Best Raw Food Restaurants
Raw food, also known as living food, is a growing trend. The term raw is defined as ingredients that are stored, prepared, and served at temperatures lower than 118º F. This preserves their natural enzymes, which are used in digestion. Ingredients such as wheat, dairy and refined sugar are omitted in raw food preparation, although it’s not all necessarily vegetarian or vegan.
What raw chefs do use are organic and seasonal vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. Those may not sound especially tasty, but you’d be surprised at how innovative and downright delicious these dishes can be—proving that you don’t need a flame for flavor (most raw food is prepared with blenders and dehydrators). The benefits are plentiful: more energy, weight loss and fortification of your body’s natural defenses. Plus, you’re not eating harmful pesticides, chemicals or preservatives. Naturally, the raw food movement has its skeptics. But if you’re already a fan or you just want to give it a try—especially if you’re dining with health-conscious clients—consider the following restaurants.
Pure Food and Wine
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
54 Irving Place, 212-477-1010, purefoodandwine.com
Co-owner and executive chef Sarma Melngailis has long been attracted to raw food preparation, and she put that passion to good use by opening this stylish raw food and vegan eatery in the Gramercy Park area. The restaurant, with its peaceful outdoor patio, was an instant hit—celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow have eaten here. Melngailis has also written a bestselling cookbook, Raw Foods, Real World. Diners can expect items like rosemary-infused butternut squash soup, chanterelle mushroom–and–kalamata olive ravioli, and a white-corn tamale with cacao mole. (Be sure to order the delicious Thai lettuce wraps with tamarind dipping sauce as an appetizer.) There’s also an organic/biodynamic wine list and a takeaway section with salads, smoothies and desserts.
69 Prince Street, 857-362-7288, grezzorestaurant.com
Located in the heart of the North End, Boston’s bustling Italian quarter—home to heaping plates of pasta and rich dishes like osso buco and veal marsala—is Grezzo, a raw, organic, vegan restaurant opened last year by Alissa Cohen, a leading name in the raw food world. The small restaurant (grezzo means “raw” or “rough” in Italian) with copper-topped tables and rustic accents more than holds its own against its neighbors. The weekly-changing menu might include dishes like the pepper trio, with baby bell peppers filled with miso, habañero and curry “cheeses” (the cheese sauce is actually nut-cream sauce), sliders (sunflower seed, carrot, and cashew patties) and coconut curried spring rolls.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
2400 Harrison Street, 415-830-3014, cafegratitude.com
There are five branches of this raw food restaurant in the Bay Area (in Berkeley, San Rafael, Healdsburg, and two locations in San Francisco). The funky restaurant chain is the brainchild of Terces and Matthew Engelhart, who got into raw cooking by visiting an organic farm in Maui and made the decision to eat raw for a month. They loved the results and decided to open a place of their own. Their menu is full of fruit juices and elixirs (the carrot-ginger-lemon combo is a favorite), pizzas like one made from buckwheat–sunflower seed sourdough flatbread and topped with sundried tomatoes, olive tapenade and basil, lasagna made of zucchini noodles layered with cashew ricotta, tomatoes and hemp-seed pesto, and desserts like nut-milk ice cream.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
1521 Griffith Park Boulevard, 323-667-1551, crusilverlake.com
Located in Silver Lake, a bohemian enclave east of Hollywood, Cru is a vegan raw food restaurant. Executive chef Rachel Carr takes her inspiration from numerous global cuisines, including Thai, Indian, Japanese and Tunisian. Start out with antipasti of seeded tapenade and herbed cashew cheese or a radish-wrapped spring roll, followed by entrées like ravioli (made with jicama) and sweet red curry served over “rice” made from coconut flesh and lime, or pad Thai with kelp noodles, cilantro, lime and cashews—and don’t miss the chocolate truffle cake for dessert. For those who want to learn how to prepare their own raw food dishes, the restaurant offers cooking classes on Saturday mornings.
1901 North Halsted Street, 312-255-1590, karynraw.com
Centrally located in the trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood is Karyn’s Raw, started by raw food connoisseur Karyn Calabrese (who has appeared on Oprah). The space includes a fine dining restaurant, a casual café with juices, soups and sandwiches, and a holistic day spa where you can sign up for yoga classes and detox treatments. In the restaurant, sample appetizers like sea dim sum, stuffed mushrooms and hemp-seed salad; main courses like polenta topped with marinated shitake mushrooms, rosemary and smoke-flavored tomato sauce; and the signature tiramisu for dessert. The casual café has plenty of delicious smoothies—try the Smooth Move, with coconut water, nut milk, banana, flaxseed and vanilla.
Here are a few other restaurants that offer raw cuisine.
Chaco Canyon Café
4757 12th Ave. NE, 206-522-6966, chacocanyoncafe.com
Located in the University District, this popular spot serves organic vegetarian food with raw food items like the spinach salad, basil-pesto pizza and a bowl of shredded zucchini with ginger-sesame sauce.
2409 Lyndale Ave., 612-874-7336, ecopolitan.com
As you sip a glass of organic wine from Minnesota’s largest selection, nosh on uncooked fare that includes a hummus platter with flaxseed crackers, and zucchini “noodles” topped with macadamia-cashew sauce, bell peppers and pine nuts.
Go Raw Cafe
2910 Lake East Dr., 702-254-5382, gorawcafe.com
Although Sin City is the land of excess, you can get back to food in its purest form at this café. Choose from a wide range of healthy items, including cream of carrot and avocado soup and an all-vegetable lasagna.
Juliano’s Raw Restaurant
609 Broadway, 310-587-1552, planetraw.com
Chef Juliano Brotman has a cultlike following at this funky-chic café, with raw dishes like tacos (made with crunchy purple cabbage instead of tortillas), zucchini fries and falafel balls and fruit crêpes and organic tea for dessert.
JILL FERGUS is a freelance writer in New York.