The stretch of Georgia Avenue where Healthy Bites Cafe opened last month isn’t exactly a nutritionist’s dream destination. The carryout across the street specializes in wings and boasts “large portions,” while the Popeyes down the block hawks buckets of deep-fried chicken. By contrast, Healthy Bites has a sign out front advertising great grain salad and vegetarian lasagna.
“We wanted to come into the neighborhood and provide some better alternatives,” says co-owner Bonnie Coberly. “We want people to see food can still taste good while being healthy.”
For the last two years, Coberly’s enterprise has been focused on providing home-delivered meals (customers can also pick them up at the new cafe or One World Fitness, at 1738 14th St. NW), but now she wants to bring her health-conscious cuisine to a wider audience. To Coberly, that starts with ingredient sourcing. All the meats she uses are free of antibiotics and hormones, and the eggs are organic. The fruit comes from Pennsylvania’s Twin Spring Fruit Farm, and West Virginia’s Spring Valley Farm provides the vegetables. In addition, Healthy Bites serves only brown rice and whole grains.
The former health counselor started the business after watching her clients fail to implement her dietary recommendations. “They’re smart people; they know what to buy at Whole Foods, and they know how to cook it,” Coberly says. “But when you’re working 40 to 80 hours a week, it’s difficult to make the time to do that.”
Coberly and her business partner, Karim Steward, were looking for a new kitchen when Coberly moved to Petworth in October. After finding a nearby space in December, they decided to open it up to the neighborhood. Currently, it’s just set up for takeout, but Coberly hopes to add seating this summer.
Since the venture is a marked departure from Healthy Bites’ original core business, Coberly set about developing new and expanded breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with her team of eight chefs.
A morning highlight is the green eggs and ham — a scramble of fresh spinach with local eggs — complemented by baked sweet potato home fries, ham and fruit ($6.95). Juice bar options include freshly squeezed orange, apple and carrot (prices vary) juice. Coberly’s also experimenting with drinks that use the invigorating dandelion root, which she hopes will become an alternative morning pick-me-up for customers trying to ditch their coffee habits.
At lunchtime, the top seller is Marley’s Jerk Wings, which are coated in Caribbean spices and then baked ($10.95). The dish is served with carrot and celery sticks. “We wanted to provide healthier versions of foods that people were already buying around here,” Coberly explains. “It’s not that people want to eat poorly. It’s that there aren’t a lot of options for convenient, healthy food. We want to change that.”
Healthy Bites Cafe, 5329 Georgia Ave. NW; 202-882-1969, Healthybitesfood.com
Written by Express contributor Nevin Martell
Photos by Nevin Martell