DINING OUT:

Whether you recycle, drive a hybrid car or eat organic fruits and vegetables, you do not have to be a former vice president to know that serious measures must be taken to save the planet. Of course, you should never embark on any crusade on an empty stomach. Fortunately, there is a place in Burbank where you can eat a sandwich, drink coffee and indulge in frozen yogurt and help the environment all at the same time.

Honeydew Cafe is a sandwich shop with a purpose. When they say on their menu that they want to help protect the Earth, they mean it. Food containers, cups and utensils are made from compostable products. Napkins come from recycled paper. Cleansers are all biodegradable. Fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, sugars and dairy are all organic. The oxygen-bleached coffee filters keep chemicals from seeping into your coffee. Even the tables outside are made from renewable wood sources.

While I admire their eco-friendly practices, even Ed Begley Jr. would no doubt agree that a restaurant has to serve good food to survive on any planet. When Ron took an unexpected Tuesday off from work, I decided to treat him to a lunch at Honeydew Cafe.

The first thing you should know about Honeydew Cafe is that they do not have a parking lot, and street parking can be a problem, especially during the lunch rush. Expect to walk a block or two.

There is no indoor seating, and there are only a few sidewalk tables. You step inside the doorway about two steps and find yourself at the order counter. This is great if you plan on eating back at your desk, but a little inconvenient if are grabbing a bite to eat on the run. And during the lunch rush, expect a line.

Honeydew Cafe specializes in breakfast burritos, gourmet sandwiches and salads. They have three choices of frozen yogurt and a few toppings. The yogurt is hormone-free and organic dairy. They rotate flavors that include chocolate, vanilla, mango, honeydew, lychee, strawberry and kiwi. We tried the honeydew and found it creamy and flavorful but a little tart.

They offer more than a dozen gourmet sandwich selections plus a build-your-own sandwich. There is a wide variety of sandwiches that offers something for everyone, from the traditional roast beef or turkey to a tuna melt or vegetarian sandwich.

One sandwich that immediately had my attention was the muffeletta. A specialty of New Orleans that was created by the Central Grocery in 1906, the muffeletta is a Sicilian word that translates as a hollow loaf of bread stuffed.

The version of the muffeletta served at Honeydew Cafe is a respectable likeness to the ones in New Orleans. The sandwich itself is made with ham, turkey, Genoa salami, sharp cheddar cheese, aged provolone, Parmesan, tomatoes and lettuce. What makes it a real muffeletta is the olive tapenade or relish. I enjoyed it served on sourdough bread.

Ron liked the roast beef sandwich served as a wrap with provolone, lettuce, tomato and horseradish, which gave it a pleasant kick. We also tried the turkey havarti melt with a generous amount of fresh avocado. Both sandwiches were made from fresh ingredients and packed with flavor.

We sat outside at one of three wooden tables on the sidewalk. I can’t say I would want to sit there again. The sidewalk traffic and noise were a little overwhelming at times. And it felt as if the tables and chairs had just been tossed outside as an afterthought.

On my next visit, I telephoned my order ahead of time and had a friend drop me off while he drove around the block.

This time I tried the salads. The apple and brie salad over spinach was simple but delicious and rather filling, especially if you add an iced mocha.

My favorite salad was the avocado salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and mushrooms served with sesame ginger dressing. I was shocked at the hearty portion of avocado but loved every bite.

Honeydew Cafe has proven that a restaurant can combine eco-friendly products and resources and organic foods to create a dining experience that is delicious and good for us and our planet. After all, not even Al Gore can save the environment on an empty stomach.


 CHRISTINE PUTNAM is a freelance writer. Her first book, “But the President Wants Meatloaf!” is available for purchase at www.buybooksontheweb.com. For more information, visit www.christineputnam.com.

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