If you are big fan of the Candle Cafe's younger sister restaurant, Candle 79, you might be disappointed in Candle Cafe which, ironically, has the benefit of several years more experience than the 79th Street branch. Although the food is similar, the atmosphere is not, so the prices, which also are almost the same, seem uncalled for. At night, the restaurant is dark. Not atmospherically, so, although that might have been the goal, but dark to the point where reading the menu requires alternate use of the votive candle if you are not dining alone.
Unfortunately, the restaurant during the day is still not very comfortable. The tunnel-like space is poorly lit in the back, tables are set very close, and placed near the windows at the front of the restaurant, a table for four seems to have been an afterthought, or someone's poor idea to increase profits. The table is located near the noise of the very active smoothie bar, so conversation is difficult, and it is right next to where a crowd gathers to wait to be seated. Certainly the worst seats in the house!
The food is mostly vegan and organic, but there is a specifically gluten-free menu, which is considerate (except that desserts are not included there). The red quinoa salad, with greens, black beans, corn kernels and roasted pepitas, served with a cumin vinaigrette is excellent, but at $15, and in an informal setting such as this, it should be closer to the size of a main dish salad than the side salad it appears to be. The Paradise Casserole, composed of sweet potatoes, black beans, millet, steamed greens and gravy, though also not a particularly generous serving, is more filling. One unqualified recommendation: the artisanal ginger soda, which is not overly sweet and is deliciously spicy.
The food in the Candle Cafe cookbook is inventive. Dining at Candle 79 can be memorable. The owners really know how to make attractive, delicious healthy food. Candle Cafe is just not the setting in which to appreciate it.