Gaia Fresh Food Café in Carlisle, PA, Serves Up Veggies Galore!

57 West Pomfret Street
Carlisle, PA, 17013
717-319-6876

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by Danielle Bussone

 

A year ago, Rich and I passed through Carlisle en-route to Central New York for an annual Easter visit with relatives.  Carlisle has a dearth of restaurants offering healthy, plant-based options.  There is a Tappas bar which claims to offer vegan options but when questioned closely you’ll find the fingerling potatoes are fried in beef tallow, the croutons contain eggs and the olives are just taken from a jar and dunked in a pool of flavored olive oil.  The pita bread is obviously store bought. They will remove the cheese and other offending products but offer nothing to compensate the diner for the loss.  No thanks, we’ll pass.

There is an excellent Japanese/Vietnamese noodle shop (we reviewed last year) called Essei Noodles and there is a wonderful market (also reviewed last year), Appalachian Whole Foods.  So, last year, following our lunch at Essei, we  stopped to check out a lovely little vegetarian café on West Pomfret Street called Gaia Fresh Food Café.  We spoke with Gaia’s owner, George Catselis. We didn’t try the food at the time since we had already eaten. However, we did get a look at the place and an earful from George on his plans to make this a community meeting place where people who care what goes into their bodies and care about what is happening to our planet can congregate. A year later, and George’s plans are coming to fruition.

 

Gaia Exterior

Gaia Exterior

Gaia's Owner, George

Gaia’s Owner, George Catselis

 

We arrived just in time for lunch. There was a line from the main dining room down the hall to the front door. A group of women, just out of zumba class with their tousled hair and flushed cheeks, crowded around the counter, chins pointed skyward as their eyes combed the menu board for something healthy to sink their teeth into. “What do you like here?” I ask a lean, athletic woman in line next to me. “Oh, the chile!” she responds, almost reverently. “It’s soooo delicious!”  I asked her if she is vegetarian. No, she just likes the food here.

 

Gaia's Busy Interior

Gaia’s Busy Interior

 

What better recommendation can you have than that? Gaia isn’t one of those vegetarian restaurants that tries to replace meat with faux meat products. They just make good, wholesome food that happens to be animal free, for the most part. Some of their dishes have cheese or yogurt, which can easily be omitted. Rich had the Falafel Sandwich which comes with a yogurt Tziki sauce. He had them substitute with Hummus and was a happy camper.

 

Gaia's Falafel Sandwich with a side of Hummus

Gaia’s Falafel Sandwich with a side of Hummus

 

I ordered the hummus/tapenade/bean plate which came with fresh vegetables and whole grain crackers on a bed of lettuce.  The hummus was firm and flavorful, not the runny variety I often encounter in many restaurants.  The same goes for the bean dip. The black olive tapenade was rich and salty and a perfect chunky, yet creamy consistency. It was a gorgeous, colorful plate.

 

Gaia's Hummus, Bean & Tapenade Plate

Gaia’s Hummus, Bean & Tapenade Plate

 

And, yes, the chile was delicious! Rich and satisfying, it was a thick, hearty mixture of beans, tomatoes and chile seasonings with the unexpected addition of cashews, which gave it a nice texture. Rich ordered the Carrot Curry Soup which was delightfully flavorful and creamy, yet light.

 

Gaia's Unique Chile

Gaia’s Unique Chile

 

Gaia's Curried Carrot Soup

Gaia’s Curried Carrot Soup

 

Gaia Soups and Special Order Green Smoothie

Gaia Soups and Special Order Green Smoothie with spinach, cucumber, apple, pear, celery, carrot, lemon, ginger & parsley.

 

Gaia’s also offers healthy drinks, green juices and smoothies out the wazoo. I particularly liked the ingredients in one of the juice blends but also wanted the fiber of the smoothies. So, George had them whip up a green smoothie from the juice ingredients that was just to my liking. I’m a pretty hard core smoothie drinker and prefer just greens and fruit, no almond or coconut milk. Rich had a regular smoothie and loved it. I tasted it and have to admit, it was really good.

 

Gaia Dip Trio with Green Smoothie

Gaia Dip Trio with Green Smoothie

 

There were a host of other options to choose from.  A mother and daughter at a table next to us had a hummus plate and a tabbouleh wrap with green smoothies. Another had a quinoa wrap. Everyone we spoke to was absolutely delighted with their meals.

 

Gaia's Tabouleh Wrap

Gaia’s Tabouleh Wrap

 

Gaia's Quinoa Wrap

Gaia’s Quinoa Wrap

 

Gaia Hummus Plate

Gaia Hummus Plate

 

Gaia's Satisfied Customers In Upstairs Dining Area

Gaia’s Satisfied Customers In Upstairs Dining Area

 

In a city which hasn’t yet grasped the importance of eating whole foods, much less plant-based whole foods, Gaia’s is a light at the end of a very long tunnel.  The word it out!  While it may seem tiny when you first walk in, there is plenty of seating on two floors. The next time you are tooling down I-81, stop in Carlisle and check out the good food and conversation at Gaia Fresh Food Café. And while you’re there, give our best to George!

 

 

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is currently writing a cookbook for vegans called, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health.”

Danielle’s region is SW Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and anywhere she happens to stop for sustenance along the road. Contact Danielle  directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.

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