The Beets: Healeo, 1520 15th Ave, 453-5066. Vegan and vegetarian cafe fare, raw foods, juice bar, vegan soft serve, and nutritional supplements.
Healeo's vegan hemp milk soft-serve--never had it, but apparently it's delicious!
The Deets: A friendly face I met at this event told me the vegan soft serve and yam and kale pizza at Healeo makes great take out and is not to be missed. Admittedly, I needed a reason to step inside. Curbside, Healeo's always looked cold and vacuous, and the mid-century modern all-white tables and chairs it once harbored (it's since had a face lift incorporating wood furniture, and now looks and feels warmer), in addition to meticulously organized vitamin and supplement shelving made it look more sterile than a hospital laboratory. And vegan hemp soft serve? I may be vegetarian, but nothing about those four words strung together sounds appealing in the slightest.
Yet when I entered yesterday, Steely Dan streaming on the radio, sun streaming through the windows, and glowing Yelp reviews streaming from the net--in addition to our own Rose Tosti's--my thinking began to shift.
The space has a casual, friendly vibe, with folks quietly mingling in groups at tables and single patrons immersed in work or a book. It was very, very clean, and two cashiers/baristas/juice makers handled a steady crowd. Menus are posted digitally on few screens above the juice bar (menu note: there are no online menus to peruse beforehand, or take out menus to grab as you leave). Counter service was friendly and as I waited for my order (to go, as suggested) my smoothie maker chatted affably with a regular sitting nearby. What was I afraid of?
The Eats: Made with maca, coconut milk, cacao, cocoa nibs, mesquite, dates, and agave, the Cacao Pow smoothie tasted like a healthy chocolate shake and was slightly nutty. After a long walk up Madison, it was refreshing and ultimately, quite filling. In fact, you could have that for dinner alone--one can only imagine the calorie count with so many nutrient loaded ingredients packed into such a drink. But I carried on with the gluten free yam, kale, and caramelized onion pizza--and sweet mama, my new friend was dead on.
Regrettably, us gluten-loving vegetarians encounter more and more vegetable-based foods bowing to the much hyped food sensitivity, so I was not expecting the punch of savory flavor and great texture this humble pie delivered. Piled on an herb-infused corn and rice crust, a palatable nut "cheese" provided the base, slathered with caramelized onions, and topped with crispy kale, luscious diced yams, and a fabulous soy reduction. Unexpectedly, it was a tad greasy, but this flavor-loving veggie is not complaining.
While I was too stuffed to sample the soft serve, my drink doubled as a pre- and post-meal course. As I gorged away on kale and yams, my cacao concoction melted a bit and was too temptingly chocolatey not to doctor with Baileys for desert. As they say: baby steps.
The Tweet: Healeo looks and walks healthy, but don't be scared: it's good, and good for you.