"Help yourself to all you care to eat," said the sweet-voiced gray-haired woman, putting down another pan of food and wiping her hands on her old-fashioned apron. She smiled encouragingly and allowed as how the bean casserole was very good with the rice. Then she scurried back to the kitchen to bring out some more of the dairy-free olive cheese.
Country Life, 888 S. Figueroa St., downtown (213) 489-4118, is a very strange restaurant. Located in the basement next to Nautilus Plus, it looks at first like a thoroughly '80s health-food joint. It has that clean, healthy smell and those clean scrubbed looks. But the people who run it look like they have just come from a church supper, and the food looks like a throwback to the hippie '60s. Lentil casseroles, Scotch broth, rice and beans and fruit salads abound. The drinks are juices, the vegetables are steamed, the breads are made of whole grains, and the spreads are nuts and honey and the like. It is all very, very Good for You.
It is also very, very reasonable. Right now two people can help themselves to all they can eat for $4.99. For both of them. They can even go back for seconds. The salad bar is beautiful, the food is fresh, and although I tend to be suspicious of food that lacks meat, salt, dairy products and cholesterol, I have to admit that everything I ate tasted pretty good.