Insider's Guide to LA from Cafe Gratitude


Photos by Ragan Wallake


To share a muffin and cup of coffee with Ryland Engelhart of Cafe Gratitude is to have a transformative experience. Promise–I’m not exaggerating. I left our meeting with a lighter heart, a clearer perspective, thoughts to mull over in my head, random acts of kindness to bestow unto unsuspecting strangers and an elevation of spirit. Too airy-fairy for you? I actually can’t wait to go back.


Engelhart is one of a kind–a true embodiment of his word and vision, which is “gratitude.” He spends a lot of time finding ways to give back to us, and the innovative LA eatery is just the start.  As “CIO” or Chief Inspiration Officer (an internally coined term to better fit his actual mission), his role is keeping the culture and environment of the business a sacred space for the community to gather and practice becoming better–more compassionate, more understanding, and more open to this way of living.

 “As a school of transformation, we are working to run a restaurant but were also processing while we do it,” he says. “Can we remain present and grateful so that those values spill over and touch the lives of our customers and guests, so that they feel moved, inspired and then motivated to be that precedes
for the people they come into contact with in their own lives?” 

It’s a family business that began when Engelhart was a kid growing up San Francisco with his self-described –'super hippy’ family. If it’s any indication exactly how hippy his parents were, they spent an entire year developing a board game for the family, titled “The Abounding River Board Game.” It was a transformational board game meant to bring family and friends together and offer the invitation and framework to have conversations they otherwise would probably never have with one another, the dialogue that may only come up at the end of someone’s life, a funeral or a catastrophe. It gives you the framework to practice forgiveness, and allows you to look for opportunities. 

“Let’s play,” I suggest.

“Who is someone in your life whom you're unable to forgive?” asks Engelhart. “Now, observe that person and relationship and see if you can recognize one thing they have contributed to your life that you can be grateful for.”

Minutes pass. “How’d that go?” he says.
(My list became surprisingly long – an awakening in itself).

The game itself was inevitably the business model for Cafe Gratitude and they continue to run on its principals to this day. “It was designed to be dropped into a community or environment and hopefully it’s emanation is one that inspires people to remember to be happy, kind and in the moment,” says Engelhart.

More than a vegan cafe, celebrity hot spot and neighborhood hipster hang out, it’s a business you want to spend your money at and you feel good about doing it. You want a piece of the “vibe”, and the bonus is you keep coming back and notice you’re a bit more spiritually elevated with each visit. 

Speed Round with Ryland

Moonlight or Candlelight?

Lux Travel or Adventure Travel?

Fresh Water or Salt Water?

Fav Kitchen Tool?
A good knife. and ginger.

Birks or Crocs?

Roadtrip or Staycation?

Single or Double?
Single. Temperance.

Hardcover or Paperback?

Fav LA Hidden Destination? 
It’s so hidden I forgot the name of it…. Ah yeah, ELF.

Ryland Engelhart’s Los Angeles Insider’s Guide

  • Favorite place to see music
    Agape Spiritual Center - International Choir 
  • Favorite view of LA
    My Uncle Jeff's House off Oporto Drive, Hollywood Hills
  • Favorite shopping haunt
    Rose Bowl Flea Market, Pasadena  

Ragan Wallake is a foodie, blogger, photographer and contributor to the Kind Traveler Blog. Sample her recipes and zest for life at Beauty in the Bite