Restaurant Review #158: Organic To Go, Museum Square

Roasted Veggie Sandwich

This review is a little different from my others in that I was invited to try Organic To Go by their PR firm and they paid for my meal. Despite this, you can still count on Foodie Universe to stand by our policy of providing unbiased reviews--I explained to them that I would only do the review if I could maintain my usual standards, and they agreed.

My order was placed for me via Organic To Go's convenient online ordering system. When my assistant picked our food up first thing the following morning, she waited no more than two minutes for them to locate the huge bag of food. If you stop by in the morning, (they open at 7:00am), parking will be a snap, there won't be any crowds, and you probably won't even have to wait in line to pay. Because of the way the food is prepared and packaged, you can easily stick it in your fridge until lunchtime. It also travels well--not a single item spilled, leaked, or made any sort of mess in the car. While the store has a few tables, their food is designed to be taken away or delivered. They also specialize in catering business lunches and casual events (make sure to plan in advance, because their same-day menu is shorter than their regular menu).

Cranberry almond muffin with lemon icing

For breakfast, we tried two muffins. The cranberry almond muffin was a bit dry and crumbled easily, but on the other hand, it wasn't greasy or heavy like some muffins. It came packed in a small plastic container, which kept it from getting stale or picking up the flavor of plastic wrap. My favorite part was the lemon icing, which also added some moisture to the top part of the muffin.

Chocolate muffin

I wasn't sure I could handle chocolate in the morning, but the chocolate muffin was neither too sweet nor too chocolatey. Like the cranberry almond muffin, it was also a little dry, but again, not at all heavy. I recommend heating up the muffins.

The muffins were part of a well-balanced breakfast-to-go package that also contained bottled water, Wallaby organic yogurt (my favorite), and sliced apples ($7 total). I think it's great that out of all the available options, Organic To Go has chosen a bottled water company committed to finding a cure for breast cancer.

I don't know Tree Top to produce organic apples, and nothing on the package indicated that these were organic. Sure, it says "natural," but that word doesn't really mean anything in this context. The apple slices were crisp, but the preservative used to maintain freshness gave them a bitter taste.

Rainbow Salad

For lunch, I tried the rainbow salad, a vegan mixed green salad with red pepper strips, cabbage, cucumber slices, and julienned carrots. It was indeed colorful, and I was pleased to find that the lettuce had real flavor, almost as good as the lettuce I buy from Maggie's Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, and definitely better than most bagged grocery store lettuce, which tends to be flavorless. The container of ginger miso dressing was the perfect amount to lightly coat each leaf of lettuce and had a creamy mouthfeel, but it wasn't heavy like most creamy dressings. It tasted more like ginger than miso, but not too much like either one--if I hadn't known what it was, I would have just described it as sweet and tangy. The salad also comes with peanuts in a separate container, which I appreciated since I don't care for nuts, and I'm sure people with nut allergies would appreciate as well. The croutons, also in a separate container, didn't seem to have any butter, so I'm pretty sure they were vegan as well. They were very flavorful, but a bit dry and about half were getting stale. Overall, though I couldn't pinpoint it, I thought the salad lacked something--maybe I just wanted something more filling. Everything about it was basically good, but I think I would try a different salad next time.

Santa Fe Chicken Wrap

The Santa Fe Chicken Wrap
contains grilled natural chicken, lettuce, black bean and corn salsa, and a smokey BBQ ranch dressing. The chicken in the wrap was very soft and was cut into small pieces that made the wrap easy to eat without making a mess. I would have liked to taste more of the bbq ranch dressing, and including it in a separate container would have kept the tortilla from getting a bit soggy. Of course, putting the sauce on the side would make the sandwich more difficult to eat, so it's a trade off. We ate the wrap cold, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had I heated it up. Organic To Go will heat up your food for you if you ask.

The Roasted Veggie Sandwich (lead photo) contains red peppers, zucchini, red onion and a feta cheese spread and comes on a large panino roll. The roll is dry and sticks to the roof of your mouth if you eat the sandwich cold, but if you put it in the toaster oven, the roll becomes crispy and its dryness ceases to be an issue. The sandwich wasn't messy, though it could have been (roasted veggies like to slide around), and the feta cheese spread was rich and tangy. I'd definitely order this sandwich again--just make sure to heat it up.

Adobe Chicken Chowder

The adobe chicken chowder, which contains organic chicken, sweet toasted corn, roasted green chiles, and red peppers, tasted like a creamy version of a tortilla soup and was hearty enough to be a meal on its own. Its rich flavor reminded me of the soups I enjoyed in college on cold winter days. Yes, my college actually served good food. The soup came with thick, buttery, crunchy organic crackers. I would definitely order this soup again.

