We've all experienced The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: You buy a Volvo and all of a sudden the roads appear to be swarming with them. Now that I've finally eaten at Body Café, all I can do is wonder why it took me so long to get there and how the tight-lipped miscreants I call my friends could have allowed me to live in darkness for so long, blithely ignorant that nirvana is just off of Cordova Road and delivered by the plateful.

Body Café specializes in healthy meals that are wheat-, dairy- and sugar-free. It also caters to those on vegan, raw and gluten-free diets. Not everything is a hit, but the hits are home runs.

If a collard greens burrito ($8.95/$5.95) sounds either bland or alarmingly wholesome, suspend your disbelief just long enough to try one—it is a revelation.

The hardy greens form the wrapper, which swaddles a rich filling of nut cheese, brown rice and red peppers. Topped with salsa fresca and served with a green salad that is dressed with Body's sublime herb vinaigrette, it's a dish many regulars cannot resist ordering, though the kimchi and avocado sushi ($8.95) is worth trying for the side of sauerkraut alone.

Another shining star is the marinated beet salad with goat cheese and caramelized pecans ($9.95/$5.95), though there is nothing novel about the salad other than fact that it is made consistently well—as are the other salads on the menu.
Roots and greens ($8.95) is a substantial plateful of yams, grilled tempeh and steamed chard doused with ginger shoyu sauce. Though the dish is conservative and homely, its wholesome simplicity is its appeal.

My preference is for the more robust menu items—nothing that smacks of dietary restrictions outright; no ersatz approximations of the real deal, but Body has plenty of those too. For example, the raw pizza ($10.95/$6.95), with sun-dried-tomato marinara, olives, pine-nut ricotta cheese and pesto on a zucchini-almond crust, was excessively potent, like eating salt-packed capers out of the jar. The raw Thai curry ($10.95/$6.95) is fine and fun to eat, with the zucchini strips fashioned into long noodles, but the ginger and cashews that dress the dish do not a Thai curry make. The vegetable masala ($8.95), on the other hand, is a hot, savory dish that will satiate even the most devoted enthusiasts of Indian lunch buffets.

The display case holds desserts that may look, to an avid baker who embraces the use of butter, sugar and eggs, like piteous renditions of their classic archetypes. "Cheesecake" and "quiche" with an anemic pallor glisten behind the glass plate like model specimens. Yes, the desserts will be cold, but deliciously so. Body's mixed berry pie ($5.55) is juicy with summer fruit, and the blueberry cheesecake ($4.95) is bracingly tart and strikingly violaceous, but the ganache ($5.95), a staff favorite, fell flat at our table, and was left uneaten. The flavor and texture of the chocolate is eclipsed by the assertive presence of coconut oil, but it remains a popular dessert, so approach with discretion.

There are two carrot cakes at Body, but for carrot lovers, the raw carrot cake  ($4.95)—in spite of the fact that it has the texture of juiced carrots—tastes like its very essence.

Smoothies are hit-or-miss. Those made with raw nut milk, such as the Choconana ($4.95), are excellent, but the Berry ($5.95), made with coconut milk, was served at room temperature, and the coconut milk left an unpleasantly greasy mouthfeel. The breakfast ambrosia ($7.95) is a raw, soupy cereal of sprouted buckwheat, fruit and nut milk; some diners will find appeal in its comforting digestibility; I found it reminiscent of the sort of bland, milky porridge best fed to children and toothless adults.

Body also serves organic wine, beer, sake and champagne, but I can't help ordering a young coconut every time ($3.95); its water has a vegetal sweeteness and refreshing. After the shell has been emptied, you may be asked if you would like it hacked open. The correct answer is "Yes!" Young coconut meat is mild, silky, creamy and good for you. The superb house chai ($2.95/$3.95) is caffeine-free, barely sweetened with agave and can be made with a variety of milks.

Perhaps best of all, Body is open all day, so it's ideal for anyone in need of a late lunch, an early cocktail, a quiet cup of tea and dessert—or a collard greens burrito anytime.

Body Café
333 Cordova Road, 505-986-1111
Open every day from 7 am-9 pm
Prices denote full and half orders