste bad, and it was definitely unique, but all I could think of was “where’s the beef” while I rapidly consumed it. It seemed to be beet-based, but the sandwich also had a tomato blend on it which added to the flavor. I certainly wouldn’t drive to Sedona for it again, but it was at least creative.
By this time (about 1.5 to 2 hours later), we just wanted to get the heck out of town, so my husband went inside to ask for our desserts to go. This wasn’t a problem, because the desserts we ordered were pre-packed. When we got home, we started eating our slices of double chocolate ganache cake and coconut cream pie. Both tasted horrible. To quote the menu, these deserts were supposed to be “pure vegan nourishment homemade with natural sweeteners.” But, to add insult to injury, we looked at the ingredients listed on the to-go containers and found that both contained honey. Seriously? They weren’t even vegan! Sorry, no pictures. They went straight into the trash. Later, I found a review of ChocolaTree’s chocolate online that asked what I thought was a very relevant question: “It’s not supposed to taste like ass, is it?”
After having so many good vegan dining experiences around the world, going back to a 1972 stereotype of what a vegan is supposed to eat (i.e. sprouts) was an incredible disappointment, especially in Sedona, “town of enlightenment.” I’ll always give a restaurant an initial pass on poor quality service, but given the total bill for our meal was over $50 and the dessert wasn’t vegan, I just can’t recommend going there and will certainly never go back unless someone can convince me that I’m wrong about this place. Other folks have written positive reviews of ChocolaTree, so maybe I just caught them on a bad day. But clearly there has to be some place good for vegans to eat in Sedona. I just haven’t found it yet. I welcome any feedback on other places to try in town.