One of my favorite restaurants doesn’t cook any food. No, it’s not a raw bar or a sandwich vendor. My favorite place for creative eating is The Present Moment Café in St. Augustine, where the focus on the preparation of living foods in a beautiful, delicious manner results in raw vegan gourmet dishes that nourish the body.
“People come here for adventurous, playful food,” owner Yvette Schindler says, suggesting their detoxing “End of Paralysis” green juice, or their “Purple Haze” acai, blueberry, banana and sprouted almond milk smoothies. On a recent visit, I opt for an earthy, slightly spicy glass of carrot-beet-ginger juice.
If you fear a raw restaurant is just a glorified salad bar, a quick glance at the menu will relieve your worries. The Present Moment Café has served creamy soups, salads, burgers made from nuts, grains and beans and incredible desserts without an oven or microwave in the kitchen for eight years.
“You don’t want a plain salad here anymore than you want a restaurant to open a can of tuna and put it on a plate,” Schindler says. The Present Moment’s gourmet approach to living foods draws diners from across the First Coast and beyond.
One dish stands out among the myriad of bright flavors – Mango Samosas. The menu describes these as “Indian curried vegetables folded into mango coconut wrappers served on a bed of seasoned baby spinach.” From tropical mango and coconut to bright peas and bold cilantro, all the intense flavors I love draw me back to The Present Moment again and again.
“McDonald’s has golden arches” to draw people in,” Schindler says. “This kind of live food shines. People come from all over to enjoy it, and it produces results. The success for me is, as an owner, when I have customers coming in saying they’re off blood pressure and diabetic meds, a tumor shrank or they dropped weight they’ve struggled with their whole life.”
Schindler gestures toward two couches facing each other and long benches with pillows tossed along them. “People like the feeling of this being a home away from home. They don’t feel any judgment – we aren’t judging the way they eat. They just really enjoy the food, quality, taste, setting – I don’t know why any restaurant would stop with just the taste of the food. We feed the whole body, all the senses,” she says.
The fulfillment of seeing how whole foods impact others’ lives is gratifying to the staff, and the delicious specials they create entice many diners to incorporate more raw, organic foodstuffs into their diets.
They give a nod to familiar foods such as nachos and pasta by creating dishes featuring those flavors that are made from raw vegan ingredients. Pasta features zucchini noodles and salsa taco pâté is made from walnuts. “Sour cream” and “cheeses” are made from cashews, and “cheesecake” from nuts and coconut.
The restaurant’s mission is to bring forth joy, wonder and grace through food, Schindler says.
Travelers like it. Of 482 restaurants in St. Augustine, the cafe is currently rated number 2 on TripAdvisor. The team is apparently doing a lot right.
The Present Moment Café is located at:
224 W King St., St. Augustine, FL 32084