OM Foods: OMG
Once upon a time, in a faery kingdom by the sea named Mendocino, there was a perfect little one-woman operation called Lu’s Kitchen. Lu dished out a short list of unique, super-healthy organic dishes from a tiny shed in an undeveloped lot in downtown Mendo. It was unique, personal, quirky (the hours were improvisational, Lu’s temperament was variable). It was Fourth Wave economy at its best, and it was a highlight of my coastal visits. When Lu’s died, a part of me died with it.
Fast forward to Chico, 2017: Now we’ve got our own version of Lu’s. OM Foods (the OM stands for Organic Mama) is a gift from one person, Amanda Bosschart (pronounced “Bo-shart”), to the Chico community. Like Lu’s, it’s in a tiny “food hut” in the midst of urban busyness, in the Nord Safeway parking lot. The place is so small you could almost touch the opposing walls with outstretched arms. And, as with Lu’s, the food is idiosyncratic, limited in scope, super-healthy and delicious.
The Food Police can be a humorless and judgmental lot. I remember once eating from one of the trailers at the Saturday farmers’ market and thinking what a model of political correctness the trailer was—run by women, staffed by the two owners, serving organic, locally sourced underrepresented-ethnicity food, with no overhead and using recyclable plates and utensils. A friend saw me eating and said, “How can you support that place?” I asked what had her dander up. “Look at that generator! Can you imagine the damage to the ozone layer that place is causing?”
So, being health-conscious and spiritual about food can easily get grim and preachy. But OM is never that, while doing all the right things: local sourcing, using non-GMO ingredients, avoiding meat (fish tacos are the only carnage), being vegan most of the time. There is even free lavender spritzer by the counter, to elevate your mood. I bet Bosschart would even burn you a little sage if you asked. But she keeps it joyful and warm. She’ll call you by name and encourage you to do the same with her.
The food is all of a piece, built from a short list of ingredients—tempeh, avocado, cashew sauce, cilantro, dill, cacao, coconut, maté, cabbage slaw, rice, beans—and all absolutely delicious. The most popular items are the fish tacos (divine) and the nachos, but you can close your eyes and point and be pleased with the result. They used to have a “cesar salad,” which I assumed was a tribute to the great union organizer, but it’s since been normalized to “Caesar” on the menu.
All the drinks are worth ordering, among them smoothies (right up there with Fresh Twisted Café), “omade” (half lemonade, half maté), and hot cacao with coconut creamer (think milder, less sweet hot cocoa).
Prices are a small step up from taco trucks—$10.50 buys you two fish tacos (you’ll need both for a meal) or a nacho plate that will feed you twice.
OM does a number of things I really like. It uses tempeh instead of tofu (Bosschart and I both think tofu, despite its objective virtues, doesn’t taste very good), and it doesn’t follow the vegetarian regimen of burying everything under a layer of cheese. To me, cheese is a luxury item whose complex flavors are to be savored on the tongue like a liqueur, not a cheap rubbery bedspread used to obliterate everything under it. OM agrees. Bosschart’s nachos are covered not in cheap cheese, but in a nice little cashew cream sauce. Lovely.
Valentine’s Day marks OM’s first anniversary. Mark your calendar—Bosschart hints at live music, free samples and other celebratory stuff.