First Taste

First Taste: Grand Avenue's Goji Berry Cafe Serves Vegan Snacks and Must-Try Mocktails

The mocktails at Goji Berry Cafe include buzzy ingredients without the hangover.
The mocktails at Goji Berry Cafe include buzzy ingredients without the hangover. Allison Young
When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Located along the diagonal stretch of road that boasts Bacanora, Trans Am Cafe, and El Charro Hipster Bar & Café, new kid on the block Goji Berry Cafe fits into the buzzy food vibe of Grand Avenue.

Not only is the neighborhood one of the best walkable food hubs in the city, but with Testal Mexican Kitchen, Cha Cha’s Tea Lounge, and sister restaurant Earth Plant Based Cuisine within a stone’s throw, it’s officially a plant-based eating destination.

The Aguiler family started Earth in 2019 as a way of sharing vegan versions of their Mexican home recipes. The new outpost is less connected to their family roots, and more about vegan health and comfort food. The menu offers a mix of mocha lattes, strawberry smoothies, acai bowls, avocado toast, and pressed paninis. All plates brim with wholesome, house-made ingredients and photogenic flair.

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Goji Berry boasts a modern interior with plenty of seating options.
Allison Young
Goji Berry's design follows suit. Everything about the space feels uplifting, from the white-walled interior with exposed ceilings to the floating wicker light shades and lush greenery. Take a seat at the bar for a front-row view as baristas casually craft dairy-free coffees and mocktails, or lounge in the wallpapered nook with its low coffee table and plush sofa for a date with friends.

The food comes out looking just as pretty as the menu promises. Strawberry Mascarpone Toast arrives picture-perfect, studded with ripe strawberries and flourishes of fresh mint and edible flowers. The strawberries are good enough to eat on their own, made all the sweeter macerated in balsamic.

Contrary to the menu description, any trace of fig preserve is hard to find, the mascarpone is spread paper thin, and the toast actually isn't toasted. Still, any misgivings just as quickly disappear, charmed into submission by those sweet strawberries.
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Goji Berry's Strawberry Mascarpone Toast.
Allison Young
The Cuban Panini is sliced just right and has all the requisite flavors and fillings, with a savory and tangy mix of seitan ham, house-made pickles, mustard, mayo, hearts of palm, and gouda. Despite the inviting grill marks, the inside layers are still firm, not melted into a harmonious melty medley. The bright spot is the side of house-made potato chips, golden-hued and equal parts crispy and addictive – and quickly gone.
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The Cuban Panini comes with seitan ham, house-made pickles, mustard, mayo, and hearts of palm.
Allison Young
The Roasted Beet Salad is a mass of vibrant green and red covered in a snowfall of white feta, an image of Christmas in August. It looks the part, but falls short on ingredients like walnuts, and the beets taste more raw than roasted, overpowering the delicate arugula. The saving grace here is the vegan feta, an epiphany of crumbly creaminess that plays off the crunch of the greens and punch of the dressing.

Goji’s drinks menu, as long and varied as the food offerings, is not an afterthought. Sips span from refreshing juices made with organic fruit and house-made syrups, like the goji berry-spiked lemonade, to layered matchas flavored with fresh strawberries and house-made organic oat milk.

But the stars of the menu are the mocktails, an inventive array of non-alcoholic drinks made with fresh fruit, herbs, and distilled natural botanicals that are muddled, spritzed, splashed, and garnished.  These spirited sips don’t feel booze-free at all. That means customers can enjoy a Goji Mojito, a sweet-sour minty creation with shots of distilled non-alcoholic rum and tequila, with all the satisfaction of day drinking.

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Goji Berry's vegan ice cream is made from a coconut base.
Allison Young
Ending the meal on a sweet note is a must. As well as the statuesque pastry case stocked with crème brulée, vegan cookies, croissants, and walnut-studded brownies, Goji Berry makes their own coconut cream-based ice cream, available in rotating flavors. The most popular so far is espresso, a swoon-worthy scoop with bright notes of bitter-sweet caramel. Sure, the consistency could be firmer and creamier, but just like with the soy-based ice cream developed next door for Earth’s over-the-top milkshakes, the Aguiler family isn’t afraid to tweak and fine-tune recipes until they get them right.

No doubt, Goji Berry is headed in the right direction.

Goji Berry Cafe

1325 Grand Avenue
480-876-0850
gojiberryphx.com
Hours: Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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Allison Young has written about food, nutrition, and travel for Sunset, Women’s Health, Oxygen, Clean Eating, Mindbodygreen, and Prevention. Her local jam is food writing, where she happily eats her way across the Valley to discover the best hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, pizza joints, and the latest Phoenix food trends. She also loves to pick Valley chef’s brains for their favorite food finds. On her website, TheGlitterList.com, she posts one thing she’s looking forward to each day, from food to books and podcasts.
Contact: Allison Young