Healthy Bites

$$$$ ($14 and under)
Healthy Bites photo

Editorial Review

When Bonnie Coberly started her Washington health counselor practice in 2008, she quickly found that her harried-professional clients had little time for grocery shopping and cooking. Casting about for health-conscious meal-delivery programs she could recommend, it dawned on her: "There was this huge need that wasn't being met," she says.

So Coberly approached fitness trainer Karim Steward with an idea and consulted with some of Steward's clients for feedback about it, as well. It clicked, and in January 2009 the pair started Healthy Bites, a home-delivery, personal-chef service offering metabolism-friendly meals made with local, largely seasonal ingredients.

They operated out of shared commercial kitchens until February, when they moved to their current location, which features a carryout cafe peddling a variety of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The takeout-only spot is a bright one on an otherwise lackluster block of Georgia Avenue, a little over a mile north of the Petworth Metro station.

We sampled several dishes one recent chilly evening and found that the healthful fare is satisfying and homey, in a kind of earthy way.

It's easy to see why customers love the vegetarian lasagna from the Al Forno section of the menu: Whole-wheat pasta sheets are layered with mozzarella and Parmesan, tomato sauce and morsels of celery, carrot, onion and zucchini ($10.95; includes a small green salad). The Southwestern quesadilla is another hit: a whole-wheat tortilla that contains chicken or steak, with Monterey jack cheese, black beans and cilantro ($9.50). Our baked jerk chicken ($11.95) was overcooked, but we liked its side of sweet potato wedges. The corn chowder, which is kissed with half-and-half, made for a light and satisfying lunch when reheated the next day ($3.95 for 12 ounces; $5.95 for 16 ounces).

There are also salads, sandwiches and other Al Forno dishes for lunch and dinner, and all-day breakfast items that include omelets and a whole-wheat Belgian waffle ($5.95). A full juice bar is forthcoming (as is delivery from the cafe, plus online nutritional analysis). An assortment of modestly portioned baked goods is available as well, including chocolate chip cookies (75 cents each) and a moist vanilla cake ($3 per slice). Coberly uses organic milk and local eggs, and eschews white flour and refined sugar.

Food is packed in biodegradable containers; ours survived the 15-minute drive across town just fine.

Coberly, 31, says she has always understood the importance of a sound diet, but adds: "There's a lot that goes into making us healthy. It's not just the broccoli on our plate."

-Catherine Zuckerman (Good to Go, April 13, 2011)