Locals don’t have to go too far back in time to remember just how challenging it was to find restaurants that offered a variety of healthy options, let alone cater to them. In 2020, we have dozens of dining establishments that give health-conscious meals ranging from Carmo, 1,000 Figs, City Greens, Sneaky Pickle, Green Goddess, and the impressive True Food Kitchen, which opened a grand scale operation on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Julia Street in late September 2019. True Food Kitchen is located in The Julia, a $25 million dollar mixed-use development next to Bonci Pizza. The brand was created in Phoenix, AZ in 2008 by restaurateur Sam Fox and Dr. Andrew Weil with a menu developed in accordance with Weil’s “anti-inflammatory food pyramid.” In 2018 Oprah Winfrey became an investor and True Food Kitchen expanded to two dozen locations with plans to double that number in the next few years. Their philosophy is “Food should make you feel better, not worse, and that great tasting food can serve as the foundation for a life well-lived.”
The New Orleans location of True Food Kitchen is a welcoming environment enhanced by the natural light in the dining room from floor-to-ceiling glass panels, and brightly-colored modern furnishings adorned by plants. Right off the bat, diners are offered an array of lo-cal healthy beverages such as Dr. Weil’s Wellness Shot made from sea buckthorn, pomegranate and ginger; and the ever-popular O.G. made with ginger, lime and honey, with a splash of sparkling water. This approach continues with the craft cocktail program with items such as the Citrus Skinny Margarita and Passion Colada—a classic Piña Colada spiked with passion fruit juice. Other options include local rotating seasonal beers, ciders, and a streamlined wine selection of just over 30 wines. True Food Kitchen also provides an 11-point nutritional chart online for every item on the menu, which are also classified as either vegan, vegetarian, gluten-friendly or as a seasonal highlight.
Starters begin with a savory, hearty butternut squash soup and move on to kale guacamole, an herb-infused hummus, or edamame dumplings served in a dashi broth enhanced with seasonal Asian herbs and a drizzle of truffle oil that ups the umami flavor profile. Charred cauliflower is garnished with deeply flavorful harissa tahini, Medjool dates, pistachios, mint and dill. Brussels sprouts are roasted with mushrooms and coated in a miso/sesame dressing spiked with chili. Another hit was the roasted beet and goat cheese flatbreads served with fresh arugula, and cilantro-spiked pumpkin seed pesto.
Salads are substantial and range from a simple organic Tuscan kale salad with lemon, garlic, and grated Grana Padano cheese, to their chopped salad with jicama, apples, Marcona almonds, dried cranberries, Medjool dates with faro and Manchego cheese, drizzled with champagne vinaigrette.
Pizzas include a classic Margherita with crushed organic tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, and a tomato and arugula served with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon. The savory chicken sausage pizza has roasted fennel slices, crushed organic tomatoes, and smoked Gouda cheese. The butternut squash pizza was the most exotic, combining sweet caramelized onions, roasted garlic, kale, vegan almond ricotta, dried cranberries, and sage—delicious flavors of the season.
The bowl selections are a kind of build-your-meal situation with options such as Korean noodles; another featuring Panang curry with coconut milk and Thai basil, or you can go with ancient grains or perhaps teriyaki quinoa, or even cauliflower polenta with the option of adding tofu, grass-fed steak, shrimp, or salmon.
True Food Kitchen also serves four different burgers: grass-fed burger on a flaxseed bun, a Middle Eastern-inspired quinoa burger, a beet burger with avocado and jicama slaw, and a turkey burger with Gouda cheese, avocado, and jalapeño remoulade. There’s also a chicken and avocado wrap loaded with hummus, mozzarella, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
A full range of entrees includes either fish or steak tacos with coconut lime crema, grilled salmon with caramelized onion farrow, and a pumpkin seed pesto, as well as Thai coconut sea bass with coconut turmeric broth, bok choy, green beans, rainbow carrots, and quinoa brown rice—a tour de force. The ever-popular poke bowl is served with wild-caught albacore tuna, quinoa rice, mushrooms, snow peas, cucumber, cashews, ginger, and dressed with a turmeric ponzu. Mediterranean chicken is served with quinoa, organic tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, olives, Peppadews, green beans, feta cheese, flavored with zesty oregano vinaigrette. There’s also hearty lasagna Bolognese with fennel chicken sausage, mushroom, organic spinach, lemon ricotta, herbs as well as a spaghetti squash casserole with tomato, caramelized onion, zucchini, and fresh mozzarella.
Service at True Food Kitchen is well-paced, and the servers clad in t-shirts with words like “Authentic” and “True” are helpful in fielding questions and navigating the menu. With New Year’s resolutions upon us, True Food Kitchen is highly recommended dining consideration and judging from the enthusiastic support they have received locally, it’s abundantly clear that local diners dig this place.
801 Saint Charles Avenue, (504) 558-3900, Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.