Great Sage in Clarksville

The roasted vegetable wrap, in an organic tortilla, is warm and filling.
The roasted vegetable wrap, in an organic tortilla, is warm and filling. (By Leah L. Jones For The Washington Post)
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Don't go grocery shopping while you're hungry, the saying goes; excessive behaviors may ensue. If you happen to be in Howard County's "Conscious Corner," however, healthful takeout options are a few steps away, at this casual vegetarian restaurant opened by the organic Roots Market owners four years ago.

"We always wanted to have a kitchen to make prepared foods," says Roots co-owner Holly Kaufman. But there wasn't enough space in the market that she, husband Jeff and friend Jody Cutler started in 2000.

With definite ideas about what they wanted to serve -- salads, wraps, entrees with ethnic influences, all clearly marked as vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and/or peanut-free -- they set up Great Sage. It has tables inside and out, seats at the bar and rocking chairs that hug the storefront window. Its takeout business is heaviest at dinnertime, when an order takes 10 to 15 minutes to prepare.

The owners have two other shops in the same retail corner, creating their self-titled "conscious" hub of organic food, home furnishings, clothing and pet products.

If you sit and wait for Great Sage takeout, do so with a Black Beauty smoothie in hand. The generous mixture of blended blueberries, blackberries, grape juice and soy vanilla yogurt ($5) is an antioxidant elixir that goes down easy, as long as you don't mind its small seeds.

Expect good things from the salads that change with the seasons, packed to go in recyclable containers. Spring's strawberry salad ($6 as a side, $9 for a large) features field greens dressed with soft, thin slices of the fruit, asparagus, red onion, natural almonds and a subtle vinaigrette balanced with Dijon-style mustard and strawberry preserves.

The double-decker club sandwich ($9, with potato chips) is hearty enough for a carnivore, with slices of vegan turkey (tofurkey), vegan bacon, lettuce and tomato on toasted wheat bread. For an extra buck, the vegetable of the day can accompany the popular roasted vegetable wrap and portobello Caesar wrap (both $9, in organic flour tortillas). Last week, that was sugar snap peas lightly sauteed in olive oil.

The hungriest shoppers will appreciate Great Sage's black bean burger, an almost meaty combination made in-house with organic beans, corn, quinoa, onion, garlic, lime juice and spices. It is served on a multigrain bun with corn tortilla chips and a slightly oily fresh salsa ($10 at lunch; $13 at dinner, served with a creamy coleslaw).

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

Great Sage, 5809 Clarksville Square Dr., Clarksville, 443-535-9400, Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Between 3 and 5 p.m., menu selection is limited. Sundays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., with brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company