By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The meal options are wholesome, the “sauce bar” is inviting, and many of the customers appear hale and hearty.
Welcome of Elva’s Bowls & Wraps, a basic continuation of what used to be Crazy Bowls & Wraps before Marvin Fleschman and his wife, Elva Rodriguez, purchased the business nearly a year ago as “a hobby” to augment their retirement. He was in real estate and she catered banquets for hotels and country clubs in Los Angeles.
“I bought what the former owner created,” said Fleschman, referring to a string of healthy fast-casual eateries the unnamed restaurateur ran before closing his San Diego locations and moving to the Midwest.
Fleschman kept alive only the Mission Valley space and Rodriguez became something of a frontline ambassador to the re-branded business, per her headshots seen on the website and inside the restaurant, and “Elva” used in the new identity.
“I always wanted my name in lights,” she quipped, while pointing out her banana-nut bread with raisins that she added to the menu. Also new are a few breakfast items, plus strawberry, watermelon and pear salads, year-round soups, and Halabah, which are semi-sweet Jewish candy bars made of crushed sesame seeds. They’re rich and tasty and jive to the eatery’s creed of healthy eating.
Otherwise, the offerings of fresh produce, sustainable proteins and healthy grains used in the construction of numerous types of meal bowls and sandwich wraps remain intact.
Customers can create their own by picking and choosing from the long list of ingredients. Or they can order from an established repertoire of bowls and wraps as we did, although you’re still faced with decisions.
From the “power bowls” category we opted for “the fajita” comprising a garden’s worth of veggies along with cheddar, jalapeno-cilantro sauce and fresh lime. We were tasked, however, with choosing a size (small over large), a grain (noodles instead of quinoa or brown or jasmine rice) and a protein (beef tenderloin instead of wild-caught salmon, hormone-free chicken breast or tofu).
The gamble we took mixing long noodles into a fajita concept turned out surprisingly well. They were a tasty magnet for the earthy juices exuded by all of the grilled veggies, not to mention the beefy juices that originated from the tenderloin.
For the Thai wrap, which includes peanut sauce and commendably spicy coleslaw, we chose a tomato tortilla, quinoa and the salmon. We also decided to have the entire wrap lightly grilled, an option that staffers at the order counter rightfully recommended.
The flavors were clean and invigorating. And psychologically, we cherished the notion of all nine essential amino acids rushing through our bodies from the quinoa along with beneficial omega-3 fat provided by the generous measures of flaky salmon.
(Bring on that mischievous banana bread!)
Another wrap, the Mediterranean, was a little saltier than I preferred due to feta cheese and briny kalamata olives acting in concert. For that, we chose a wheat tortilla, no grains, and grilled chicken.
Tzatziki sauce came inside the wrap, but it was plain-tasting. So, I drizzled into the fold some of the sun-dried tomato ranch dressing that accompanied a lively, colorful Santa Fe salad we previously ordered.
From the complimentary sauce bar, you can jazz up your food or house-made tortilla chips with condiments such as Asian hiyashi, creamy Buffalo sauce, pico de gallo and jalapeno-cilantro salsa. There’s also fresh ginger, mint and oranges, plus velvety hummus, which cried for a little garlic or tahini on this particular day.
Elva’s Bowls & Wraps will celebrate its one-year anniversary on Dec. 19 with soda fountain drinks of any size or flavor available for 50 cents each all day. Yes, sugar sneaks into the place in more ways than one, but nobody’s pointing fingers if you partake.
— Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.