Dharma's Restaurant: The Perfect Organic Vegan Brunch Spot
If you're in the mood for some amazing vegan food, I highly recommend checking out Dharma's Restaurant. This 100% vegetarian joint is an old-school establishment in Santa Cruz county.
This is one of my favorite restaurants to eat at when I'm visiting Northern California. I would seriously make a detour just to eat at this place. It's an institution for veggie food. Eating here transports you back into time into what it must have felt like to live in the 1970s when wheatgrass shot was a hip new thing to sling back in your throat and sprouts still had an edge to its name.
On a recent road trip up to San Francisco, my husband Nate and I decided to stop in here for old-times-sake. This restaurant has always been a favorite of ours, back when I use to attend the University of California Santa Cruz. To be honest, nothing has changed about Dharma's and that made me so happy, to find it exactly how it used to be when I moved away.
Once you walk into Dharma's you'll soon see that it's a very casual joint. You'll probably spot someone wearing Birkenstocks and a tie-dye shirt, but hey, it's Santa Cruz, that's the normative here.
You'll be welcomed by burgundy plastic covered chairs and retro wooden tables against a backdrop of turmeric tinted wallpaper. There are plenty of dangling vines hanging from pots hooked into the ceiling and hippie style paintings decorating the walls with dolphins and yogis. There is also a self-serve bar area where you can grab some nutritional yeast or locally made hot sauce.
What type of food does Dharma's serve?
Dharma's restaurant is an awesome place to dine at if you are vegan or gluten-free because there are plenty of options to choose from. They even serve gluten-free IPA (if that's your thang). They even offer a gluten-free menu now to make it even more convenient for celiacs. There are plenty of vegan faux meat options such as their Beyond Meat Meatballs, and Beyond Meat Sausage (some new items they are introducing to the menu).
Their menu is quite large and consists of a mix between American classics like Burgers, Hotdogs, and sandwiches and Mexican dishes such as burritos, tacos, and nachos. They also offer international dishes such as vegan Indian and Thai Currys, Chinese Szechuan tofu, and Italian pasta.
A popular dish to order here if you want something light is their salad/soup combo which is a generous portion. The vegan soup changes daily but they'll post it up at the counter and you get to choose from five different vegan salad dressings.
There are usually specials posted in the front of the restaurant. The specials for that day was a vegan butternut ravioli squash with a choice of sauce as well as a Teriyaki stir fry.
Next to each dish listed they'll usually write GF if it can be made gluten-free as well as "Vegan Optional" which means they'll substitute the sour cream for something else like more guacamole or vegan cheese.
What type of desserts do they sell at Dharma's?
I was stuffed by the time I finished my meal, or else I would have ordered dessert. The desserts at Dharma's are incredible. They offer vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and even raw cheesecakes that change daily (check their front counter to see what's available). When I visited, it was late November so they had Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake.
They also serve organic Coconut Bliss Milk Shakes (all vegan) and the flavors include vanilla, chocolate, banana, raspberry, strawberry, coffee, chai, etc.
What type of drinks do they offer here?
There are tons of healthy beverages to select from at Dharma's such as kombucha, tea, coffee, vegan wine, and even local beer from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. For coffee lovers who need their latte fix, they offer soy, almond, and coconut milk.
What did we order?
Nate ordered the Michoacan Mushroom Special for $20 which was a delicious combination of sautéed mushrooms in tomatillo sauce with parsley rice, guacamole, served with stewed black beans, and warm corn tortillas. I tasted Nate's mushrooms and beans and they were really tasty!
I opted for the Breakfast Burrito (made Vegan/Gluten-Free) because I saw a lady eating it, and I just had to try it! The staff here are kind and are well versed in what is "vegan" since it's an all-vegetarian restaurant. They can easily convert 95% of their dishes to be made all vegan, so just ask them at the fort counter. For my dish, instead of sour cream, they let me get free guacamole and instead of a whole wheat tortilla ( I didn't want gluten that day) they gave me freshly made corn tortillas.
For $13, I was shocked by the size of my platter when it arrived. I was so happy to see that the potatoes were sated almost into hash browns but not quite ( I liked how they weren't oily at all), and they sort of just sandwiched the scrambled tofu into the corn tortillas which looked nice. The plate was served with a nice side salad with vegan dressing and was enough to feed two people (or one very hungry Italian girl).
Is Dharma's Expensive?
The prices at Dharma's vary depending on what you're ordering. Overall, I would say they are a little more expensive than elsewhere but they do use mostly organic ingredients (and you can taste the difference).
A special of the day (huge portions) will set you back $20 but includes a large side salad and you'll most likely be going home with leftovers. My giant vegan brunch only cost $13 which I thought was a total steal!
There are also more affordable options such as a slice of pizza for $5, a rice bowl with tofu and tahini for $6, and half portion sandwiches for $8.
A typical meal at Dharma's will probably cost you somewhere in the range of 10-15 dollars.
What did I think of my experience here?
I loved my meal here and would return here in a heartbeat, especially for their vegan breakfast burritos!
Although it's a bit far from the downtown area, this place is worth the trip. Dharmas' specializes in making delicious (and yet still extremely healthy) dishes that everyone will enjoy (including your non-vegan friends and family members). If you are a student at the University of Santa Cruz and are vegan, this restaurant is perfect for your parents because there are tons of options to choose from and everyone can walk away happy.
Considering this place has been serving locals over 35 years, and are still around is enough testament to how good the food is here.
If you're in the Santa Cruz area, make sure to check out Dharma's restaurant and order some brunch here. Dharma's restaurant is especially perfect if you need to eat a big meal before taking a hike in the nearby forest. After eating here, Nate and I headed on over to Nisene Marks and completed a couple of trails, with our bellies full of organic food and were happy as can be.
All I have to say is this is the real Santa Cruz experience!
Address: 4250 Capitola Road Capitola CA 95010
Find Dharma's on Nomad Vegan
Dharma's Website: https://dharmasrestaurant.com
Dharma's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dharmasrestaurant
Dharma's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dharmasrestaurant