Healthy food can also be tasty and nutritious.
That is the philosophy of the vegan chef Mat Bardroff and his sister Jenna, who opened the Vegan Cafe Jax in St. Nicholas.
The cafe is a collaboration between the brother and sister and a Jacksonville family doctor, Rene Pulido, who advocates natural herbal medicine, according to the restaurant’s website.
The Bardroffs called it “a tasteful restaurant” and held a soft opening of the cafe on Monday. The grand opening of the restaurant is Tuesday.
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“It went fantastic. Everyone loves the food … It was very positive and encouraging. Everyone seems very happy,” Jenna Bardroff, cafe manager, told the Times Union at the end of her first day on Monday.
The cafe is located at 2624 Atlantic Blvd. and is one of the relatively few purely vegan restaurants in Jacksonville, including Murray Hillbilly, Sweet Theory Baking Co., Grenville Kitchen, and KraVegan Food Truck.
“Our mission is to offer really healthy, fantastic food at an affordable cost as it can be difficult to find some vegan options in restaurants that are usually affordable,” she said, noting that they want to be accessible to all.
Most meals cost around $ 9 and include a side dish, Jenna Bardroff said.
Ethics and health concerns lead to a vegan lifestyle
Mat Bardroff specializes in vegan cuisine and other health-conscious foods.
As a long-time vegan, he previously worked as a gourmet cook for the Ritz Carlton. His culinary career also includes working in fast food outlets, country clubs, and upscale restaurants that focus on animal-based menus.
“It really bothered him to work in an environment where mostly animal protein is served. He did it for his job and loved cooking and loved the science and art of cooking, but it was really uncomfortable for him having to cook food that he personally didn’t want to eat, “said his sister.
Ultimately, Mat Bardroff decided to pursue his long-standing dream – “To create a dining experience where customers can be assured that everything on the menu is in the best interests of their bodies and has a positive impact on the planet and all of its people. “
He wanted to use his gourmet chef skills to create the familiar and traditional flavors that people love with healthy ingredients, she said.
All dishes in the café are 100 percent vegan. The Bardroffs are committed to ensuring that the products come from local farmers and that coffee and tea come from ethical reasons.
“We mainly want to get organic food and we strive to make our meals healthy so your body will thank you for eating with us,” says Mat Bardroff on the restaurant’s website.
Jenna Bardroff has been vegan for 14 years – initially for ethical reasons “to cause the least harm to people, animals and the planet”. She wanted to minimize her impact on the environment.
She has Lyme disease and two years ago she was struggling with chronic pain and having difficulty going from the early stages of arthritis. This led them to investigate the reported health benefits of veganism and a vegan lifestyle.
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“I have adopted a plant-based whole foods lifestyle, which means I eat mostly unprocessed foods and eat foods as they should be in its entirety,” she said.
Two weeks after changing her diet, she said that her pain and other symptoms had completely disappeared.
“What motivates me today is to share the health benefits with people,” she said. “To show that by living healthy we can improve our lives in so many ways for our own health. And then we actually benefit from others.”
The lifestyle change led her to a dream of a long time.
“I actually hiked the Appalachian Trail last year. Something I never thought I could do,” she said.
A look at Vegan Cafe Jax’s plant-based menu
The lunch and dinner menu is rounded off with sandwiches, wraps, burgers and bowls.
Among the sandwiches is a Mushroom Reuben – Mat Bardroff’s favorite sandwich – made with marinated mushrooms, raw sauerkraut, melted cashew cheese, and horseradish tomato dressing on rye bread.
Other favorites include a southwest grilled black bean puree cheese, jack cheese and tomato chipotle aioli, a smoked jackfruit barbecue sandwich, and a black bean burger.
The popular Rainbow Quinoa is available as a bowl or wrap. It features chilled tri-color quinoa, red cabbage, green peppers, carrots, cucumber, pickled cranberries, celery, flavored walnuts, fresh herb cashew cheese spinach, and dressing with green goddesses, she said.
The mac and cheese is a creamy cheese sauce, heirloom tomatoes and pickled vegetables.
Among the soups are black beans, minestrone and a soup of the day. Recommended side dishes are chilled marinated lentils, cucumber salad and sesame coleslaw.
Avocado toast with avocado puree, pico de gallo, pickled onions and fresh herbs is on the breakfast menu. It’s made with fresh bread all day, said Jenna Bardroff.
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Desserts are a rotating selection of cakes such as banana sweet potato tart with maple icing, as well as a variety of biscuits, cakes, and cupcakes.
Favorites include maple-glazed banana sweet potato tart and cranberry almond bread pudding with whipped banana and pistachio crumbs.
She said people can also start the day with breakfast options like waffles – different types that are made fresh every day – or a tofu scrambled egg sandwich with marinated tofu, tomatoes and arugula.
There is also a changing selection of smoothies, juices, kombucha, freshly brewed teas, and coffee, said Jenna Bardroff.
The restaurant uses a self-ordering system that allows customers to place their own orders, which are usually prepared and ready to be picked up in around five minutes. Online orders are also accepted.
The café is open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is closed from Friday to Sunday. Breakfast is served from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and lunch service starts at 10 a.m. Jenna Bardroff said the restaurant expects to extend its opening hours in the future.