Zen Burger, Good Karma Burger, Vegetarian Chili, Carrot Juice, Natural Vanilla Soda. Photo by Lianna Nakashima

Zen Burger, Good Karma Burger, Vegetarian Chili, Carrot Juice, Natural Vanilla Soda. Photo by Lianna Nakashima

The Natural Cafe was established in our beloved Santa Barbara in 1993 by owner Kelly Brown. Altogether there are nine locations, with two in Santa Barbara and two conveniently located in two of the most popular places for UCSB students to visit: Downtown Santa Barbara on State Street and Goleta in the Carrillo Real Marketplace. The café recently relocated and renovated their restaurant to become more modern and sleek. These new additions, as well as a closer location to the university, gives The Natural Cafe more appeal and convenience for UCSB students.

Their menu offers a satisfying variety of options like filling salads, burgers, falafel and Italian and Mexican style entrées. The café  also serves freshly squeezed juices, refreshing smoothies with no ice or sherbet and uniquely flavored shakes such as pineapple-coconut, orange, blueberry, carrot and espresso. As a carrot and vanilla lover, the Carrot Shake is definitely worth a try due to its freshly squeezed carrot juice, velvety vanilla ice cream and cinnamon and nutmeg garnishes. And if you’re not full enough from the delicious entrées and drinks, be sure to try their homemade desserts. My all-time favorite is their moist carrot cake coated in cream cheese icing and walnut pieces.

One may assume this cafe strictly serves vegetarian and vegan options because of their commitment to “fresh, regional ingredients to create healthy & delicious food.” However, they also serve a delicious variety of fish and poultry. For the best omnivore options, I’ve heard the Gobbler Burger, Teriyaki Chicken and Natural Caesar with Grilled Chicken satisfy the hungriest meat eaters.

As a pescatarian, I have tried all three veggie burgers. By far, the Zen Burger is my favorite, and I’ll go even further to say that the Zen Burger is the best veggie burger I’ve ever had. The smooth, moist patty along with a crunchy exterior consists of a unique blend of whole grains and vegetables. The flavorful garlic mayonnaise and good balance of veggies including lettuce, tomato and sprouts add to the finishing touches.

Differing from a more formal sit-down restaurant, you order at the counter and take a seat with a number so the waiters can identify you. Both cafés offer a good deal of inside, as well as outside, seating with heat lamps for those chilly evenings. Often Santa Barbara can be quite pricey, besides the local joints for college students in Isla Vista. However, The Natural Cafe’s prices stay within $7 to $10 for entrees and about $4 for smoothies and shakes with wholesome and unprocessed ingredients. Although the café may seem just as expensive as the places in and out of I.V., The Natural Cafe has a step up against its counterparts. Their slogan, “We turn good health into good taste, and good taste into good health” gives their customers a better idea of what they want to achieve. This chiasmus encapsulates Natural Cafe’s never-ending commitment to serve the “freshest, healthiest, and most natural ingredients available” and allows customers to not only feel satiated, but satisfied with their healthy choices. All three Santa Barbara cafés are open Monday to Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., so if you find yourself outside the comfort of UCSB, be sure to visit The Natural Cafe for an affordable, fresh and nutritious meal.