Roots: A healthy addition to the U.Va. palate

Booming Corner restaurant proves health is hip

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Roots Natural Kitchen on the Corner provides healthy, albeit expensive meals students thoroughly enjoy.

Courtesy Roots Natural Kitchen

Roots Natural Kitchen is finishing up its first semester as a new restaurant on the Corner. With long lines of hungry customers often spilling out onto W. Main St, it’s apparent the restaurant has become a hit amongst U.Va. students. Specializing in healthy grain bowls and salads, the founders of Roots say their restaurant stands out because it appeals to such a wide audience.

“I think the coolest thing for us is, you get the girl that does yoga coming in here and you get the guy that doesn’t care about his health and rarely eats healthy, and you get the basketball player,” said Alvaro Anspack, one of the four U.Va. alumni who founded the restaurant. “That’s what I think is so cool. It’s not a niche thing.”

With a simple menu featuring nutrient-rich ingredients like beans, kale and tofu, a customer can either customize their bowl or select from several of the restaurant’s specialty bowls. Alberto Namnum, another founder, added that Roots’ healthy menu makes customers feel good long after eating.

“It’s kind of addicting, that feeling of freshness after a meal,” said Alberto, “you stand up and are ready for the next thing.”

Many other restaurants on the Corner, such as White Spot and Little John’s, may have food just as tasty but their products are overloaded with grease and salt. From Tex-Mex restaurants like Two Guys Tacos and Qdoba to sandwich shops like Little John’s and Jimmy Johns, it’s often hard to find quick, healthy options. While the Corner does offer a wide variety of food options, many of them are fried foods and cuisines rich in sodium. For many students, Roots was a much-needed addition.

“A lot of my friends like Roots because it’s a healthier option on the Corner,” said Joey Castro, a 2nd year in the Engineering School and regular Roots customer. “A lot of the other options are very unhealthy.”

Such universal goals of providing healthy yet tasty food have proven successful for Roots, and the founders have bigger plans to further promote healthy lifestyles.

“Now that we have a product established, we’re gonna try and be there for people more often,” said Alvaro. “We’re gonna try to develop a website with really easy to understand nutrition guidelines that you can apply at any moment of your life. You can follow these quick easy rules in this blanket framework that you can live your life. Suddenly every decision is an easy one. We are very set in trying to take roots to the next step and make the things that we get excited about a very visible part of the restaurant.”

The one downside for the seemingly perfect meal is the cost. With bowls ranging anywhere from $8 to $10 a Roots bowl competes for the most expensive lunch item on the Corner. Their most popular meal, El Jefe, comes in at $9.93. Despite claims by the owners that the food is “affordable,” if affordable is a actually a big concern for the customer, they should probably look elsewhere on the Corner.

However, a taste of one of Roots’ specialty bowls, El Jefe, reinforced the claims made by the owners. A bowl of kale, rice, corn, chicken, and a little bit of Tabasco sauce made for a healthy meal that was both filling and satisfying. At just under $10, Roots may not be the cheapest option on the Corner, but that great feeling after finishing a delicious and healthy meal is quite the aftertaste.

The future of Roots Natural Kitchen sure looks bright, as the U.Va. community seems to be responding well to the new restaurant. The founders might just be onto something big with Roots. Patrons could be looking at the beginning of America’s next national food chain.

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