For the past nine months, I have been studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I graduated just a couple of weeks ago and am so excited to have this certification, as I feel confident that I have the tools I need to keep my family healthy, advise friends, and hopefully you, either through my posts or working with you individually.
The program requires that we attend three workshop weekends in Herndon, Virginia, which is a less than ideal suburb outside of Washington, D.C near the airport. However, I love a challenge when it comes to finding places to eat and boy did I hit the jackpot with a couple of awesome spots. Enter: True Food Kitchen.
Fortunately, the ‘burbs of D.C. are extremely populated, and that means there is inevitably a demand for healthy and hip dining options. One of my prime finds, True Food Kitchen in Fairfax, Virginia, fits the bill of hip and healthy—and it has 17 locations in eight states, so you are likely to come across one sooner or later.
The menu at True Food Kitchen is based on Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet for optimum health. This diet is not at all specific, and simply encourages eating well-sourced fresh, whole foods. While I don’t 100% agree with the way Dr. Weil laid out his food pyramid, I can certainly get on board with eating wholesome anti-inflammatory foods. When it comes to quality, this restaurant knows what it’s doing. It serves grass-fed beef, sustainable seafood, and follows the “dirty dozen” produce standards, meaning fruits and vegetables known to be most laden with pesticides is organic. Let’s face it: dining out no matter where you are these days is expensive, so it’s worth going somewhere where you know that you’re at least getting what you pay for. To learn more about the Dirty Dozen, visit the Environmental Working Group website.
I find that many health food restaurants these days are strictly vegan or vegetarian, and True Food Kitchen is not, which I love because there’s something for everyone. There are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, and all menu items that fall into one of these categories are labeled as such. There are also killer cocktails with bases of fresh-pressed juices (who doesn’t love a little gin-spiked beet juice?), as well as an impressive list of freshly pressed mocktails (I recommend the Root & Remedy).
In addition to being varied, the menu is extensive, making it almost impossible to decide what to order. I went all three times I had seminars, so I got to taste a variety things, and everything changes seasonally so you’re always in for something perfectly fit for the season.
In the summer I loved the seared scallops with asparagus, snap peas, Asian mushroom and umami (who even knows what umami is?), which was not only gluten free, but also paleo friendly (pictured above). When I went back in the fall, I had a comforting braised bison short rib with cauliflower mash, roasted vegetables, and swiss chard (also gluten free and paleo friendly). The salads are all creative and delicious, and you can order a half portion of any salad, which is a great way to start a meal.
My favorite appetizer was the vegetable crudités (pictured below), and the standby dessert I ordered every time that fortunately seems to stay on the menu (due to customer demand I’m sure) is the flourless chocolate cake, which is both gluten free and vegan. I think we ate it so fast that we didn’t get a picture. And then we ordered another one and ate that one so fast we didn’t get a picture again. Sorry—just trust me on this one—it’s amazing. For those looking for a lighter dessert, True Foods makes its own vegan ice creams, which you can order a small scoop of if you just want a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth. Last time I tried the pistachio ice cream, which wasn’t ice cream at all. It was simply pureed pistachios and sugar—that’s it. No cream, no coconut milk, no nada. Pretty guilt-free if you don’t count the sugar! And sometimes I decide not to count sugar.
Food aside, the ambiance of the restaurant is certainly hip and trendy, with a modern woodsy vibe (think faux vertical logs along the walls to mimic trees and mossy green booths with wooden tabletops). The bar is indoor/outdoor, and there is also outdoor seating to really encourage the “one with nature” vibe, despite the fact that you’re in the middle of an outdoor shopping mall in suburbia. It is noisy, so I might not recommend it for a romantic date. Perhaps a first date, though, so if your date is awkward you can have the excuse not to talk due to the fact that you can’t hear each other.
The Fairfax True Food uses a reservations system called NoWait, where you put your name in when you’re in the area and they text you when your table is ready. Therefore you can reserve a table, but has to be done close to when you want to go, rather than days in advance.
Check out the True Food Kitchen website to see where all of the restaurant locations are—I highly recommend trying it if it’s in your area or you plan to be traveling near one. Most locations serve lunch and dinner on the weekdays, as well as brunch on the weekends.