By Nathan Douglas–

The United States is a very food illiterate country. Essentially, a majority of the population does not know what they are eating or how to prepare reasonable food. I say food here referencing real food, not a concoction of pink slime and enriched white flour.

I don’t wish to ever speak badly of any new, local enterprise, and will rarely do so, however I feel like this is a special occasion. The Green Leaf Natural Vegetarian Bistro, which is a part of the chain of eateries along West Cardinal Boulevard, is an apparent attempt to simply capitalize on the faux side of the health craze, or whatever you wish to call it, that is sweeping the nation.

Green Leaf boasts popular buzzwords like “healthy,” “fresh” and “natural,” and is not discreet in their usage. This was the first alarming aspect of the restaurant. In my opinion, if a restaurant has to publicize these things in such a flamboyant manner, there are obviously some insecurities present about the food they are serving, or at least it makes one skeptical.

The Green Leaf Vegetarian Bistro serves food on styrofoam plates, a fact which belies their eco-friendly atmosphere.

When I asked what to order, I was informed that most of their menu was centered on dishes that used soy-protein based imitation meat. I ordered honey seared chicken along with fried rice, and what I received was reminiscent of Ville Grille stir-fry. It was also served on a Styrofoam plate, something that obviously contradicts the “green” initiative the restaurant seems to tout.

The food, while certainly edible, does not have the taste, nor does it leave you with the feeling of eating a “fresh” and “healthy” meal. The quality of the food is simply not up to par with other, similarly priced vegetarian restaurants in the area, i.e. any Thai restaurant, and seems to attempt to make up for their deficiencies through fruit and vegetable theme wall decorations, rhetoric and another little details.

The entire time I was eating, there was a film playing on one of the several TV’s in the restaurant. This film plays, from my understanding, during all the operational hours of the restaurant and in an attempt to inform the diner about the dangers of an American diet, using the Chinese diet as an example of what we should strive for. It just doesn’t really make sense atmospherically, and gives the appearance of trying too hard to convey a message through an out of place medium.

Imitation meat does not make sense to me either. There are so many delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes that do not pretend to be something else, which raises the question of why one would put themselves through eating imitation meat, which at Green Leaf, has the consistency and taste of wet paper towels.

The Green Leaf Natural Vegetarian Bistro gives off the air of exploitation, almost making a mockery of the health awareness movement within the United States. As one who advocates local businesses and food awareness, I cannot say that I can, with a good conscience, recommend this restaurant to anyone looking to improve their eating habits. I did not try their smoothies, however. Perhaps those are good.

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Photo: Nathan Douglas/The Louisville Cardinal