Whole Life Magazine

June/July 2015

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Page 15 of 43

Photos: Ben Saari L ight, flavorful, fresh vegan Mexican food at reasonable prices? White sangria? Sassy salsa bar? Check, check and check again for south-of-the- border bliss with a healthy twist at Shar- key's Wood Fired Mexican Grill. Found- er Steve Paperno, an L.A. native, set out to offer healthy, fresh Mexican food and has clearly found enthusiastic cus- tomers—the franchise chain includes 21 Southland locations and one in Marina Del Rey is set to open soon. I was happily surprised to find such quality of food, complexity of flavors and vegan-friendliness in this context. Sharkey's offers excellent vegan, or- ganic and gluten-free options, and for those desiring more traditional Mexican fare, the menu assures that the chick- en has no added growth hormones, preservatives or phosphates; beef is drug- and antibiotic free, with no added hormones or steroids; and fish is wild caught, with no added phosphates. Many of the menu's ingredients are organic, including beans, rice, quinoa, kale, spin- ach and lettuce. Tofu and corn are GMO- free, including the tor- tillas and chips. And all cheese and sour cream is rBGH-free. Hearty en- trées—burritos, tacos and quesadillas—are made with light, trans fat-free cooking oils, us- ing certified non-GMO canola oil. Ready to eat, now that you know you can? Several beautiful vegan options dominate the menu. Quinoa Super- food Salad tosses qui- noa, organic baby spin- ach, jicama, cucumber, cabbage, cilantro and green onions in an avocado vinaigrette. It's topped with crispy flax and chia seeds, and creamy avocado slices. Fajita Bowls are ample, with lo- cally sourced grilled vegetables topping rice, beans and onions. You can taste the freshness. Guacamole is nicely chunky and mildly seasoned, and there's fresh, crudely chopped pico de gallo that made crisp, light chips disappear in a flash. A vegan bur- rito featuring a mildly spicy red sauce over a burrito filled with crisp grilled veggies and firm tofu was satisfying and filling. My personal favorite was an or- ganic tofu Power Plate with sides of Yucatan yams and grilled veg- etables. The well-seasoned blend of soft, sweet yams and firm mesquite-grilled tofu offered mem- orable flavors and textures. For dessert: a sweet but not cloying snicker doodle cookie nicely rounded off our meal. Drink options include fresh-squeezed lemonade and craft micro-brews, as well as easy-drinking white or red sangria—a great accompaniment to the din- ner menu. There are also a variety of teas, including a tempting watermelon- basil blend. At the Calabassas and Beverly Hills locations we visited, the dining rooms are clean, warmly lit and com- fortable—worth lingering in over a glass of sangria or lemonade. Outdoor seating at these locations (but not all) adds a relaxed, carefree vibe for al fresco dining on a balmy evening. taste of health By Genie Davis Upscale, Organic, Fast Vegan SHARKEY'S WOOD FIRED MEXICAN GRILL 16 wholelifetimes.com

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