Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunflower Café: Not Your Grandma's Cafeteria

Sometimes I get fixated on something and have a really difficult time moving on. My current obsession is with Berry Hill's newest eatery, Sunflower Café (2834 Azalea Place, right behind the Yellow Porch). My inaugural visit(s) happened just last week, where I was invited to meet with an associate who knows co-owners Laura Yazdian and Gabrielle Mittelstaedt (also the head chef). The Sunflower Café menu features "natural whole foods with a variety of options including vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free, and dairy free selections."

The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the bright, sunniness of the entire restaurant. Offering a lively, yet calming vibe, the white walls adorned with large photos of flowers and produce serve as a great background for the vibrant colors of the healthy, REAL food they serve. Head chef Gabrielle (instrumental in bringing CSAs to Nashville and formally a co-owner of the restaurant, Peaceful Planet) believes in Hippocrates' philosophy, "Let food be thy medicine" and it is evident here with the abundance of fresh, healthy food that is vibrant and tasty.

Menu offerings are served cafeteria-style, but don't be mistaken: this is not your run-of-the-mill cafeteria! Savory curried chickpeas, beautiful roasted vegetables, comforting soups and gorgeous salads featuring fresh, local ingredients are freshly prepared and on display behind the glass in this establishment.

My first meal there consisted of a huge bowl of red lentil soup (it was the "soup of the day") and a side of sesame-dressed steamed mixed greens. The soup was super-flavorful without being overwhelmingly spicy, and was the perfect warm-up after a chilly morning. My greens were perfect - not too tough, not at all soggy. The meal was capped off with a taste of their version of chocolate rice-krispie treats — not too sweet, not too sticky, but crisp, chocolately and satisfying.

A few days later I returned and brought two other diners. We all ended up with the Chef's Special: Gluten-Free Vegetarian Lasagna, served with a side of roasted vegetables, a cabbage salad AND some kale salad (that I have dreamed about several times since). It was a great mix of beautiful colors, satisfying textures and well-balanced flavors.

Currently, Sunflower Café is only open for lunch (from 11:00 am - 2:30 pm) Monday through Saturday, but I am eagerly awaiting their expansion into the evening hours (which is rumored to be on the horizon). Soups and side dishes start at $3, while prices for meals run between $8-$12 - a GREAT deal for fresh, healthy, well-prepared food. A kids' menu is also available. They have a decent-sized enclosed outdoor eating area, as well as the bright and sunny dining room. Parking is in the rear of the building, where you will also see raised beds of swiss chard, kale and other cold crop greens.

Elly Haddad (Elemental Fit) is a certified holistic health coach specializing in workplace wellness and individual health coaching during times of transition.

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