Dining at a restaurant named Healthy Café might sound like about as much fun as cleaning the gutters or folding laundry, but set your assumptions aside. This newish downtown Sarasota restaurant is good.
Owner and chef Murali Jayaraman opened Healthy Café in July in a small Ringling Boulevard space that has been everything from a salad spot to a sushi restaurant in the past decade or so. The setup follows the by-now-familiar fast-casual bowl system. Order two bases from a list that includes lemon rice, brown rice, quinoa or edamame noodles; pick two proteins (chicken, lentils, chickpeas, fish and shrimp are staples); and then load up your bowl from the restaurant's impressive collection of toppings.
What separates Healthy Café from the pack is the Indian bent of the flavors. Jayaraman ran an Indian restaurant in Michigan before moving to Myakka City and opening Healthy Café. He says he's dialed down the spices on his proteins and vegetables, a smart decision that makes it easier for customers to mix and match.
Picking almost at random, I recently put together a dinner bowl ($14) with rice and quinoa, braised mango chicken, earthy lentils, roasted cauliflower, carrots, green beens and cabbage, raw scallions and radishes, and a pineapple salsa. Fantastic. The key, according to Jayaraman, is making sure the food on the bar stays fresh. "We don't keep anything more than one hour," he says.
At lunchtime, Healthy Café's bowls cost $12. They make for an ideal midday refuel, particularly right now, because the restaurant is offering a 20 percent introductory discount as it tries to generate buzz. (Both times I've visited, the place has been almost deserted.) Throw in free turmeric tea and watermelon juice, and you've got yourself an excellent meal at an excellent price. Better than cleaning the gutters? Way, way better.
Healthy Café is located at 1987 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. For more info, call (941) 552-9293 or visit the restaurant's website.