Flower Child

Written by Wynter Holden Category: Food Reviews Issue: August 2014
Group Mid-Level
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Sam Fox launches another salvo in the health food revolution with this groovy Camelback café.

Author Michael Pollan’s 2008 manifesto In Defense of Food ignited a culinary revolution. His advice: Avoid processed foods, eat plants and buy ingredients your great-grandparents would recognize.

Serial restaurateur Sam Fox embraces a similar doctrine at Flower Child, a fast-casual Arcadia eatery that discriminates against gluten and purges all refined sugars. While not as spot-on as Fox’s True Food Kitchen, Flower Child will please Pollanites and other waist-watchers with fresh, local produce and clean-tasting grub.

The décor is farmhouse chic, not Woodstock-grunge. Gleaming white tiles provide a fresh backdrop to tractor seat stools and a stunning mural of a child gathering spring blossoms. Unfortunately, the counter-based ordering setup gets cumbersome  when lines spill outside in the summer sun. Good thing Fox employs the friendliest hipsters this side of Austin – seriously, they must pass a personality test – to help move things along.

Flower Child’s mix-and-match menu allows guests to customize meals; for example, adding chicken or tofu to salads like The Fruit Stand ($8), a sweet-tart mélange of berries and mandarin slices tamed by the bitterness of wilted fennel. The Asian Avocado ($8) delights with crisp kale macerated in a pleasantly sour sesame seed vinaigrette; try it with a tart kombucha ($5) or house-made seasonal lemonades for eye-opening contrast.

tofu and mushroom pho

Of the wraps, the Flying Avocado ($11) impresses, with moist chicken, smoky gouda and avocado hummus so creamy and smooth it mimics flavored aioli; also great is The Rebel ($13) with savory steak and ripe port salut cheese. However, potent daikon and herbs fail to elevate Thai Dye’s spicy tofu above “meh” status ($9). A more enjoyable vegetarian option is organic tofu and mushroom pho ($12), a plentiful bowl of salty soy broth loaded with woody trumpet mushrooms, shiitakes and gelatinous shirataki noodles. Meanwhile, the turmeric-heavy madras curry chicken ($13) tastes great, but the puny serving cries out for a starchy side.

At $4 per selection – or $10 for three – Flower Child’s vegetable and grain plates are hit and miss. Skip the flavorless broccoli and flaccid Indian-spiced cauliflower in favor of  the delightful beet, avocado and citrus salad, or quinoa with sweet corn and yogurt, which pleasantly blurs the line between dinner and dessert. Speaking of sweets, Flower Child’s $3 baked goods are the bomb – refined sugar or no. Try the rich chocolate cake, pie-like fruit tarts or sinful bittersweet brownies.

Flower Child aims to open a local front in Pollan’s culinary revolution, and for low-cal “health food,” it’s pretty damn good. Like the best Fox restaurants, it has that ineffable X-factor – in this case, a sort of parental juju that can get a kid to eat their veggies and ask for seconds.

Flower Child
Cuisine: American
Contact: 5013 N. 44th St., 602-429-6222, iamaflowerchild.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
Highlights: The Fruit Stand ($8); Asian Avocado salad ($8); Flying Avocado wrap ($11); The Rebel wrap ($13); organic tofu and mushroom pho ($12); beet, avocado and citrus salad ($4); quinoa with sweet corn and yogurt ($4); lemon olive oil cake ($3); bittersweet brownie ($3); GT’s Trilogy kombucha($5)

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