“I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” This iconic New Yorker cartoon established a simple truth that was as valid when it was published in 1928 as it remains in 2018: For most of us, food that is good for us doesn’t appeal to our taste buds.
“Hold my beer,” responds CoreLife Eatery, a two-year-old, small but growing national restaurant chain that just landed in the metro amid the sprawl of Clarksville’s Veterans Parkway two months ago.
The chain, with a former top Panera executive guiding development, declares that “Healthy Never Tasted So Good.” Its bill of fare features bowls of greens, grain, broth, and rice: Filling meals, not just mere salads, that can be tuned to vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free preferences, plus antibiotic-free chicken, grass-fed beef, ahi tuna poke, and roasted tofu as protein options. You’ll find no sugary fountain sodas here (nor any alcoholic beverages), but healthy fruit beverages are made from scratch. Beet lemonade? Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!
Mary and I dropped in the other day with our pals Avery and Nate, and we all really enjoyed our greens and grains. If the absence of desserts from the healthy menu prompted me to stop at Ehrler’s for ice cream on the way home, why, that’s my fault and not CoreLife’s.
The menu offers some 30 bowls, built on greens, grain, rice, house-made bone broths or veggie broths. They come in large or small sizes as well as extra protein for a small upcharge. Most bowls range in price from $5.95 to $9.45, with only a few barely breaking the $10 barrier.
The expansive bowl assembly line makes Subway or Chipotle look puny: Three or four workers, smiley and friendly, fashioned our bowls, picking and choosing from some three dozen pans filled with bright, neatly prepped ingredients. Edamame, carrot shreds, beets, brussels sprouts, broccoli, corn, even spinach. Yes, I say it’s spinach, and I say gimme some.
The beet lemonade ($2.95) was turned out to be a pinkish fluid that tasted like barely sweet lemonade with a distinctly, well, beety back note. I’d get it again.
Spicy ginger steak with rice noodles ($8.45 for small, $9.45 large), pictured at the top of the page, was not too spicy, at Mary’s request, and included a good ration of grilled, meaty cubes of lean, grass-fed beef and wheat noodles in a warm, savory if rather mild broth scented with ginger and barely perceptible Thai spice flavors. It was loaded with a variety of veggies – kale, broccoli, carrots, and scallions. It was healthy for sure, but the mix of flavors made it hard to pick out any in particular.
A spicy chicken rice bowl ($8.45 small, $10.45 large) offered more distinct flavors in a generously filled bowl of juicy free-range chicken chunks and bite-size cubes of parsley-green falafel along with spinach, brussels sprouts, purple rice, and a bit of pink pickled onion.
Sriracha ginger roasted tofu with ancient grains ($7.45 for small, $8.45 large) might have been the healthiest dish, but it was also the most difficult for me to get my mind around. Your mileage may vary, but tiny crunchy tofu cubes, quinoa, carrots and beets weren’t enough distraction to make a large bowl of raw kale go down easily for me.
Tuna poke fire rice bowl ($9.45 small, $11.45 large) hit the spot, too. Big cubes of tuna poke (Hawaii’s answer to sushi) were cloaked in a thick, umami-rich miso-sesame-ginger dressing studded with black sesame seeds and scooped over a base of pickled goodies – sprouts, onions, red cabbage and jalapeño slices – kicked up with CoreLife’s fire sauce. Cooling slices of avocado came alongside.
Our share for two came to a modest $23.33, with no apparent provision for tipping.
Noise level: It’s a large space with glass walls and hard edges to bounce sound around, but it wasn’t too noisy to hear; our talkative group of four probably increased the level on our own. (Average sound level 65dB, with peaks to 83 dB)
Accessibility: The modern shopping center space is barrier-free, although you do have to negotiate a cafeteria-style line to order and choose independently.