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13 healthy food havens in the Madison area

When it comes to culinary innovation, it’s safe to say Madison is ahead of the curve. While the National Restaurant Association’s 2018 food trends forecast listed use of natural ingredients and clean menus as the second-trendiest culinary concept of the year, this wasn’t news to many Madison restaurants. In fact, the following local restaurants are some of the many places looking to provide healthy, often locally sourced items and feature vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Change up your routine and visit these 13 health food havens — your body will thank you.

Aldo’s Café
Breakfast, lunch and coffee — that’s what you’ll find at this cafe housed inside the University of Wisconsin Discovery Building. While Aldo’s keeps it simple in terms of the number of items on the menu, the options are geared toward vegetarians and vegans. Feeling trendy? Try the avocado toast for breakfast. Want something a little more filling? Maybe the shaved roast beef sandwich or the veggie bánh mì will do the trick. For lunch, Aldo’s serves soups, sandwiches and salads. There’s no excuse not to stop by for a chicken salad wrap or a farro bowl made with farro, kale slaw, sweet potatoes, broccoli, pepitas and tomato vinaigrette. 330 N. Orchard St., 204-3943 $ 


This casual Monroe Street restaurant may very well be a vegetarian’s paradise. While Everly does offer traditional proteins like grilled chicken wings and beef brisket pot roast, the restaurant’s numerous menu sections are teeming with countless veggie options. Charred broccoli, roasted carrots with kimchi and a So-Cal grain bowl highlight the lunch menu, while fried Brussels sprouts, edamame hummus toast and butternut squash with forbidden rice curry are available on the dinner menu. Also visit Everly to check out its weekend brunch menu and weekend midday menu. 2701 Monroe St., 416-5242 $$

fit 2 eat Madison
The goal is to “create healthy eating habits, one body at a time” at fit 2 eat. Although the menu changes weekly, it is crafted to respond to its clients’ need for low-fat and reduced-sodium meals — without sacrificing taste and variety. “We are creating a kitchen home, with food that clients look forward to eating every day,” according to fit 2 eat’s website. In addition to green salad, fruit salad, marinated eggplant salad and a variety of sandwiches, fish meals and soups, fit 2 eat staff members bake fresh challah bread every Friday. Water, iced tea, hot tea, coffee and homemade hot chocolate are also available for purchase. 3742 Speedway Road, 233-7192 $

Fit Fresh Cuisine

Fit Fresh Cuisine owner Sarah Mattison-Berndt knows a thing or two about healthy living. A registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, Mattison-Berndt is a board member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dietetics Program and was previously a sports dietitian for the University of Wisconsin–Madison Athletic Department. At Fit Fresh, Mattison-Berndt works to provide a go-to spot for healthy, fresh and delicious foods by offering a variety of freshly prepared meal options that make healthy eating convenient for a busy schedule. The chefs and dietitians work together to craft foods for everything from weight management to sports training to food cleanse purposes. The use of local and organic ingredients, sustainable seafood and quality proteins free of added hormones, antibiotics, fillers and transfats makes this one of Madison’s healthiest hot spots. 8066 Watts Road, 841-2233 $$

Forage Kitchen

Operating by the motto “think global, act local,” Forage Kitchen is putting a healthy twist on the grab-and-go experience. The specialty salad and cold-press juice bar’s goal to bring fresh, unconventional healthy food to the Madison area starts by sourcing its ingredients from local Wisconsin farmers and purveyors. Madison, Milwaukee, Lake Mills and Black Earth are just a few of the locations from which the eatery gathers its varieties of fruits, vegetables, mixed greens and eggs. With local, seasonally sourced ingredients, as well as menu items that are handcrafted in-house daily, Forage seems to have the farm-to-fork routine down. Stop by for a Club Med Bowl salad or grab a refreshing Lean Mean and Green cold-pressed juice to go. Forage also offers grain and acai bowls, smoothies, house-made kombucha and other refreshing drinks. Also look for the fast-casual eatery’s new location, which Forage Kitchen hopes to open in February in the Hilldale Shopping Center. 655 State St., 286-1455; 715 Hilldale Way $$

Good Food Low Carb Cafe
Consisting of two food trucks, a full catering service and a cafe, Good Food has been serving, well, good food in the Madison community since 2010. Owner Melanie Nelson and her husband, Kory Seder, specialize in crafting salads, lettuce tacos, wraps and soups, and they often use products that would have otherwise become food waste. New healthy and delicious dishes regularly find their way onto the menu, like low-carb zoodle bowls, “fathead” flatbreads and other tasty offerings. Aside from the low-carb wheat tortilla wrap option, you can expect to find an entirely gluten-free and grain-free menu. Good Food boasts a history of serving foods with no added sugars, instead using natural sweeteners like agave, honey, syrups or fruit concentrates. Swing by a food truck or stop by the Low Carb Cafe for foods sourced locally from Raleigh’s Hillside Farm in Brodhead. 4674 Cottage Grove Road (find daily locations by visiting Good Food’s Facebook page), 630-8400 $

