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Golden Harvest Cafe, Arcata, CA Review

Quality Dining Near Redwood National Park

"Herbivore, carnivore, we have what you're looking for!"

When traveling in the Redwood National Park area, be sure to join the eco-glitterati at the Golden Harvest Cafe in Arcata, California.

Packed with a mixture of students and Sierra Club card-carrying locals, Golden Harvest offers a true “roadfood” dining experience of the type recommended by Gourmet Magazine’s Jane and Michael Stern. This unpretentious restaurant captures the feeling of its counterculture community, which was the first to elect a majority Green Party town council in the United States.

Near Humboldt State University, Golden Harvest dishes up substantial student-sized portions at moderate prices. What you’ll love most, though, is the quality of the preparation.

The meals are excellent—unfailingly excellent.

Quality food and service

The ingredients are fresh; the preparation is outstanding; and the service is efficient and generally friendly. Golden Harvest can be proud of its consistent quality, because much of its staff changes at least every four years due to Humboldt State graduations.

Limited student budgets can feast happily and inexpensively on platters of delicious biscuits with veggie or non-veggie sausage gravy. Most other meals of crepes, omelets, scrambles, benedicts, sandwiches, melts, and burgers hover around $10.

Don’t let these simple menu names fool you. This is not gourmet food, but the recipes and presentations display creativity.

I particularly love the Cajun omelet platter served with nicely spiced country-style potatoes or a choice of other sides. Be sure to order freshly–made biscuits with this meal, instead of toast, plus a side of sour cream.

Salad dressings taste homemade. The avocado on your California burger is freshly sliced, not the concoction out of a package served in so many restaurants.

Servers take orders using handheld computers, which permit a remarkable number of customer additions and substitutions.

Vegetarian friendly, but . . .

Most noteworthy is that nearly every meat entrée has one or two vegetarian substitutes. In fact, servers wear t-shirts saying, “Herbivore, carnivore, we have what you’re looking for!”

For this reason, I was shocked to find Golden Harvest using one grill for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items. Although it’s a rather long grill, this procedure seems totally out of place in a town with many vegetarian diners. If a corporate chain like P.F. Chang’s can use dedicated utensils in separate areas of its kitchens for all vegetarian dishes, why can’t a seemingly prosperous restaurant like Golden Harvest?

I was also surprised to find that most items at Golden Harvest are prepared from non-organic sources. (However, you can order organic coffee and organic tofu.) With increased competition, including a very popular crêperie on the same block, lack of organic food seems to be hurting the business.

You’d expect many more items at Golden Harvest to be organic because the residents of Arcata are really into organic food. For instance, you’ll find two natural food supermarkets in Arcata, but just one Safeway. On Saturdays, a celebrated organic farmers market operates just down the street from Golden Harvest.

Nevertheless, I look forward to every visit to the Golden Harvest Cafe because the food is so delicious.

You’ll find—and you’ll want to find—Golden Harvest at 1062 G Street, one block north of the plaza in downtown Arcata. From the northbound U.S. 101 freeway, take the second Samoa Boulevard (State Highway 255) exit, go over the freeway and continue westbound to the first traffic light, and then turn right onto G Street. Golden Harvest is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch from 6:30 a.m. weekdays and 7:30 a.m. weekends. (707) 822-8962.

Last updated by Don Nadeau during October 2008.

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