Several years ago, I eagerly anticipated the opening of the vegetarian café inside Chakra 4 – an herb shop two blocks from my office. My excitement was dampened after I tried it a couple of times and experienced extremely slow service, high prices ($15 for a wrap?), and average-quality food. In short: I wrote it off.
However, during the past few months I’ve been struggling to find places to dine at in Phoenix that aren’t “cheats” on my new “nutrient-focused, food-as-cure” vegan diet (i.e. tons of greens, less wheat and salt, no processed food). Let’s face it, I grew up in the high-salt, everything fried, processed food generation. I love Green the most in town and can’t live without Daiya now that I’ve found it. But given my new commitment to “eating for health,” I took another look at Chakra 4’s menu online and thought it might be worth revisiting. I’ve been there four times since. They clearly made improvements to the food since my previous experiences, and the slow service issues have been fixed too.
On my first re-visit, I tried the Black Bean Sunflower wrap (made vegan). Sorry – I didn’t take pictures as I wasn’t expecting much. The veggies were all incredibly fresh, the black bean hummus was entirely unique and flavorful, and I loved the chipotle salsa. I immediately called my husband and told him we’d be going there together soon.
During the next visit, husband in tow, I tried a seasonal special — the “Hercules” burrito.
It was at its essence a bean burrito, but it was full of fresh veggies and excellent salsa. It’s been hard for me to not order it on every following trip, but I had to try more items!
My husband ordered the Basil Pesto Foccacia (made vegan with raw nut cheese).
It was loaded with great veggies, and the pesto was some of the best I’ve ever tried. The bread (while not gluten-free) was also incredibly tempting. I had to try several bites (just to make sure it was as good as the first bite, of course).
Within a week or two, we were back again. This trip, I tried the Veggie-Dilla with a side of soup.
It was similar to the Hercules, but less dense, more crispy, and I really enjoyed the soup – which I think was a red bean soup but can’t remember for sure. I had yet another favorite.
My husband got the Mediterranean Wrapsody (again made vegan with no feta).
This was a lighter choice – full of fresh, crisp vegetables that are perfect for the summer heat. The kale wasn’t too tough (they got rid of the stems), the wrap was flavorful, and the cashew cheese added taste and texture but wasn’t overwhelming. He ordered it with the quinoa pilaf, which was a nice side but nothing out of this world.
I took a business colleague with me for trip number four, and unfortunately forgot my camera for this visit. It was a hard decision for me to not order something I’d already tried, but this time I selected the Green Lentil Curry. Sadly, this menu item reminded me of why I didn’t like Chakra 4 when I first visited years ago. Instead of being a saucy rich curry over rice, it was a tiny dish of lightly flavored and fairly dry lentils, a separate small dish of rice, another one of bland steamed veggies, a side of darn good chutney and for some odd reason, a few big pieces of collard greens. I didn’t know what to do with it all so I made little collard wraps out of the items. The lentils were “okay” but it certainly wasn’t what I’d consider to be a curry. It left me feeling pretty disappointed, in that “I should have ordered the foccacia or veggie-dilla” way.
My colleague ordered the half Nutty Rawvocado wrap and miso mushroom soup. He seemed particularly pleased with the soup, but fully enjoyed the wrap too! I’m not a fan of avocados or mushrooms, so I didn’t sample either.
In summary, some things I like about Chakra 4 are:
- They understand how to make healthy vegan food taste good and have a very creative menu. The restaurant’s motto is “Organic Vegetarian Food to Nourish the Body and Soul” and they aren’t fibbing.
- They serve fresh, organic food and have tons of gluten-free and vegan options.
- All the wraps can be made with a spinach tortilla, sun-dried tomato tortilla, whole grain bread, or kale leaf.
- It’s in a great location – tucked behind the Trader Joe’s at the Town and Country shopping center on 20th St. and Camelback Rd.
- They have a tremendous variety of hot teas (but need to offer more iced versions during the summer!).
- They’re open on Sundays! Seven days a week actually!
Things that could still use help:
- The two-top seats are very small and they don’t let you move to a four-seater unless they’re completely dead.
- The prices are still pretty darn high.
- I haven’t found a vegan dessert worth writing about yet… but I’m still trying.
No doubt I’ll be back again soon to keep working my way through the menu. Next on my “to try” list is the Apollo Pomodoro wrap, or maybe the Golden Hummus wrap. I can’t believe I could have been eating here for years, so I’m going to make up for lost time!