Hälsa, a new fast casual restaurant that opened in Edgewood earlier this week, has plenty of options for people who eat Paleo, vegan, raw, or gluten-free. But management says the place isn't necessarily gearing itself toward any particular diets.
"Sometimes when you throw out that you're a healthy food place, it can be either crunchy or pretentious, and we didn't want to be any of that." says creative director Laura Poladsky.
"We don't want healthy to be scary," adds manager Melissa Beazer. "We want to educate people on what we think health is, and it's not one thing."
The place was conceptualized by Emily Gaines, a George Washington University grad who was interested in health and inspired by travels abroad. The name Hälsa means "health" in Swedish.
The menu centers around "market plates" ($13-$16) that guests can customize with a choice of proteins, grains, seasonal sides, and greens. All the options emphasize locally sourced seasonal foods. Proteins, for example, include whole roasted sardine stuffed with lemon slices, chicken sausage, braised pork shank, and herb lentil-mushroom meatballs. Other accompaniments range from kimchi risotto to kale hearts with onion, fresno chili, and granola to rainbow chard with garlic butter. The menu will change week to week. "We're a little bit at the mercy of the farmers," says Poladsky.
Another menu highlight is bone broth, which is being heralded as a hot new health food trend. (Never mind that bone broth, which is really just broth, is as old as boiling water.) Hälsa cooks its rich broth for 12 hours, which infuses the collagen, iron, and other minerals into the liquid. It's garnished with jalapeños and seasonal greens and served in a coffee cup so you can drink it on the go. A poached egg is optional for an extra $2. "It's not like a buying a can of broth at the store," says Beazer. "We're sourcing animals from farms that treat animals really well and they're really healthy, so when you eat that, it's even better."
Also available: chicken or dashi-based soups with poached egg and a choice of kelp, yam, or soba noodles. On weekends, there will be brunch specials like maple-glazed pork belly with poached eggs and beet hollandaise sauce on a bed of wilted spinach. Desserts include cookies, brownies, and raw apple pie made with a date and walnut crust and an apple-cinnamon topping that's bound together with pureed apple. (There's no sugar added.)
To drink, there's Goûter tonics, kombucha, yerba mate, MadCap Coffee, and a selection of R.L. Linden hot teas.
And beyond something to eat and sip, Hälsa features a "lifestyle wall" with organic natural beauty products and healthy cookbooks.
See the full menus at the bottom of the page.
The bone broth:
Laura Poladsky, Emily Gaines, and Melissa Beazer:
The dining room:
Hälsa, 655 Michigan Ave. NE; (202) 832-1131; eathalsa.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman