A friend of mine asked me to meet her in Martinsburg at Good Natured Market and Vegetarian Café on Raleigh Street. I had driven past the restaurant on many occasions but had never stopped in, so I gladly agreed.
Good Natured is in an old house. There is a gravel parking lot at the rear of the restaurant and a long ramp leads up to the back of the house where the dining room is found. The front of Good Natured houses its market. The market sells all sorts of foods items from the usual, like baking soda and kidney beans, to the unusual, like chestnut flour and umeplum vinegar. It’s worth a trip just to look at the collection of herbs and spices (hyssop and birch bark, for example).
My friend often goes there and said there is an emphasis on using local produce which in the summer is really great. The menu had a listing for breakfast foods, which included whole grain muffins and Tassajara cream scones. Tassajara is a Zen center in California known for its vegetarian cuisine, especially baking. There were also vegetable frittatas and granola with dried fruit. Eggs, which came from a farm in Hedgesville, were featured as well.
It was lunchtime when we arrived so I focused on those items. There was a lot to choose from: appetizers included a hummus platter with pita, cucumbers, carrots and olives. Soups were made with organic ingredients and served in three sizes: 4, 8 and 12 ounces.
Salad also comes in three sizes: dinner, half-size and side. It was full of organic mixed greens, sprouts, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, watermelon radishes, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, red onions, pecorino cheese, dried cranberries, raisins and nuts. Wow! Now that’s a salad. Spinach salad was also available. Along with spinach and baby greens were sugared walnuts, feta cheese, crumbled tempeh bacon, drunken figs, fruits and mushrooms. Tempeh is a very firm, fermented soybean cake.
There were a variety of sandwiches, too, including a vegetarian Reuben made with gingered tofu and a portabella mushroom cap sautéed with red onions and peppers. If you are in the mood for cheese, there was a cheese-stuffed Panini with sun-dried tomato pesto and basil pesto, fried red peppers and vegan mayo or grilled cheese with aged cheddar or with spinach, mushrooms and swiss. Nondairy cheese was also available for these sandwiches.
Entrees included several “bowls:” a Peanut Noodle Bowl of thick semolina noodles served with a warm peanut-curry sauce, topped with seasonal vegetables, black sesame seeds, grape tomatoes and sprouts, or Thai Curry Brown Rice Bowl of locally made tofu, sautéed with red peppers and green onions in a lime-infused curry sauce. Several people ordered these while we were in the restaurant and it was a big bowl of food, presented beautifully with a little green sprig of garnish.
My friend ordered a “burger.” She has a gluten intolerance and this burger was made with quinoa, a seed that has gained popularity in recent years, so it was gluten-free.
I chose the Blue Mountain Farm egg and cheese tart. Our entrees came with chips or salads and I chose a salad. The dressings for the salad were unusual as you might expect. They included bottled versions of cowgirl ranch and sesame ginger balsamic or house made garlic, tahinigoddess or tangerine. I picked the tahini goddess.
Beer and wine is available at Good Natured along with a variety of teas and smoothies.
Our food came promptly. Mine was a nice-sized square of a quiche-like tart. It was full of green vegetables. They were finely chopped so I am not sure what all was in it, but the taste was delicious. I really loved the crust. According to the menu the crust was made from teff — an ancient North African cereal grass. It is the smallest grain in the world with great nutritional value. It was tender and firm and quite distinctive.
The salad was truly memorable. Full of greens including a crunchy frisee, it also had seeds, dried fruit and slices of a wonderful large green radish. The tahini dressing had a great sesame flavor with a nice punch of lemon. I ate every bite.
Good Natured vegetarian café has a good feel to it. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy it. The unusual food elements are so deftly incorporated that in the end, it just tastes like good food. Try it out.
Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.