While eating out often means overeating, the siblings behind Pure Fare Foods ensure that guilt won’t be a factor.
The unique food options cater to many dietary needs, such as gluten intolerances, veganism and vegetarianism, and offer a wide variety of locally grown and organic products.
Kriti Sehgal, one of Pure Fare’s founders, studied to work in a health-related field but did not anticipate that she would eventually open a restaurant. Her love of food, along with her own frustrations, namely what she called a “post-guilt feeling after going out to eat,” with limited healthy food options in Philadelphia inspired Pure Fare.
Sehgal and her twin brother, Kunal, opened Pure Fare in April 2011 after they combined their business talents and love of food with their friend Sarah Ginn, the primarily self-taught head chef. The restaurant’s original location, 119 21st St., brings in a varied crowd from Center City, with a number of regular customers. In addition, there is another location at 1609 South St., which opened in August 2012, and a Pure Fare food truck, often near the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.
“We want to create a food brand that doesn’t do what other brands do,” Sehgal said. “We love to take commonplace things and make them unique.”
The restaurant’s daily soups, sandwiches, salads and snacks showcase the efforts to offer a variety of flavors. The menu includes a pumpkin and coconut soup, a turkey and pesto sandwich, a goat brie and fig sandwich and Burmese papaya salad, amongst many other options.
Blue Bottle Coffee, a high-quality Turkish brand, is served in a number of ways at Pure Fare. The coffee is most frequently served as drip coffee, which is made with a ceramic dripper cup in front of customers who have ordered it. Not an average brew, Blue Bottle is a dark, almost chocolate hinted, rich blend that draws in regular morning customers.
A store manager, Christina Ponsaran, said immense pride is taken in both the “product and the process” at Pure Fare. Offering broad menu choices and inventive options for different needs, such as convincing rice made from cauliflower and cookies made with avocado and ricotta “cheese” made from cashews, are not the only things Pure Fare is sure to incorporate into its agenda. All of the restaurant’s eating utensils are recyclable or even compostable, and produce comes from local farms like Green Meadow whenever possible.
“People need more of a holistic change,” Ponsaran said. “They don’t have to be major, but they have to be lifestyle changing.”
Andrew Rigar, who has transitioned from barista to one of the store managers remembers helping out in the kitchen when Pure Fare had just opened with a limited staff. Along with being happy to see how far the restaurant has progressed, he said he feels morally at peace working with Pure Fare’s customers.
“I don’t feel guilty when I give people things,” Rigar said, in reference to previous employments with corporate food companies that he knew didn’t offer healthy dining options. Not only does he feel assured that Pure Fare is providing quality food, but he is proud of its community outreach efforts, which Sehgal also mentioned as an important aspect of Pure Fare’s mission.
Working with gyms and yoga studios has inspired Pure Fare to surprise exercisers with a post-workout smoothie sample in order to distribute coupons and encourage locals to come by the restaurant. Rigar also mentioned programs Pure Fare has arranged with Greenfield Elementary, in which the restaurant sends employees to teach students tips for making healthy after-school snacks. Even increasing the kitchen staff has become a positive social opportunity at Pure Fare.
“We work with an organization that helps refugees find jobs,” Sehgal said. She counted seven former-refugee chefs currently at Pure Fare. “It’s been a humbling and amazing experience.”
Pure Fare’s focus on local food products may advocate awareness of nearby communities, but this social outreach extends to a global level.
Sehgal said even though Pure Fare sees a good portion of student customers, she would be thrilled to see more. College students often let their health and diet take a back seat, she said. Nutrition and health are the corner stones of Pure Fare, and it focuses on being “not preachy, just informative” when advocating healthy eating options. They offer an online service called MyFare that allows customers to track what they’ve eaten day by day, in order to be more conscious about their eating habits.
Head chef Ginn, who writes a personal cooking blog called “Leafy Greens and Other Things,” remembered her own questionable eating habits during her undergraduate studies.
“It shouldn’t be the norm to be stressed and stay up all night,” Ginn said.
She stressed her hope that universities are providing better information of the healthy food options they have available and promoting making smart eating choices.
Dietician Lori Clements, who works for Student Health Services, said Temple caters to dietary needs of varied student lifestyles such as vegetarianism and gluten intolerance, along with offering healthy options. Johnson & Hardwick cafeteria has specific areas of its dinning hall that offer options like those, and it has kosher options. Nevertheless, she continues to see students with dietary issues.
“I do believe that health is as important to school, and there are studies that show that they go hand and hand. If you care more about your health, it often gives better concentration,” Clements said. Some students seconded her opinion that J&H provides the best options for their specific needs.
“I appreciate that Temple offers a designated gluten-free station at J&H, I just wish there were more variety in the gluten-free options,” said freshman university studies major Frank Connor.
Freshman geography and urban studies major Jenny Ryder said J&H provides vegetarian options for her.
“Philly has a lot of options even though it’s not considered the most green city,” Ryder said.
Healthy options at Pure Fare are more than just a quick fix, Sehgal said, and have more benefits than a greasy bite to keep you going for a couple more hours.
“Because our food is so rich and fiber-full, you’re full for a lot longer,” Sehgal said. “My cravings are gone, I don’t get hungry as much. You start to come here and realize you’re satisfied and satiated.”
Rigar added that Pure Fare has made him a much healthier eater without making him feel like he’s sacrificing taste.
With crazy schedules and haphazard mealtimes, positive eating habits are not always considered a top priority for the modern individual. But eating well doesn’t have to be a chore. Pure Fare stands by this with its guilt-free stance to eating, while still aiming to please food lovers everywhere.
Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.