Mango Yogurt Parfait

O to Go's yogurt parfaits come in three flavors--strawberry, blackberry, and mango--and consist of a layer of real fruit on the bottom, plain yogurt in the middle, and granola on top. The granola was sweet and not excessively crunchy, though since I waited several hours to eat the parfait, a lot of the granola had actually become soft. Putting it in a separate container might be a good idea. The yogurt was excellent--very smooth and pleasing, unlike some yogurts that have gloppy thickeners added to them. I didn't really care for the mango--I only like fresh mango, and this mango clearly came from a jar. How can you tell? It's less sweet, more sour, and has a mushier texture. I probably would have enjoyed the strawberry flavor more, but I wanted to try something that you don't come across every day.

Chocolate mousse pyramid

The menu describes the chocolate mousse pyramid as "a light chocolate mousse enrobed in chocolate ganache with a layer of hazelnut praline wafer crust." It didn't quite match its description, but otherwise it was nearly flawless. The problem with many sandwich shop desserts is that they taste like display case--when you put a bunch of different desserts in the same enclosed area, they all pick up a little bit of flavor from each other, which interferes with the real flavor of the dessert. Since Organic To Go's desserts are stored in individual containers, they taste just like they're supposed to. I thought the crumbly chocolate topping was a strange counterpart for the smooth layers of mousse, ganache, and crust, plus I didn't notice any hazelnut flavor and the dessert didn't resemble a pyramid in any way. Calling it a chocolate mousse bar might be a better idea. $5 a pop might be on the expensive side, but since it's organic and it's a restaurant (not a grocery store) the price makes sense. Most desserts at Whole Foods will run you $4, after all.

Lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts, though they are forever letting me down by tasting too little like lemon (and too much like egg) or too much like lemon (and making my throat hurt). This lemon square's filling avoided both common problems. The bar was dense and took me more than one sitting to polish off. Yum.

At least the bags are biodegradable

I always like to see how new restaurants live up to their promises. O to Go promises generous serving sizes. Generous is relative, and in America, sizes are often measured by Cheesecake Factory proportions. Most of Organic To Go's portions are just average by those standards, so I'm not sure that's a good claim to make. I was very happy with the portion sizes, but my appetite tends to be smaller than most.

Aside from that, I'm very pleased with what the company is doing. Organic To Go uses certified organic ingredients wherever possible, and even offers a list on their website of which ingredients are organic (since it's sometimes impossible to get everything organic), which indicates that they're serious about their claims. Their food is also natural, meaning that you can easily identify everything on the short ingredient lists--a big plus in my book. Once you go organic, food with preservatives and other chemicals tends to taste funny. And when so many foods out there don't have all those additives, I have to wonder why I would choose to put them into my body. The menu changes seasonally, and is currently undergoing frequent changes, which appears to be due to both seasonality and newness.

Organic to Go also uses biodegradable plastics in much of their packaging, and has plans to convert more of their containers to the eco-friendly stuff in the future. I can't prove this one, since the biodegradable containers look stunningly like their more polluting counterparts (as I also observed at a Santa Monica Public Library on Farmers' Markets), but it sounds good to me.

If you visit the Museum Square location, to avoid getting lost in the parking garage maze, just turn around and go out the way you came in, rather than following the exit signs--most of those will lead you through the garage and to card swipe only exits for monthly permit holders. The lot seems to have ample visitor parking, as well as special parking spots for picking up to-go orders, but spots could be hard to snag at lunch time. You can have your food delivered, but with a hefty $7.95 delivery fee, you might want to go in on an order with your co-workers.

Overall, I'm very pleased with Organic To Go. Compared with the other available lunch options (especially the ones at Museum Square: Baja Fresh and Koo Koo Roo), they offer a superior product if you value freshness, your health, and the environment.

Organic To Go
5757 Wilshire Blvd (Museum Square)
Suite 106
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Organic To Go Website
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-4pm
Sat 10am-4pm

Other Los Angeles locations:

555 W. 5th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

350 S. Grand Ave
Suite D6
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Also in Orange County, Seattle, and Bellevue.
Organic To Go on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Janice said...

Just wanted to tell you that I really love reading your blog (and drooling over all the pictures as well!!) I've even gotten a few restaurant ideas from you to try! I hope you can stop by my site sometime. Keep up the awesome work!