Two new restaurants are turning a sleepy corner of downtown into a destination for healthy eaters.
Urban Fresh, a recently-shuttered vegan cafe at 73 E. Pennington St., reopened Monday under new ownership. Husband and wife team Dana and Chauncey Padilla are bringing back the cafe's signature wraps, salads and fresh juices, but adding a few touches of their own.
The two could face stiff competition: Right next door, the food truck Veg in a Box is opening its first brick-and-mortar spot. A farmers market favorite, Veg in a Box specializes in comfort foods like beet fennel burgers and mock tuna sandwiches made from nori and hearts of palm. (For more Veg in a Box info, stay tuned ... )
The Padillas don't seem to be worried though. If anything, the two businesses will help each other by drawing people in, Chauncey said. While Veg in a Box does a lot of grilling and cooking, Urban Fresh caters to the raw foodie crowd.
The artful salads in Urban Fresh's grab-and-go case feature rare ingredients like local pea shoots, hearts of palm and daikon radish. On a recent visit, my made-to-order Veggie Cobb was packed with fresh cucumber and corn, with a sunny green goddess dressing on the side.
The Padillas, who aren't professional chefs, were receiving their training that day directly from previous owner Kathy Iannacone. Dana had filled the patio with herbs and succulents, and Chauncey brought an English aesthetic by putting on a BBC rock station and offering Wilkinson's of Norwich iced tea. Chauncey gained an appreciation for specialty teas after he spent several years stationed in Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom.
"We just want to help people eat a little bit healthier," he said.