New York’s raw food scene generally consists of small, slightly crunchy cafes (that tend to hover around an East Village center point). With the exception, of course, of Sarma Melngailis’ sophisticated hot spot, Pure Food and Wine. Now, with the opening of Rawlicious, on Broome and Centre Street in Soho, the Union Square stalwart may have some competition.
Rawlicious is a Toronto-based raw, vegan restaurant with four locations in Canada. This is its first venture stateside, and it was made possible when NYU heart surgeon Elias Zias, an advocate of good nutrition, reached out to owners Chelsea Clark and Angus Crawford, offering to partner on a New York location.
Their 60-seat space, which opened earlier this month, formerly housed a hair salon. It’s open and airy, with lots of exposed brick and bright, eye-catching paintings. Comfy cream-colored chairs with high backs are pulled up to light wood tables.
The menu is a seasonal mix of juices, appetizers, salads, and entrees, and in addition to being raw and vegan, it’s also gluten- and sugar-free. (Although they also will serve organic wine and beer.) Flavors reminded us of Gingersnap’s Organic, but the portions were less precious, and more filling.
Flatbreads are a strong suit—we loved the Pizza ($13) on sprouted buckwheat and flax seed crust and the Herb & Onion Flatbread appetizer ($12). We also fawned over the generous, creative salads—especially the Olive Currant Nut and Seed ($12).
The zucchini noodle dishes varied—the Pasta Bolognese ($15) with pesto was delish, the Pad Thai ($17), bland. And skip the juices—they were disappointingly one-note.
Rawlicious doesn’t tout a star chef. Crawford says they’d rather avoid the cult of personality. But the cuisine does seem to lose a little something in presentation without the careful nitpicking of a trained hand. It also doesn’t have the level of nighttime swank (or a kick-ass outdoor garden), but we could see it becoming a go-to spot for healthy downtown types. In fact, it shares a block with Golden Bridge Yoga, and Ashtanga luminary Eddie Stern was just finishing lunch when we visited.
Crawford emphasizes that it’s not just yogis and raw foodies he’d like to attract. “We want to be super mainstream,” he says. “I don’t have a nose ring or a ponytail. It’s just good food for normal people.” —Lisa Elaine Held
For more information, visit rawlicious.ca/usa/