Sage Vegan Bistro has a long history in Pasadena—its Arroyo Parkway location started out as an ice cream shop. Now it has expanded with both a full menu and a new location in the One Colorado Courtyard.
Founder Mollie Engelhart is a producer and director best known for her documentary May I be Frank, which follows an overweight man who adopts a plant-based diet as he attempts to lose weight and fall in love. Despite the film’s success, Engelhart decided to change course and focus on her dream of opening a plant-based restaurant.
“I always wanted to open a plant-based restaurant that served food that actually tastes good,” she says. “Growing up vegan, there were not so many options and the food was usually subpar. As a kid, I remember going out to get ice cream with friends and finding there were no options for me. I wanted to create a place where any child could come and enjoy dessert without restrictions.”
In 1971, the first farm-to-table restaurant, Chez Panisse, opened in Berkeley, Calif., with the intent of reconnecting consumers with their food. From then on, the farm-to-table movement took root (literally). Engelhart is keeping this mindset alive at Sage, where she and her staff provide plant-based, locally sourced cuisine that actually tastes (really) good.
“We strongly believe in providing a taste experience that gives people the comforting feeling they’re used to while gently challenging their perception of food—where it comes from and how what they eat impacts the world,” Engelhart says.
If plant-based is not your usual choice of cuisine, you’re not alone—around 80 percent of Sage’s customers aren’t vegan. Engelhart’s goal isn’t to convert her customers into being fully plant-based; instead, she wants to provide a way to integrate plant-based meals into a normal, everyday diet. She hopes her customers will “come away with the confidence that you can actually enjoy a hearty meal without contributing to factory farming and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Engelhart knows that little steps can still have a positive impact on the world and continues working hard to share this mindset with others. Judging from the crowd at Sage Vegan Bistro, we’d say it’s working.