BY ANDREW COPPOLINO | October 2022
September and back to school for many people it represents a re-set and a re-start on the calendar – perhaps even more so than January 1.
A return to normal schedules and routines following the laziness of summer might also prompt a fresh look at one’s diet.
That, of course, has become easier as more and more restaurants offer healthy choices and selections for plant-based dishes. Such are the choices at Healthy Rabbit.
A cool urban restaurant whose front door is on Main Street in Galt where they arrived in the fall of 2020, Healthy Rabbit also has a pretty cool alley with patio seating area in the back. It features Muskoka chairs and a sleek live-edge communal table surrounded by industrial feel and illuminated with string lights.
The original Healthy Rabbit opened in Brantford in 2015. Both venues riff on the Michael Pollan mantra that is found in his landmark book In Defence of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Healthy Rabbit seeks a similar path to mindful eating and better nutrition through the three pillars that are stated on their website: community, plant-powered and sustainability.
It all makes good sense, and therefore the vast majority of their dishes are plant-based. However, you can find chicken and eggs on the menu (with the expected conditions of high quality and antibiotic free) as well as roasted cricket for added protein.
“We’re mostly plant-based, and we use local ingredients that are prepared fresh every morning,” says store manager Daniela Budimlic. “We’re not fast food, so it can take 15 minutes or so to make the dishes from scratch.”
I’m good with that.
As for the roasted crickets, they are a curiosity, according to Budimlic, with a few customers returning to try them on a bowl as a protein. (I’ve given roasted crickets a try elsewhere: they’re not as bad as you think.)
I visited Healthy Rabbit for their bowls – and bowls are big these days. There are about 14 bowls on the menu, and Budimlic says the restaurant has become a destination for them.
“Bowls are our thing,” she says. “Customers are looking for healthy.”
The “Seeker Bowl” which, in name at least, is perhaps apropos of the search for new fall routines: I have to say that it’s a dense combination of healthy ingredients and a considerable amount to eat.
The assortment of veg is itself a salad smorgasbord which includes avocado, beets, shredded carrots, red onion, alfalfa sprouts and kale with a lemon and maple-tahini dressing – all of which is joined by some hummus and a couple of baked (not fried) falafel that are coated with sesame seeds for added flavour and texture.
While the traditional falafel is a usually a scrumptious and satisfying Middle Eastern fritter made with chickpeas, fava beans or broad beans – or a combination thereof – the Healthy Rabbit version makes use of sunflower seeds and a bit of carrot.
Those very generous portions sit atop a delicious brown rice tinged with turmeric, a foundational spice of Indian cookery and for thousands of years a part of herbal medicine whose curcumin component has been touted as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Elsewhere, the Healthy Rabbit menu has “toasties” (toast dishes that include avocado and cashew cheese, chicken and slaw, and aged balsamic bruschetta), a dozen or so smoothies, burritos and other salads (because a “bowl,” I say, is often a composed salad).
For beverages, there are nearly two dozen teas, plus lattes, iced beverages and kombucha. There are more than a dozen desserts including the famed Canadian Nanaimo bar and caramel bar – vegan, gluten-free and raw, of course. Both were quite good.
There are also juices and “wellness shots” to aid the digestion and anti-viral immunity with ingredients like alkaline water and mint chlorophyll.
As the kids head back to school, all of us are hoping that the fall routine is some sort of return to normal following the topsy-turvey past couple of years.
With the page of the calendar flipping, it’s also a good time to perhaps re-evaluate how you are fuelling your body, and Healthy Rabbit has several good eating suggestions to ponder, in the Seeker Bowl.
“We’re about healthy living and a healthy lifestyle that’s sustainable,” Budimlic says.
That’s a good approach for us all.
Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino.