Healthy lunch option in Loop

February 25, 2009 9:44:59 AM PST
Now that Fat Tuesday is behind us, you might be looking for something a little healthier. ABC7's Hungry Hound visited two spa-worthy cafes this week, where everything on the menu is good for you.

A lot of people give up meat during lent. Some swear-off sweets. If you are looking for something on the healthy side, consider one of two cafes we found this week. Both of which are committed to using all-natural, organic ingredients with a focus on fresh vegetables.

Our first stop of all places, is in the Loop where, in a sea of fast-food meccas, the Spa Gourmet Cafe is hoping to attract healthy eaters during the busy lunch rush.

Just because it's fast food in the Loop doesn't mean it has to be unhealthy. Take, for example, the Spa Gourmet Cafe, tucked into the bottom of a busy high-rise, serving a much healthier version of lunch for the past three years.

"It's all healthy food; really fresh made stuff. Everything is, we use alot of organic ingredients and have a lot of great options as far as healthy; a lot of vegetarian stuff, vegan stuff," said Stephen Sharp of Spa Cafe.

Healthy, as in albacore tuna, cabbage and swiss chard rolled up in whole wheat wraps, grilled on a panini press, or a salad that would make any vegetarian proud: organic spinach along with tomatoes, plus caramelized onions and fresh goat cheese, topped off with a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds. The Casbah Couscous salad features the larger Israeli couscous grains.

They also use as much local product as possible, preferring to support lesser-known producers. Burgers, for instance, feature Tallgrass brand, grass-fed beef, mounded on top of a garden of veggies and a toasted whole wheat bun, along with organic blue tortilla chips and homemade salsa.

"We try and help out the local guys and we use a lot of different local products. As well as, you know we try and let people know about great products that we use," Sharp said.

A Thai chicken wrap features peanuts and greens, along with a homemade jalapeno dressing, while tasty side dishes of corn and red peppers or a 21-bean salad provide healthy options, instead of chips or fries.

As for drinks, you could opt for a fresh shot of wheatgrass for a midday jolt of green, or, check out the freshly-made lemon or cucumber waters, instead of the usual sugary sodas.

Overall, Sharp says prices may be a bit higher than the national fast food chains, but when you're eating this healthy, it's worth it.

"It does cost a little bit more, but we think it's definitely worth the extra money to spend to get a great meal, to get a meal that's better for you," said Sharp.

The cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch. They also have a small to-go case for workers who don't have time to dine-in.

One caveat is that since lunch tends to be busy, finding a table and a chair can be a challenge.

Spa Cafe
112 W. Monroe St.