Y Tu Madre También

Gracias Madre gives Mexican classics the vegan treatment

When is a quesadilla not really a quesadilla?

At Gracias Madre, the quesadilla de calabaza ($10) appears rather unassuming. A thick corn tortilla, charred at it edges, is folded over a savory blend of butternut squash and onions. Covered in pale green salsa and a squiggle of crema–made from cashews, not milk–it would possible to wipe the plate clean without realizing that it was a Mexican classic in vegan clothing.

Gracias Madre's dining room

Just like its sister restaurant, Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre is the L.A. import of a San Francisco establishment that specializes in vegan Mexican food. But this haute cantina, with its colorful Pueblo-pattern throw pillows and rancho-themed décor, seems content to lets its meatless, dairy-free ethos fly under the radar.

The menu can feel safe, and even somewhat bland but most dishes manage to evoke comforting memories. Crispy masa sopes ($13) are filled with mashed avocado and tart pineapple-cabbage slaw, while the vaguely spicy molé enchiladas ($16) are stuffed with tender, long-braised mushrooms. You'll want an extra order of freshly pressed corn tortillas ($3) to mop up all the rich sauce.

Even if you haven't spent years dodging lard-enhanced beans and tortillas, the kitchen's dedication to homey Mexican flavors is more than admirable.