The Spot, Healthy Diner Food

There are many wonderful restaurants in Southern California. One little hidden gem, just one block from the Hermosa Beach is called The Spot. The restaurant’s laid back exterior fits right into the neighborhood.

When you step inside this small place, it feels like you are stepping into a little shack in a sleepy beach town. It actually looks like a local surfer’s home that was converted into a restaurant. There is a patio in the back for “outside” dining. It is decorated with “beach-y” Tiki decor including bamboo accents and plastic chairs.

It is how one would most likely imagine a surfer would deck out his or her humble abode. Although, once you taste the food you know you are not just visiting a local wave runner for some grub.

This is a “seat yourself” restaurant, so just walk right in and find a table. The best tables are in the aforementioned patio. This popular patio seats about 20 and the inside seats about the same number. If you choose the inside you can get a seat near the window and people watch local beach goers and tourists as you dine.

In the back hangs a white board with specials written on it. The waitress doesn’t recite the specials, but if you’re lucky she will gesture to them. The specials usually include a soup of the day, one entree special and a few desserts. The last time I visited, the entree of the day was Tamale Pie. It was $11.95 and included soup or salad. Nothing on the menu is more than twelve dollars.

The Spot has a pretty good selection of beer and wine for such a small place. If you are not in the mood for alcohol, they also serve fresh squeezed juices, and hot or cold tea. The house iced tea is very flavorful, with hints of cinnamon, lemon and ginger. Also served is carrot juice, which did taste very fresh, but was served a little too warm.

The dishes are healthy, but more importantly, taste great too. The Spot (which also sells a cookbook filled with their classic recipes) calls itself a “natural food restaurant.” They serve all vegetarian dishes that can be ordered dairy-free as well. The whole grains and legumes are all organic. The salad dressings are homemade and include fat free choices.

Even their desserts are virtuous! Pies, cookies and other treats are sweetened with maple syrup or honey. (This should be moved up. Right after the sentence: “local wave runner for some grub).

All of their soups are fat free and dairy-free. A cup of soup comes with a piece of freshly baked bread. The split pea soup is very hearty. It is not completely pureed so you can bite into pieces of peas, carrots and onions. The soup choices change daily and are served very hot, just like soup should be.

The menu has a lot of variety and includes Mexican and Italian sandwiches, salads and burgers. The chefs recreate vegetarian versions of these dishes without losing any of the flavors. Meatloaf is even on the menu, which is made with mushrooms, walnuts, brown rice and cheese. The thick hunk of loaf stands about five inches tall and comes smothered in mushroom gravy with a side of the vegetable of the day. It is perfectly seasoned and each bite has a great blend of textures with the combination of soft mushrooms and rice mixed with crunchy walnuts.

The burger patties taste similar to the flavor of the loaf with hints of onion and garlic, except lacking the crunch of the walnuts. The burgers are made with beans and soy, and come served on a whole wheat bun with a side of almond rice.

The almond rice is served cold, so it is closer to a rice salad. It is lightly seasoned brown rice with almonds and scallions.

Another popular section of the menu, especially given the restaurant’s Southern California location, is the Mexican food. They have burritos wrapped in whole wheat tortillas with your choice of pinto, black or chili beans. If burritos aren’t your favorite, try the tacos and tamales. The tacos come in either a soft or crispy shell filled with veggie burger or baked tempeh. (Tempeh is made from soybeans and is similar to tofu, but is firmer in texture.)

Tempeh can be made very flavorful and savory, but needed a little more salt and spices in the tacos. The tamales, usually a diet disaster, come filled with vegetables. The carrots and peas that make up the filling need a little more seasoning, but overall, it satisfies a tamale craving. The Spot’s Mexican food is highlighted with the Tostada. It is served piled high with beans, brown rice, lettuce, cheese and salsa on a baked corn tortilla. The salsa is mild and slightly sweet and is packed with flavor. It is all the flavor and indulgence of Mexican food without the guilt!

Dessert is always my favorite part of any menu. The Spot manages to offer delicious, guilt-free desserts, too. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Tofu pie tastes sinful. It is very rich and creamy and not too sweet. A slice of this pie is served on a graham cracker crust and the filling is a tasty balance of chocolate and peanut butter — two flavors meant to be together. The strawberries in the strawberry cobbler were very fresh and sweet, but strawberries were in season when I visited. You can order the cobbler with “rice cream,” a lower fat version of ice cream if you choose. The desserts change daily, but they always have freshly baked cookies, usually chocolate chip or oatmeal.

The Spot strikes a great balance between looking like a small dive restaurant while serving food good enough for trendy, healthy conscious “foodies.” The diner’s great location in Hermosa Beach means this place is always jumping. It is perfectly positioned in Southern California for a constant stream of local beach goers and tourists.

Hermosa Beach is a small city in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County. The city prides itself on an average of 325 days of sunshine a year, so any time is a good time to visit. It is a thirty minute drive to the south west from Hollywood, or the same distance to the west from Disneyland. So, if you’re cruising though Southern California and want a break from the usual road trip greasy fare, stop on in.

The Spot

Location: Hermosa Beach, just 1 block from the beach on 2nd street.
Dress: Casual
Hours: Daily from 11am-10pm
Price Range: $15.00/pp
Web site: www.worldfamousspot.com

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