Sometimes you find a treasure where you least expect it. Such is the case of Great Sage, a spectacular restaurant in a suburban Clarksville, Maryland strip mall. Great Sage is part of the Conscious Corner family of businesses which includes Roots Market (an amazing chain of grocery stores where the question, “what isn’t vegan?” is easier to answer than, “what is vegan?”), Nest (an eco-friendly clothing a gift store) and Bark (an eco-friendly pet food store). Not surprisingly, all of these stores are located in the same shopping center as Great Sage.
Great Sage is an open space with exposed ductwork and metal beams in the ceiling. While this could give a restaurant a stark, industrial feel, they are painted a cream color making it very soft and gently. The walls are painted in warm earth tones giving the entire restaurant a simple yet elegant feel. The wall of windows on one side looks out into a lush forest and fills the space with wonderful natural light.When you first enter Great Sage, you are greeted by a display of cookies and cupcakes, with gluten-free options available. It is a good thing they are there, so you know to save room for dessert, or maybe just get some to go.
On the first page of the menu is a wonderful statement about “the choices we make.” Knowing that we were eating a restaurant run by a group with a “passion for health, great taste, and the wellbeing of the people, the animals and the planet we share,” let us know we were in for a great dining experience.
While we perused the menu, I ordered a Watermelon Faux-Ito from the extensive drink menu which has a wide selection of vegan wines, cocktails, beer and mocktails. The Faux-Ito is a mixture of watermelon juice, lime and mint; the perfect refresher for a hot summer day. The lime juice added a nice brightness to contrast the sweet watermelon juice.
We started our meal with Smoked “Goat Cheese” Flatbread, Buffalo Bites and Sage’s Famous Artichoke Spinach Dip. I was leary of the Flatbread as I am not a fan of the taste of goat cheese, vegan or not. I was pleasantly surprised that this cashew based cheese lacked the pungent tang I was anticipating. The cheese has a lovely smokey taste and a crumbly texture that pairs beautifully with the sweet caramelized onions and peppery arugula. The Buffalo Bites are battered and baked cauliflower florets tossed in a spicy buffalo sauce and served with celery and dill ranch dressing. That these are baked and not fried is a nice twist from other versions of buffalo cauliflower and makes them much less oily. The buffalo sauce is very spicy, but the dill ranch dressing helps temper the heat. The artichoke comes in a large “boat” surrounded by warm, toasted crustini (you can order this gluten free). The dip is served warm and is filled with large pieces of artichoke, unlike most other versions of this dip with fincely diced artichoke. The large pieces give a great mouthfeel to the dish. This dip is delicious, but it is a little on the oily side because of the melted Daiya shreds on top.
For the main course we had the Sabrosa Bowl, the Old Bay Hearts of Palm Salad and the “Chicken” Avocado Club. Each was delightful in its own way. The Sabrosa Bowl contained chili-roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, and tomatoes served over brown rice and stewed black beans. The bowl is a wonderful mixture of flavors and textures. The bowl comes with a chipotle aioli that Ethan had on the side as it contains cilantro. However, even though he is very cilantro adverse, he did not find the cilantro at all overpowering. The salad is a large serving of baby spinach, hearts of palm, capers, roasted cashews, tomatoes and broccoli tossed in a Old Bay-tomato vinaigrette. This salad leaves you completely sated without feeling bloated. The flavors are bold and the textures are a wonderful blend of soft and firm. The sandwich is an exciting version of a chicken club sandwich. The chicken here is a panko crusted Gardein cutlet, with avocado, lettuce, tomato, coconut bacon and Just Mayo on toasted wheat bread. This sandwich is big! You need to really open wide to eat it, but it is worth the effort. The sandwich comes with a generous side of creamy potato salad.
Even though we were stuffed, we “forced” ourselves to get dessert. I love when there are too many desserts I want to try on menu. It lets me feel like I have a real choice rather than just seeing one thing that jumps out at me. While I wanted to try all the desserts, we settled on three: Carrot Cake, Sin Tres Leches and Chocolate Lava Cake. The Carrot Cake was perfectly spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon and topped with a rich cream cheese frosting that had just the right amount of sweet: not too little as to be tasteless, but not too much to be overpowering. The Chocolate Lava Cake comes topped with you choice of either soy or coconut based vanilla ice cream. The cake is rich with a deep chocolate flavor. Mine was a little bit overcooked, so the center wasn’t runny, but that didn’t interfere with the taste. My father-in-law’s had the right runny texture and he loved it. Although both cakes were incredible, the star dessert was the Sin Tres Leches, a moist vanilla cake soaked in Sage’s three “milk” blend and topped with strawberry sauce. This was the best Tres Leches I’ve ever had, vegan or otherwise.
I am both happy and sad that we live so far from Great Sage. I would put this restaurant up against any of the big name vegan restaurants in New York or Los Angeles. Rather than doing eclectic combinations, executive chef Adam Pierce focuses on simple foods done amazingly well. The menu at Great Sage changes seasonally, with some new items being added and some items being removed. The Sin Tres Leches was just added for this summer. We will definitely have to return every few months to try out Chef Adam’s latest creations, and work our way through the rest of the menu. If you find yourself in the Washington DC area, it is worth the trip out to Clarksville, Maryland to treat yourself to an amazing meal at Great Sage.
5809 Clarksville Square Drive
Clarksville, MD 21029