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Urban teahouse is steeped in eco-attitude

When I first walked into the funkified air of this teahouse commune more than a year ago, my immediate thought was, I probably shouldn’t have worn this wifebeater emblazoned with Chuck Heston pointing a Remington semi-automatic at a group of bunnies.

Of course I’m kidding. In truth, I thought this joint was so cool, and so diverse, that my sincere hope was that it wouldn’t succumb to the fickle vagaries of resto-economics. Now, more than a year after its March 2006 opening, Dandelion has blossomed along a decaying tract of urban wasteland, attracting a broad cross-section of society, from tea-totaling nonconformists to closet neo-con herbivores and everyone in between. A Mother-Earthy, bohemian vibe infuses the main room, with thrift-store furnishings and a curtained ceiling in all its Good Morning Starshine glory adding additional flavor.

Co-op America recently recognized Dandelion’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility by bestowing the café with its “Green” certification, one of only two eateries in the Sunshine State (Pizza Fusion in Fort Lauderdale is the other) stamped with the coveted seal of approval. So you can feel good about what you ingest knowing that owners Julie Norris and Chris Blanc source local, organic, eco-friendly and fair-trade products when they can, consciously conducting business with sustainability in mind.

And I felt pretty good after a cup of the hearty chili ($3). The all-vegetarian mélange of kidney beans, tomatoes, red peppers, corn, onions and crumbled tofu is sure to gratify even the most ravenous of carnivores. Spend the extra buck and top it off with organic or vegan cheddar.

Hummus ($6) is essential vegetarian fare, and I particularly enjoyed the creamy, hemp-seeded version served here, accompanied with super-crunchy crackers.

Regrettably, their “just dandy” salad with seasonal edible flowers is no longer offered (too difficult to get the flowers, I was told), so I perused the menu and came across an item that may or may not have been named after an underground flick starring Jack Lord and George Takei. Yes, the Polynesian banana fantasy ($8.50) was a definite mouth-pleaser, with carrots, celery, cukes and walnuts tossed with field greens, layered with bananas, topped with coconut flakes and raisins, then drizzled with a curry dressing. Along with a mug of hot Satori Ceylon tea ($3) sweetened with agave nectar, it was the perfect pre-noon pick-me-up.

There are more than 30 organic loose-leaf teas – green, herbal, red, black, white and oolong – offered, each with its own unique scent, taste and cutesy name like Oh My Dar-jee-ling, Morockin’ Mint, Jasmine Haze and the like. In addition, health-enhancing elixir tonics, concocted according to principles of traditional Chinese medicine, are designed to address such human conditions as crapulence, virility and dumb-assedness with their mix of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and plant nutrients.

Honeybush red tea ($3) is a smooth and mellow dessert beverage, but sipping it with the fluffernutter sandwich ($7.50) – toasted wheat bread smeared with almond butter, ricemellow fluff and bananas – is too sweet a proposition.

Considering the communal mindset Norris et. al. instill in their staff and patrons, it’s not surprising that diners are encouraged to place their dirty dishes inside a bin when they’re done. Dandelion, after all, is more than just a place to enjoy a spot of tea; it’s a place to partake, pitch in and percolate along with members of a socially conscious “communitea.”
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