The start of the New Year has many of us thinking about changes to make in January and healthier eating is often a top New Year’s resolution. Dining out may not be the obvious choice for healthy eating, but many restaurants are working to change this assumption. In a society where eating outside the home has become the norm, healthier options at restaurants and cafes are needed. Thankfully, establishments in the Northern Wilds are recognizing this need and opportunity, offering delicious plant-based menus and other options that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. And don’t forget, eating healthier doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste or the enjoyment of eating out, as a visit to one of these eateries will confirm.
A family-owned business in Nipigon is serving up healthy fare with a side of community building. Caitlin Brown, and her husband, Daniel Howells, started the business in 2014 selling soups and bread weekly and doing catering, which transformed into La Luna Café in August 2015. “Our vision is to inspire community gatherings with wholesome, delicious food and beverages, as well as provide a welcoming space for the sharing of stories, culture, and traditions,” said Brown.
They continue to grow the business, offering a from-scratch menu and incorporating fresh vegetables whenever possible, with items like the roasted chicken wrap, roasted veggie sandwich, and a veggie-laden rice bowl. Even the “less healthy” menu items at La Luna are more nutritious, being made with high-quality, fresh ingredients. La Luna’s menu includes options for vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters, with local, organic, and homegrown produce used when possible.
“Our lifestyle and focus on healthy living definitely impacts our menu and business. Many of our specials are inspired from meals we try making for our family or by the produce we buy from Sleepy G Farm,” said Brown.
This organic farm is not just a source of fresh produce for the café; this year they plan to include La Luna soup and fresh baked bread in their CSA shares. The community connections also extend to the café space, where a variety of events are held, from open mic to knitting groups to board game nights. In the New Year, La Luna plans to add more live music, cooking classes, and Caring Café, an evening event put on by Hospice Northwest Services. A downstairs yoga/wellness space, called Soleil, is also planned to open this year, with renovations starting in January.
Family is part of the inspiration, with their almost two-year-old daughter, Rose, a regular at the café and a happy taste tester. “To us, health is the balance of eating healthy (lots of veggies), being active, and finding a peaceful mind (at least for a few minutes of the day),” said Brown. As a mom, I appreciate Brown’s New Year’s resolution of “eating more plants, especially greens [as] I am trying to be a good role model for my daughter.”
La Luna Café (46 Front Street, Nipigon) is open Tuesday through Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and pizza is available for take-out or delivery until 8 p.m. The Café will be closed starting Christmas Eve, reopening in February.
In 2019, Morgan Zimmer will be taking the reins of Bonobo’s Foods in Thunder Bay, continuing the legacy of this plant-based restaurant and store, known for its veggie burgers. A plant-based diet is growing in popularity, for its health and environmental benefits among others, and Bonobo’s has been ahead of the trend, operating since 2010.
“Our goal and mission as a business is to not only continue to provide the vegans and vegetarians with hearty, wholesome foods, but to reach out to the community as a whole and show them how healthy, meat-free meals can be loaded with amazing flavours and keep you full longer,” said Zimmer. More than a few customers, and sets of taste buds, have been won over by their menu. Bonobo’s also offers vegetarian and vegan groceries available for purchase, for those looking to experiment at home with a plant-based diet, whether for a meal a week or full-time.
The business was originally started by Tony and Sacha Vande Weghe, a local couple with a passion for environmentally-friendly living, animal rights, and delicious food. Zimmer and her team are well positioned to continue this mission. “Health to us means adapting a clean and happy lifestyle, creating no harm to any living being. We are guided by the simple Buddhist philosophy of kindness to all living things. For a lot of us, the most suffering we cause as we go through life is when we decide what to eat,” said Zimmer. No matter your philosophy or background, we can all agree on delicious, healthful food being a good thing in our lives. Bonobo’s Foods takes veggie burgers, salads, and other plant-based meals and will cater them to your diet (vegan, gluten-free, and other food sensitivities) and preferences.
Bonobo’s Foods (493A Oliver Road, Thunder Bay) is open Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The business is closed over the holidays, but reopens January 8.
The Juice Pharm is serving up nutrient-dense, plant-based juices, smoothies, and other meals to bring healthier eating options to Duluth, while not losing out on flavor. “Our drinks are an easy way to get your fruits and veggie servings in a 16 oz cup and enjoy it,” said co-owner, Desiree Jenkins. In 2018, The Juice Pharm expanded with a second location in Downtown Duluth. This year, expect another big announcement from The Juice Pharm, as well as New Year specials to help their customers kickstart a healthy 2019, shared co-owners Jenkins and Giselle Hernandez.
“We take our favorite global foods and treats and turn them into a healthy, nutrient-dense meal,” said Hernandez. Many are surprised to hear that the menu is more than drinkable meals, with acai bowls and rotating menu options such as bibimbop/Korean tacos and Bahn Mi/Vietnamese sandwiches.
For the owners of The Juice Pharm, health is mental and physical well-being, and doing what works for you. They work to make sure they can meet the needs of their customers, including those with allergies, strict diets, etc., knowing that it is vital to stay healthy. “We have the friendliest staff, so if you are new to the Juice Pharm, please ask us about our favorite smoothies, juices, and meals,” said Jenkins.
For a 2019 New Year’s resolution, The Juice Pharm shared that they would like “to be more involved in the community, work with more local farmers, and continue to work towards going 100 percent organic.” The Juice Pharm has two locations in Duluth. The Eastside location (12 South 15th Avenue East) is open Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The downtown location (in the Skywalk, 31 West Superior Street) is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Happy 2019! May it be a healthy and happy year, filled with delicious food.