I owe my sister Caroline for this amazing find called Hu Kitchen near Union Square in New York City. This is the first restaurant of its kind I have seen as far as its unique format and philosophy. It is a marketplace offering several stations (a bar offering smoothies, juices, coffee, and fresh baked goods, one serving warm bowls and sides, one serving more pre-made sides, and a section offering grab-and-go options). There is seating at the bar, as well as both downstairs and upstairs.
When I first walked into Hu Kitchen (Hu is short for “Human”– yes I initally thought it was an Asian restaurant too), I was overwhelmed by the outrageous number of pure food options, which seems to be exactly the goal– to be “a haven for all things human” and a “gustatory bounty,” as stated on Hu’s website. Bountiful would certainly be the perfect word to describe this mecca of unprocessed food. I was in complete heaven (to the chagrin of my husband, who impatiently waited as I chattered away with the staff and asked to try everything on the menu).
Unlike the countless other health food restaurants I have been to, Hu Kitchen has a truly unique approach, in that its focus is to simply get back to the way that humans were meant to eat. This means serving food that is as unadultered and minimally processed using ingredients that are as pre-industrial as possible. Hu’s website describes pre-industrial food as “food that hasn’t been constructed in a laboratory and been chemically processed, refined, and stripped down to its basic elements.” Therefore, while there are countless options for vegans, vegetarians, paleos, and primals alike, there is no one “right” way to eat at Hu, except to eat wholesome, natural foods that are 100% free of GMOs.
Many health restaurants, especially the grab-and-go or cafe types, focus on vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options and green juices, but often miss the mark when it comes to the healthiest cooking oils (olive and coconut oils– not canola!) and often demonize meat as being unhealthy for our bodies and the planet. Hu, rather, takes a much broader, more historical approach to how humans have eaten for thousands of years, and sources the best possible ingredients so that they are sustainable options as well as healthful to us (grass-fed ground beef bowl, anyone?)
Personally I am much more of a pastured poultry kind of gal when given the option over mysterious-looking tofu. There is seriously a smorgasbord of options, though, so there is something for everyone no matter their dietary convictions. Anyone who is gluten, dairy, or grain-free can eat here happily too, as the entire menu is gluten-free and items with dairy or grains are specifically noted.
In my opinion Hu is giving a big F-U to industry insiders who told them their ideas were naive and that they would have to compromise on quality in order to profit. This place is proof that a food revolution is upon us.
Check out Hu’s website or go straight to a link of their mouth-watering menu. Hu Kitchen has two locations: one in Union Square at 78 5th Ave. (at 14th Street) and the other on the Upper East Side at 1536 Third Ave. (at 86th Street).