Metro, Food

A Wholehearted Take On Whole Food

Rolls of paper now cover the windows of one of Allston’s most frequented storefronts. Although the remainder of the strip of restaurants that line this part of Cambridge St. is bustling, this door has been locked since early August.

After the previous tenant, Root, a quaint vegetarian diner, closed mysteriously after two years of seemingly successful operations, Boston foodies and Allston locals alike have been curious to see what’s happening behind these papered windows. In just three weeks, they can see for themselves.

A brainchild of local chef Rebecca Arnold and Roxy’s Grilled Cheese owner James DiSabatino, a new, vegan, fast-casual restaurant, Whole Heart Provisions, will take over the space in early fall.

“I went to school for nutrition, and from a young age I was always interested in opening a healthy fast food restaurant,” said Arnold, co-owner and chef of what’s soon to be Allston’s newest eatery.

Taking a nod from the popularity of the fast-casual restaurant model, especially in and around cities, Whole Heart Provisions will feature healthy, plant-based, and vegan food options in a quick-serve setting. The menu will focus on green or grain bowls that can be made in seven different styles, each with their own take on global cuisines including Indian-, Korean-, and Mediterranean-inspired additions.

Each bowl will include a sauce or condiment and a crunchy element, along with small mezze style salads to accompany the customer’s desired green or grain. For example, Whole Heart Provision’s Tazon Style bowl features smashed cucumbers, carrot and zucchini, black beans, pineapple, and corn salsa, and is dressed with an avocado crema sauce along with crispy tortilla crumbs and a pepita crunch.
Customers also have the option to create their own custom bowls, with their own flavor combinations. Bowls will range in price between $8 and $10, depending on the customer’s selections.

In addition to the green and grain bowls, Arnold and DiSabatino have developed a range of small plates and sides that will also be available, like Old Bay brussel sprouts, street corn with whipped avocado and corn tortilla crumble, and sesame shishito peppers—all of which she hopes to have on a plate within five minutes or less. The 19-seat Allston restaurant will offer both eat-in and takeout options, and hopes to expand into catering in the future.

Though Whole Heart Provisions is testing a new concept, Arnold is very familiar with the Boston food scene. After graduating from University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a degree in nutrition, Arnold, a Boston-area local, continued on to culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. From there, her resume is peppered with stints in some of the city’s best kitchens, including Alden & Harlow and Sarma.

“After school I began working in kitchens, and not necessarily healthy ones,” Arnold said, laughing. “But they definitely taught me how to cook with flavor.”

Though she is neither vegan nor vegetarian, Arnold is excited to make high quality and healthy food more accessible and thinks Allston is just the place to do so.

“It’s just better for the environment and great for our bodies,” Arnold said. “We think we can help more people get more veggies into their diet. People seem to have a tough time getting healthy foods, and I want them to be able to get vegetables on the go.”

Despite Whole Heart Provisions having been in the works for only about one year now, Arnold and DiSabatino have known each other for four times as long. Although Arnold will be the one in the kitchen come opening, she won’t have to look far for, DiSabatino whose brick and mortar Roxy’s location is right next door.

The pair is looking to its other neighbors on Allston’s “vegan row,” like FoMu—a popular plant-based ice cream shop just two doors over—to bolster its menu. FoMu’s vanilla ice cream will be an optional add-in to Whole Heart Provisions’ varieties of Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage, to make a vegan ice cream float.

Kombucha will be brought in from Aqua Vitea microbrewery in Vermont, and the three flavors on tap will rotate seasonally as a significant portion of Whole Heart Provisions’ drink program. In addition to the Kombucha, the drink menu will include housemade lemonade and cold-brew Horchata. The restaurant’s beverages will be in line with the concept behind its food, making healthy and high quality items an option for the busiest Bostonians—a trend that Allston, specifically, has responded to quite well.

“We just think it’s a really great community,” Arnold said. Allston, notorious for its relaxed yet quirky feel, is home to many of Boston’s favorite diners, dives, and specialty food restaurants. With the storefront situated on the same block as its vegetarian neighbors, FoMu and Grasshopper, Arnold and DiSabatino are excited to extend this dimension of Allston’s food scene.

After menu development, some minor renovations, and a coat of fresh paint to match, the Whole Heart Provisions team isn’t far from stripping down the papered windows and revealing their renovations to Allston’s vegan row.

“You don’t really see places like this anywhere else in the country,” Arnold said.

Featured Image Courtesy of Zac Wolf

September 16, 2015