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RESTAURANT REVIEW: Daily Dose Cafe

Homegrown: Mama D and the Daily Dose gang welcome the unwashed masses

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Daily Dose Café
Vegetarian/Organic
Prices: Inexpensive
Serving lunch and dinner
1622 Highland Ave. James Island
(843) 225-3367

The lyrics from an old Guy Clark song about homegrown tomatoes are scrawled in magic marker on the white melamine wall behind the counter at the Daily Dose Café. Despite the pressures of doing business in a modern corporate climate, the folks behind the Daily Dose have done it their own way — often on little more than a few tomatoes, perhaps a pita or two, some organic sprouts, and lots and lots of true love.

This is really what cooking is all about. We can fret to and fro, dissecting new movements in cuisine or swooning over the latest overwrought, expensive restaurant — and all that is well and good — but places like the Daily Dose truly bring it home. It might be the vibe, the big murals of Bob Marley and Jamaican beaches, or the surfboards affixed to the wall ready to be scooped up and taken to the Washout when the waves call, but the Daily Dose's comfortable surroundings really make it a place you could drop by every day. The people don't just work there, they consider the Dose an extension of their very being; they care, and in that truth lies some lovingly prepared food.

If the place propounds a certain shtick — "good mood food" and overt references to Rastafarian ideals mixed with downright weird cultural references ("Baby Daddy" nachos, anyone?) — it comes honestly. Like the surfboards, you get the feeling that reggae bingo nights, the bamboo-topped bar, the strange, esoteric beer selection, and an emphasis on organic, vegetarian, even vegan cuisine, is not a contrived ornamentation. The people in the joint (no pun intended) really are what they eat, and that includes lots of rice, black beans, fresh veggies, pitas, and something called "soy-free vegetarian chicken" (I was scared to ask).

The menu rolls through numerous combinations and permutations of these ingredients, usually offered as salads, pitas, or wraps for a very reasonable price. For seven bucks, you can chomp down on the "Garden of Eden," a biblical blend of black beans and rice nestled among fresh cucumbers, sprouts, and lettuces dressed with the signature "goddess" sauce. Altogether, the "Eden," like the rest, is a very respectable sandwich, sporting enough heft, despite its vegan status, to satisfy the biggest appetites — although if it were me, I'd serve it to the ladies with an apple and a wink instead of the customary tortilla chips.

A more non-religious experience can be found in the "Oh My Goodness" ($7), which I think works best in pita mode. It has creamy, ripe avocado slipped in amongst black bean hummus, an assorted collection of crisp greens and fresh veggies, sprouts, the "goddess" stuff again, and some pretty good tomatoes for the beginning of March (homegrown, of course). For a place that looks and feels like an Amsterdam youth hostel, full of second-hand furniture and odd construction techniques, one walks away from dinner with a surprising sense of health and well-being.

If you're not into sprouts and salsa, they serve a variety of turkey wraps, "dragon" shrimp, and the "Pescado Loco" ($10) — fresh-baked coconut dolphin topped with just about everything in the house, although most of these dishes were unavailable when we visited due to a lack of supplies. We settled for the veggie wraps (not enough lettuce left for a salad), and a yummy cheese quesadilla ($4) for the two-year-old.

Nevertheless, the Daily Dose truly won us over, and we plan to return when more of the menu might be available. It's most certainly a friendly place: for kids, hippies, surfers, and homeless people — you even get the feeling that they'd be happy to serve up the excellent grub to corporate stiffs on a long lunch break. If you can't feel the warmth at the Daily Dose, then you don't know anything about true love. You probably don't know your way around a homegrown tomato either.

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