Story and photos by Rachel Verbits, May 2018 Issue.
Once upon a time, two Valley residents fulfilled a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant that offered their community “revitalizing food and pure flavors,” carefully sourced with fresh ingredients that come together in their made-from-scratch recipes.
But that was just the beginning. Mother-and-daughter team Marlene and Cassie Tolman envisioned a community space “where delicious flavor and nutritious ingredients came together with friendly service in a creative, Earth-conscious environment.”
In 2010, their dream came to life in the form of Pomegranate Café has been serving vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes using organic ingredients from local farmers at their Ahwatukee location ever since.
Their vast range of unique recipes attracted fans from across the Valley and, ultimately, brought about their second location.
When the second Pomegranate Cafe, located on the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Missouri Avenue, opened earlier this year, we couldn’t help but stop by and discover some new dishes to share with our readers.
The result is now two quintessential cafes where everything – hand-crafted syrups and POMilk for your lattes and fresh juices to breads and pastries – is made from scratch. with the highest quality, organic, wholesome ingredients.
Almost the entire Pomegranate Cafe menu is made of up vegan items, with some vegetarian and raw options. Nearly everything can be made gluten free upon request, so even the pickiest friend will be accommodated (whether it’s a lifestyle choice or a dietary restriction). Just to be clear, there’s no meat served here, but after our experience we don’t think you’ll miss it!
We brunched on a rare, rainy day in Phoenix and were greeted with bright, cheerful umbrellas that adorn the patio and a curious potted cacti collection ushered us in. Daily specials are clearly posted, but the extensive menu is not (no worries, there are plenty of to-go menus available). And don’t let the “Order Here” sign fool you, we were pleasantly surprised to find a host ready to seat us once inside the vibrant, bustling cafe that’s almost unrecognizable since its days as Scott’s Generations.
Because this is a family-owned small business with a specialty niche, I did not anticipate such a diverse and extensive menu. Beverage offerings, for starters, include an assortment of fresh-squeezed juices and shots; fruits and veggie smoothies and boosters; a full espresso bar with such options as a turmeric latte and Jnantik ancient Mayan coffee alternative, an assortment of house drinks, including kombucha; and weekend brunch cocktails include Pomegranate’s signature take on Bloody Marys, mimosas and Moscow Mules.
Of course, the gloomy weekend had me craving something hot and delicious, and the Lavender Latte, topped with just the right amount of foam and fresh lavender buds, turned out to be one of the most memorable lattes I’ve had to date.
My dining partner couldn’t wait to get her kombucha fix and our waiter happily talked through the variety of types and flavors, leading her to decide on the tasty peach kombucha from Rowdy Mermaid.
In keeping with their values to honor Mother Nature, Pomegranate Cafe donates a portion of their profits to animal-based charities, which are paired up with dishes throughout the menu. Not only was the food tantalizing, but knowing our choices would help local organizations was a pleasant surprise.
Perhaps that’s why we started our brunch with tortilla soup and the Mermaid salad to share. Money from every Mermaid goes to the Sea Shepard Conservation Society (“Whale Wars,” anyone?!), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the ecosystems and life in the ocean. Not only was I a “Whale Wars” binge watcher and supporter before Netflix even existed, I was truly intrigued by the sea-inspired salad. Nori strips and kelp noodles are mixed up with greens, carrots and fresh edamame, creating a salad/noodle bowl fusion that was completely unique. The chunks of tamari tofu were my favorite part, barely edging out the incredible Thai almond dressing drizzled over the entire bed of veggies.
For our entrees, we opted for both breakfast and lunch dishes to round out our menu sampling. I ordered the Bountiful Bowl, which was the ultimate vegan version of a taco bowl. Quinoa, seasonal veggies and black beans were topped with walnut taco meat, which was hearty, flavorful and an impeccable replacement for ground beef. In true taco fashion, the bowl was adorned with avocado, pico de gallo and corn chips for crunch. We were already in love with this healthy taco swap before I learned that a portion of every Bountiful Bowl purchased goes to Camelot, which improves the lives of children and adults with disabilities through programs of horsemanship and outdoor education. Heartwarming and delicious is truly hard to beat.
Finally, is brunch really brunch without biscuits and gravy? No, we do not think so. Thankfully, neither does Pomegranate Café and we were eager to try this spin on the classic Southern dish.
This special weekend menu item arrived at our table with two “buttermilk” biscuits, made completely with vegan ingredients and fresh herbs, as its base. They were everything you would expect of biscuits – rich, crumbly and soft – but the similarities end here, as this dish offered a total flavor upgrade. Instead of the standard sausage gravy, our biscuits were slathered in a spicy chilaquiles sauce accompanied by scrambled tofu a harvest hash made from sweet potatoes and seasonal veggies – a winning combination that we’d come back for any weekend.
Nothing ends a great brunch like a sweet treat, so if you’re a dessert lover, you’re in luck. This quintessential cafe offers some of the most beautiful and mouthwatering desserts we’ve ever seen – all 100 percent vegan and mostly raw and gluten free. Even if you’re as full as we were, order something to-go and enjoy it at home.•
Pomegranate Cafe’s dedication to their vegan values gave us the feel-good factor you always hope to get from a local neighborhood spot. Their wide range of flavors and support for small, local farmers and artisans taught us that even the most-dedicated meat eaters can enjoy a completely vegan meal. When you eat well you feel better, and we left Pomegranate Cafe feeling great.
4025 E. Chandler Blvd. #28, Phoenix
8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tues-Thurs
8 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri & Sat
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun
• Central Phoenix
5555 N. Seventh St. #108, Phoenix
8 a.m.-9 p.m. Tues-Sun