#LAFoodCulture: Healthy, Leafy #eeeeeats with Los Angeles' Tribal Cafe
The biggest misconception around healthy food is that it is typically bland, boring and flooded with kale and other shunned leafy greens. Los Angeles fights against this preconceived notion on a daily basis by providing lively, flavorful dishes that will ignite your palate without emptying your wallet.
LA Food Culture is all about good healthy eats, and no place holds up its end of the bargain quite like Tribal Cafe. Centered around “healthy food for the masses,” Tribal Cafe is a health-driven, fast-casual cafe offering a unique, multi-branded menu with 3 distinct food categories, each one uniquely satisfying in its own way.
When you enter the cafe, you are immediately taken aback by the colorful ambiance and pleasant aromas emanating throughout the restaurant. You then choose which of the 3 categories lights your fire the most - the Tribal Deli, Tribal Juice Bar, or Tribal Espresso/Tea Bar (don’t worry, we won’t tell anybody if you hit up all 3).
Tribal Cafe does California comfort food right by putting an innovative twist on the entire menu. There aren’t many places where you can get a Buddha bowl, a fruit smoothie, an acai bowl and a blended frappe all in one place.
We had to find out more, so we had the pleasure of chopping it up with Owner Joshua Jose to find out more about his love of cooking, what drove him to open up such an effervescent food spot, and all things LA food culture.
Food Tribe: What are your earliest childhood memories related to cooking?
Joshua: Helping out when my mother would cook for our big family and for big town fiesta celebrations. One thing that I observed and that stuck in my mind is how she seasoned her meals. She was dropping seasoning and ingredients into the pot rather minimally. I think she knew how to get the natural flavors from the meats and veggies she was using and all she needed was a smattering of seasoning ingredients here and there. I think it was more of an instinctive, feeling style of cooking.
FT: How did you get started in the food industry?
J: Growing up back in the Philippines, I helped out in a neighborhood restaurant my sisters were operating on the ground floor of our ancestral house which was on the busy main avenue. It was more like a beer garden with a mini casino attached to it. It was wild, but fun!
FT: What were the biggest hurdles in launching Tribal Cafe?
J: Lack of funds and experience in running a café business in America. Plus, it was just me...a one-man-band. It could have been really nice and less stressful if I was with a team launching and operating Tribal with partners and the dream team in charge of menu/food development, operations, financing-funding and promotions.
FT: What would you say Tribal Cafe does differently than some of the other health-focused restaurants in LA?
J: We try to offer simple comfort foods, focusing on fresh veggies. We do a lot of research to find out about the emerging trends and we incorporate those in our menu development, but at the end of the day, we present basic and simple fares, presented creatively from the choice and combination of ingredients, from the looks of it and the nutritional impact of the meals.
And most importantly, we also price our meals/drinks so they are really affordable. I think this price consciousness (in addition to food choices and quality) is one of the major reasons people come back to us and refer us to their friends.
FT: What is the process for coming up with your recipes?
J: Since I’m not a trained cook, I do a lot of research and consultation with food people, plus I throw in that instinctive culinary touch in food handling and menu development I believe I got from my mother.
I tend to look at food both as a physical and spiritual nurturing of our system, and I notice the effect of this mindset when people come back to us saying how they feel the “love” and “caring” in our food. I guess our food connects with people from a strong emotional base.
FT: What are things you wish the food industry in LA did better?
J: Encourage and help small food entrepreneurs to open more health food joints in underserved areas of the city and beyond, such that they can start and run their business and make a profit, but still are able to offer affordable meals to the less-moneyed segments of the city.
FT: Is it difficult to run a restaurant around the premise of "affordable, healthy" food, with the common notion regarding vegan/healthy eating being that it's too expensive?
J: Not really, if you stick to the basics of good, healthy, natural food without all the frills and the hype and the obsession to make a killing while running the business.
FT: What is the best thing you have eaten in the past month?
J: Green Smoothies are always my go to food - so simple, so nourishing, so healing, so natural, so smart...and inexpensive.
FT: What's next for Tribal Cafe?
J: Possible expansions into smaller units in different areas of the city, both rich and poor - believing that we, all humans, need the same nutritious food to survive.
FT: If it were your last meal on Earth, what would be on your table?
J: A huge bowl of leafy greens, fruits and veggies…that’s Tribal Café for you, and for me!
You’ll never feel more like an Angeleno than you will after eating a beautiful, eye-popping meal at Tribal Cafe. Josh Jose’s background and influence can be seen, heard and tasted throughout the restaurant and it’s clear that Tribal Cafe is hitting all the right notes.
We can’t thank him enough for sharing his vision with the community and for making LA food culture so much more vibrant. Before you head down to their restaurant for a Buddha bowl, give them a follow on Instagram to get that appetite going.
If you own a restaurant or food business and need Food Tribe’s help finding your diners online, be sure to schedule your free 15-minute consultation!