A lot of vegetarian restaurants seem to believe in an inverse relationship between healthfulness and flavor. When I heard about a vegetarian restaurant popular with bikers, my curiosity was piqued. Surely such a place could not survive long offering bland food. It also doesn't hurt that it's at the top of a fun and twisty mountain road.
Located at the junction of S6 and S7 atop Palomar Mountain, Mother's Kitchen is the antithesis of boring. Instead of hippie, it's homey-with a wooden interior and crafty décor. The first thing you see when you walk in is a dessert case filled with house-made treats like cookies, brownies and apple pie drizzled with obscene amounts of caramel.
The menu is drawn on chalkboards-and though there are a few nods to vegans, the grub is definitely oriented toward the lacto-ovo side of vegetarianism. While some of the items are made with convenience products like Boca "meat" or Gardenburgers, those dishes are doctored up-like the chipotle-spiced Boca tacos.
There are also plenty of house-made items on the menu, like chili, soups, lasagna and baked macaroni and cheese-a treat I've not often seen in restaurants. If you get there early enough on the weekend, there's also a breakfast menu featuring omelets, pancakes and French toast.
We ordered the baked mac and cheese and a bowl of Mountain Chili, both with salad and bread. We went to our table and waited, where we eavesdropped on some bikers talking about mutual funds. Hardcore!
About 10 minutes later our food was served-in abundant quantity. The baked mac and cheese was luxurious: a huge brick-shaped serving with a great chewy/crispy cheese crust on top. Real butter and small bits of onion dispersed throughout added depth to the flavor, and the texture was rich and cheesy.
The chili was also quite rich, if not as decadent: dense with beans, and topped with melted cheese. The flavor was tangy and tomatoey, with a mild spiciness underneath.
The side salads were good-green-leaf lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, sunflower seeds and tomatoes. The house-made Italian dressing was tasty, with lots of herbs and garlic. The house-made brown bread was also quite nice-fresh, buttery and sweet.
I had hoped to order pie, but we were too full from our lunches. Even though it's far away, I'll be returning to Mother's Kitchen. Good, homey cooking like this is hard to find in San Diego. Mother's Kitchen may not be around the corner, but Palomar Mountain does make for a pleasant weekend day trip. Just don't make the same mistake I did: save room for some pie.
The place is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.