Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mama Gaia Opens in Crosstown!

This is a post about a new vegetarian restaurant. And I'll get to that. But first, some context.

I live and work in Crosstown — a Midtown Memphis neighborhood that's centered around a million-square-foot former Sears headquarters that was erected in the late 1920s. It's a beautiful, old, art-deco-style building that served as the central hub of this neighborhood for decades. But the building was shuttered in the late 1990s, and it sat vacant for years. In fact, it was still a blighted, old hulk of a building when I bought my house in the Evergreen Historic District, just blocks away from the building's shadow, in 2012. Here I am at a festival earlier this year with the Crosstown building in the background. This gives you an idea of just how massive it is! It takes up an entire city block.

For the past few years, there's a been this awesome grassroots movement to revitalize and repurpose the building. A massive construction project has been underway for over a year now, and soon, the building will re-open as Crosstown Concourse and house all sorts of retail, restaurants, a craft brewery, art facilities, medical offices and clinics, education organizations, a high school, and lots of residential apartments. My office at Crosstown Arts will relocate there, and we'll have galleries, a film screening room, music spaces, an artist residency program, a shared art-making lab, a plant-based cafe, and eventually, a performing arts theater. It's all very exciting!

Even though some apartment residents have been living on-site on the completed floors since January, so much of the building is still a construction zone. Yet new life is happening! This weekend, the first restaurant in the building — Mama Gaia — will open to the public. And guess what? It's a vegetarian restaurant, and everything (EVERY. SINGLE. THING.) is organic! I was invited to Mama Gaia several times this week to sample a few dishes.

On Tuesday, a co-worker and I stopped by, and I ordered the Cena Bowl — quinoa, sauteed mushrooms, and asparagus. The mushrooms were coated in a tomato-y, white wine sauce and were bursting with flavor. 

Nicole ordered the Asia Salad with sesame-crusted tofu and bell peppers. 

I also sampled some of the Oogave agave-sweetened sodas. These are low-calorie and all-natural.

I was back on Wednesday for a Crosstown Arts staff meeting. I got the Asia Pita with sesame-crusted tofu, Asian slaw, red bell pepper, and Mama Gaia sauce. Wow! That tofu was AMAZING. It's baked and every inch is coated in crispy sesame seeds. 

On the side, I had some Hand-Cut Baked Fries, served with organic ketchup. Nothing at Mama Gaia is fried, so you can feel pretty good about whatever you eat.

Mama Gaia specializes in pita sandwiches, which are stuffed with veggies, quinoa, tofu, hummus, and various sauces. But they also offer those same pitas as bowls and salads, both of which make them gluten-free. It's a vegetarian restaurant, so they do serve some cheese. But vegan items are clearly marked with a V, and many items can easily be made vegan. Gluten-free items are marked with a GF. They also indicate which items contain nuts with an N.

Oh, and there are desserts! Healthy ones! On Wednesday, they let us sample the Vegan Brownie Bites. These are vegan and sweetened with dates. They also have a hint of coconut, and they boast a rich cocoa flavor.

Owner Philipp snuck me a Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Ball as well! These were like little energy balls made with dates, nuts, and carrots and taste exactly like carrot cake. The finished product is coated in coconut flakes, but either way, these were delicious.

On Thursday night, I attended a VIP party at Mama Gaia, and they had small samples of menu items available. So much goodness!


Mama Gaia officially opens at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 25th! And then they'll be open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., with plans to open earlier for breakfast in the near future.

I'm so excited to have Mama Gaia in the neighborhood. My office won't be moving into the building until later this year, but I can't wait to just pop downstairs for a quick lunch pita. Still yet, it's literally across the street from my house and current office, so those quick lunches are still possible now. 

More vegan-friendly eateries will be opening in Crosstown Concourse very soon, and I'll be sure to update you as they do!


vegan peace said...

Wow, the story about the building, and the success of a grassroots movement is really inspiring. And so much will be going on there, it's very exciting.
Every single item looks delicious! Sesame crusted tofu sounds divine! And how cool is it to have a soda fountain that isn't crap sodas! That's the first time I've ever seen that!

Sarah said...

I absolutely love the story behind the building and love that it is being revitalized even more! It must be really exciting to have so much action there for the first time in a long time. And how cool that the first restaurant to open in a vegetarian restaurant! Everything looks so delicious and how lucky to be able to go and sample everything!

mshrcfit said...

This makes my heart sing!

Jennifer Bliss said...

Everything sounds AMAZING! YAY! YAY for a new restaurant!!!! Great building and sky photos, too!

Erika said...

We have a gorgeous abandoned Art Deco Sears building in Oakland, too! Last I heard, Uber was going to take it over :/ I like Memphis' version better! That truly is an inspiring story about revitalizing an old building to adapt to a changing society. I hope you enjoy your new office!

Axel said...

I am sorry but I will miss the Opening on Saturday because i am leaving memphis back to Germany. But I will come back soon to visit Mama Gala

teach love = world peace said...

Great article and about time a local restaurant offered all organic. Can't wait to try it. Question, where did they come up with the name? I know some "Gaias" and curious if it's the same family.

Anonymous said...

The name just means "mother earth". Pretty sure no one with that last name is actually involved.