Munch generally doesn't associate the South Side -- where the establishments boast things like "breakfast bars" and kegs and eggs -- with healthy breakfast. And for that matter, Munch also generally doesn't associate yoga studios with food, since Munch assumed yogis subsisted on coconut water and enlightenment. Or something.
So Munch approached Amazing Cafe -- the food establishment sibling to Amazing Yoga -- with a bit of trepidation, much like Munch approaches yoga itself.
The truth is, I've been embarrassing myself at their studios on-and-off for about four years now, impressing instructors by my lack of flexibility and my ability to turn graceful poses like balancing half-moon in to my own version of crashing-to-the-ground half-moon.
Luckily, eating at the cafe doesn't require any athleticism (and to be frank, neither does yoga, since the instructors at Amazing are kind enough to help all aspiring yogis). But it does require an open mind.
For one, the names of the dishes won't give you any hints as to what you're actually eating. The Spontaneity ($11) is a burrito-like creation made with steamed greens wrapped around a walnut-based stuffing. The salad names are similarly mystifying, like the Awesome ($12), kale topped with a coconut cream dressing and a bunch of other stuff, the Open Heart ($12), beans, red rice and onions.
So Munch opted instead for the sweet brunch option, the French toast ($10). Hard-core yogi Amanda, whose blazing biceps bear witness to her everyday yoga habit, got the savory breakfast, a shiitake and tempeh hash served atop a cornucopia of vegetables ($12). South-of-the-Monongahela friend Breen ordered a large Longevity smoothie ($7).
My dish was no ordinary French toast. There was no heavily buttered brioche, no cloyingly sweet maple syrup. Instead, it consisted of a dense slab of in-house made sprouted wheat bread with stripes of vegan cashew cream. It was accompanied by a not-so-sweet sauce made of elderflower and blueberries, which Munch dumped liberally on. The cashew cream, despite not coming from an animal, was surprisingly cream-like. And while I was initially taken aback by the dish's lack of sweetness, bite by bite I grew to kind of love it. The dense, intensely wheat flavor of the bread was nicely tempered by the sauce and the cashew cream.
Amanda's breakfast was certainly the star of the meal. It contained its own version of miso cashew cream, an ingredient that infused it with a deep umami flavor that played more tricks on the tongue. (As in, seriously? This doesn't have cream?) It liberally doused the tempeh and mushrooms, which sat atop lovely roasted tomatoes and curry-spiced potatoes, along with some delicate greens. She called it the "perfect savory dish for brunch." And Munch would have to agree.
The smoothies married disparate flavors that you would never guess would be good pairs. Dates and spirulina? Spinach and apples? Don't question their genius. Like a Girl Talk mashup, it works somehow and it's delicious.
My smoothie, the Blue Zone ($5 for a small), was a blend of blueberries, almond butter, banana and a bunch of other stuff Munch has never heard of. It was a little sweet and a little nutty, sort of like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Amanda's Green and Glow ($7 for a large) was a blend of spinach, banana, apple, mint and almond milk, the apples and mint imparting and eye-opening tartness. Breen's smoothie, the Longevity, contained a nearly spicy dose of ginger along with dates, almond milk and spirulina (a type of healthful algae; don't worry, you don't taste it).
Let's face it. Brunch has become a sort of haven for gluttony, with bottomless mimosas, topless pancake stacks, bacon, bacon and more bacon. They're the kinds of meals that send you straight to the bathroom or back to bed. And Munch has an appreciation for that kind of meal, too.
But if you want to start your day without drowsiness and indigestion, give Amazing Cafe a try.
Just like Amazing Yoga's studios -- where no one will give you the side eye for falling out of your warrior one pose -- it's a friendly and nonjudgmental place. You don't have to be a yogi to feel comfortable there, just someone in search of a healthful, economical and delicious meal.
Amazing Cafe is at 1506 E. Carson St., South Side; 412-432-5950 and www.amazingyoga.net/cafe/.
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