Gooseberry on the Square
Locally owned and operated, Gooseberry on the Square provides an inviting place to grab a quick meal or gather the whole family for a made-to-order lunch or breakfast. Not only can Gooseberry supply you with an early morning coffee and pastry or a healthy meal to start the day, it also has a 20-foot salad bar with more than 50 items to choose from and four homemade soups that can ensure a fast, healthy and delicious lunch. Gooseberry strives to provide the freshest ingredients. Stop for an omelet, a sandwich or some pasta and stay for a bit in this open space with floor-to-ceiling windows. 1 S. Pinckney St., 467-6552 $

Green Owl Cafe
“Vegetarian cuisine for people who love food.” That’s Green Owl’s slogan. In fact, owner Jennie Capellaro aims to please not only vegetarians and vegans, but also meat-eaters who eat out with their vegetarian and vegan family members and friends, according to the Atwood Avenue restaurant’s website. The majority of Green Owl’s menu items are vegetarian or vegan, and if they aren’t, there is a chance you can swap ingredients to ensure it is either vegan or gluten free. It’s a safe spot to visit for lunch, dinner or a Sunday brunch. And while Capellaro has announced she is selling the business, the restaurant remains open in the meantime. 1970 Atwood Ave., 285-5290 $$

Miko Poke

If you enjoy colorful and customizable meals, head to Miko Poke and order at the long ingredient counter, where a staff member builds your bowl just the way you want it. This purveyor of poke — a dish comprised of cubed, raw fish on top of rice or baby greens, topped with various veggies, fruits and sauces — is committed to serving “superior ingredients,” according to its website. For Miko Poke, superior means fresh. The restaurant works closely with its seafood providers to make sure the wild-caught fish is a good catch. In fact, Miko Poke filets whole fresh fish, chops fresh vegetables, slices and fries purple sweet potato chips and prepares every sauce from scratch. If none of the “house creation” poke bowls interest you, go off-script and build your own bowl. To top it off, all of Miko Poke’s toppings and sauces are gluten- and dairy-free — and you can add as many as you’d like to your poke bowl. 2701 Monroe St., 416-5241 $$

Pasture and Plenty

What at first glance appears to be a meal-kit enterprise is quickly becoming a hot spot for local farm-to-table meals. Pasture and Plenty’s newly renovated space on University Avenue puts it in an ideal location to grab a light, healthy breakfast or lunch. Serving everything from granola and egg sandwiches for breakfast to chicken salad and seasonal grain bowls for dinner, this new health food location relies heavily on local farms for its products. In fact, Pasture and Plenty sources its ingredients from more than 19 Wisconsin farms. If you’re looking for something more than the dine-in options, Pasture and Plenty also offers meal-kit subscriptions that include a cook kit, a farm-to-freezer meal and one ready-to-heat-and-eat meal that’ll be delivered to your door or available for pickup every week. 2433 University Ave., 665-3770 $$


Started by two University of Michigan students looking for healthy food options on college campuses, SaladsUP offers a variety of signature salads, wraps and grain bowls. If the Kale Caesar or the Island Poke salads don’t seem like your thing, the North Frances Street spot allows you to create your own salad or wrap choosing from gluten-free options like kale, arugula, spinach, romaine or warm grains. You can then add four other ingredients to your creation, choosing from a list of more than 20 options including black beans, chickpeas, edamame and grape tomatoes. All of SaladsUP’s homemade dressings are gluten free, and the smoothie list features an assortment of fruits and vegetables. 439 N. Frances St., 819-8883 $$

Surya Café

Before becoming the chef and owner of Surya Café in Fitchburg, Lauren Montelbano lived in Australia and worked on farms as a farmhand and cook. “I was growing the food that I was cooking, and I never felt something so amazing as cooking full circle like that,” Montelbano says. “I realized how nourishing all of that was.” That was when Montelbano first started learning about health and wellness, which both play a big part in her current lifestyle, as well as the mission of Surya, which is one of the area’s only completely vegan and gluten-free eateries. The café is inside a yoga studio, which makes it a perfect spot to pick up a jackfruit jerk sandwich, Thai carrot noodles or a waffle topped with sweet potato falafel after a class. All menu items are plant-based and free of processed sugar, so your meal can be as cleansing as your shavasana. 5500 E. Cheryl Parkway, Fitchburg, 288-8448 $$

Willy Street Co-op
Willy Street Co-op is not your normal grocery store. In fact, the cooperative was started in 1974 by a group of people who wanted to provide quality food for their families. Since then, it has been dedicated to selling fresh, local, organic and natural foods. But beyond the shelves and bins of 100 percent locally sourced juices, ciders, syrups and rainbow-colored vegetables, Willy Street Co-op also offers made-to-order sandwiches and deli and breakfast menus that feature organic and vegan options. Want to substitute vegan cheese on the grilled cheese? No problem. Craving mayonnaise on the cooperative’s avocado wrap? Vegan chipotle mayonnaise is ready and waiting. With locally prepared and sourced products and menu items for most dietary needs, this natural foods cooperative is a one-stop shop for a healthy meal and your regular grocery shopping. East location: 1221 Williamson St., 251-6776; West location: 6825 University Ave., 284-7800 ; North location: 2817 N. Sherman Ave., 471-4422 $  

Lawrence Andrea is a junior at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He was a summer editorial intern at Madison Magazine. 

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