I still remember when I saw the Instagram post announcing that the first EVER Primal Kitchen Restaurant locations in Southern California and . . . South Bend, Indiana. WHAT?!
For those of you who don’t know, Primal Kitchen is a line of super clean dressings, sauces, and convenience foods created by paleo celeb – author of multiple books on ancestral health and optimal performance as well as the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple – Mark Sisson. Mark teamed up with Mario Altiery from Upside Franchising to open a restaurant franchise dedicated to real, delicious food, and apparently one of the first locations would be in my little hometown. At this point (just under a year ago), my local Whole Foods wasn’t even carrying Primal Kitchen products (update: it does now!) and I thought I was the only person within 90 miles who knew who Mark Sisson is. There was just no way this could be true.
BUT IT IS TRUE! Real-food lovers, rejoice! Primal Kitchen Restaurant is coming to South Bend, Indiana!
Owners Tara and Tom Olson are longtime locals and real-food aficionados blazing the trail of healthy eating in our small town. Tara made my day (okay let’s be real, she made my life) by inviting me to the restaurant’s pre-opening dinner and offering to give me a tour of the space while it was under construction. I asked Tara alllll the questions, heard the story of the restaurant’s inception, AND got a sneak peek of the menu, at which point I died and went to heaven. Luckily Tara agreed to let me share this info with YOU so that you can get just as excited as I am…
I had no idea how long the real-food movement has been part of our little South Bend community – in fact, Tara first heard about the paleo diet at her Crossfit gym in 2008 and overhauled her own diet, and the diets of her husband and seven-year-old daughter, after hearing Robb Wolf speak in 2009. Tara has been all-in ever since. Her belief in the power of nutrient density only grew deeper when she became a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in 2015, and it is this conviction that inspired her to open a clean restaurant:
“Our motivation is to help people,” Tara told me. “The business opportunity is just a bonus.”
But Tara, Tom, and the Primal Kitchen team all agreed that the business opportunity was there. Tara and Tom have been in conversation with the Primal Kitchen Restaurant team since January of last year. The team vets each of its business partners to ensure that the partners share the franchise’s food philosophy and values, so the team took the time to really get to know Tara and Tom before signing them on for three locations – one in South Bend and two (not yet announced) in Indianapolis. They eventually plan to open more locations across the Midwest as they have no doubt that this healthy concept will be a huge success in an area of the country that is quite literally starving for nutritious options.
So, what will the options be like at Primal Kitchen?
In short, Primal Kitchen will be healthy-eater heaven. It is a fast-casual concept where diners order at the counter and have food delivered to their tables or grab a quick bite to go from a grab-and-go area. Every single ingredient will be organic and non-GMO and every last menu item will be gluten-free and grain-free. The best news is that Primal Kitchen will be serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so you will never have a reason to eat anywhere else.
And why would you want to? The menu will be full of hearty real-food dishes and superfood beverages that appeal to all, not just stereotypical “healthy” eaters. It will include a few treats like primal pancakes and a double chocolate mug cake, but the restaurant will focus on making real food taste good with dishes like the Short Rib Breakfast Hash and Bison Tenderloin. I am perhaps most excited for the “build your own bowl” option which allows you to combine a base such as parsnip bone marrow mash or roasted yams with proteins, sauces, and toppings. It sounds simple, but I’m already dreaming up endless combinations in my head.
Appealing to the health conscious from vegan to paleo, the beverage counter will serve superfood smoothies and fresh vegetable juices as well as multiple types of bone broth (read more about the benefits of bone broth here) and upgraded teas and coffees. The grab-and-go counter will supply ready-made meals and a whole host of healthy snacks and treats, including Primal Kitchen mayonnaise and dressings, EatingEvolved and Taza chocolates, Jillz Crackers, and more. The menu will also feature a list of gluten-free beers and wine with no sugar and a low alcohol content for the conscious drinker.
Customers will be able to grab a smoothie or primal coffee on the way to work, stock their refrigerators at home with healthy options, stop by for a drink with colleagues, or meet up with friends for a nourishing meal. I plan to do every single one of these things on a weekly basis – probably multiple times – as Primal Kitchen sounds like heaven on earth. I can’t tell you what it will mean to me to have a place where I feel comfortable eating on a regular basis, where I know my health will not be at risk, where I do not feel like a freak when I place my order.
And though I might be Primal Kitchen’s biggest fan, Tara assures me that it will appeal to a wide variety of customers, from uber health-conscious women like me to fast-food-loving teenage boys like my brother.
“We’re serving real food,” Tara explained, “we’re not serving twigs and berries.”
Yes, Primal Kitchen is healthy. Yes, it is gluten-free, grain-free, and non-GMO. But most of all? It is real, delicious food in a community that desperately needs exposure to nutrient-dense food that tastes good.
I am literally counting the days until Primal Kitchen opens in Heritage Square in mid-May. Until then, follow Primal Kitchen on Instagram and Facebook to see their updates and learn more. If you’re in the South Bend/Mishawaka area, I urge you to check it out as soon as it opens. Anyone want to join me for brunch on opening day?!