When I hear the word, "cleanse" used in conjunction with food, my mind conjures ugly pictures of enemas and colonoscopies. Not very appetizing, right? So when I heard about a new vegan restaurant in Oakley Square focusing on organic, locally-sourced ingredients meant to "cleanse" the body of toxins, I figured I wouldn't go out of my way to try it. But after my girlfriend and I had exhausted our list of nearby dinner ideas one recent weekend, we decided to suppress our meat-loving urges and give it a go.
Rooted Juicery + Kitchen is the brainchild of Cincinnati native Megan Tysoe, an idealistic Millennial who honed her business acumen and culinary skills at Georgetown University and the Natural Gourmet Institute. Her restaurant offers a full menu of healthy sandwiches, cold-pressed juices, wraps, salads, grain bowls, smoothies and desserts.
We stepped into the sleek, bright, white-washed space, which for many years had been the home of a bicycle shop. Renovations to the ample footprint must have cost a pretty penny. Glass-doored refrigeration units lined one wall, showcasing a colorful display of fresh juices, desserts and pre-packaged "grab-and-go" meals. The cold-pressed juice blends are prepared on site and sold in either 16-ounce bottles ($10+) or 2-ounce "power shot" sizes ($5). Free samples are available.
A chalkboard near the front counter highlighted specials, including an enticing vegan quesadilla made up of kale, sweet potato, black beans, caramelized onions and a cilantro avocado pesto/cashew cream drizzle ($9). The mere description had me salivating, so I looked no further.
My girlfriend eyed the butternut squash "mac & cheese" special that came in either a cup or bowl, so she opted for a cup ($4.50) to accompany her twelve-dollar Pesto Sandwich: basil pesto, macadamia nut ricotta, arugula, avocado, tomato, sprouts, balsamic vinegar and cashew dressing served on slices of very tasty-looking multi-grain bread.
To drink, we choose the alkalized, filtered water with lemon. Alkalized water is all the rage in health circles because the water's higher pH level and abundance of vitamins and minerals ostensibly protects against nasty acidity caused by stress, fatigue and exercise. Sure, okay.
Despite our reservations, most everything was quite delicious. It's pretty amazing what Rooted is able to do using no meat and no dairy. In fact, when we later reflected upon the tasty pesto sandwich and its side of bright, refreshing slaw, we realized the flavor had tricked our memories into believing we'd actually tasted ricotta cheese instead of something made from macadamia nuts.
My quesadilla was served warm, with a side of pico de gallo. The tortilla was toasty, the filling hearty and earthy, countered with the pleasing bite of the pesto and cashew cream. This entree should definitely remain on the regular menu.
The one disappointment was the butternut squash "mac & cheese," which tasted nothing at all like the conventional version. Instead, it imparted jarringly sweet, cinnamon notes. My girlfriend only ate a few bites of it, allowing me to finish it off. The more I ate it, the more I enjoyed it, as the texture was very much pasta-like and the dish became increasingly more savory as my olfactory nerves began to tire.
Afterward, we returned to the counter to examine a glass case of desserts. The sweets were all a bit pricey --a universal theme for Rooted-- but it didn't stop us from trying several morsels from their selection ($2-$4 each). Because the sweets lacked dairy and, in some cases, gluten, flavors were often intense and dense. The most memorable were the dark chocolate, almond butter cups and the satisfying "coconut bliss" candies.
As hardened carnivores, we are often dubious of vegetarian or vegan fare in Cincinnati. Restaurants like Rooted + Juicery and Loving Hut are proof that great tasting food doesn't have to come at the expense of an animal. All cynicism aside, we'll be "rooting" for Tysoe's ambitious juicery.