That broth is sold alongside other more substantive build-your-own plates that will appeal to those drawn to clean eating and sustainable choices. The building block of the restaurant is the "market plate," a dish that ranges from $12 to $16, and gives you your choice of protein (fish, chicken, pork or vegetarian), grain, seasonal side and greens. They're sourcing their superfoods from local farms and -- also keeping with health trends -- will feature several pickled or fermented choices, as well as a "detox" vegetable like broccoli or cabbage. Guests can also get dashi broth soups with either plant or grain-based noodles. Most pastries will be gluten-free, and the coffee will be roasted by Madcap.
Founder Emily Gaines was inspired to create Hälsa after spending time in Southeast Asia researching healthy foods, and working with a holistic health coach. At first, she wanted to start a coconut-milk ice cream shop -- serving an item that may appear on the menu eventually -- but the concept evolved to become an overall lifestyle brand. She joined forces with Laura Poladsky, Hälsa's creative director, who had a similar epiphany about healthy eating while living in Australia and Italy.
"I want to create a lifestyle that is high quality," said Gaines, 26. "Food is the gateway to that."
She chose Brookland for the foot traffic that comes from its Arts Walk and nearby Catholic University (they're on CUA's meal plan), as well as the neighborhood's sensibilities.
"People who move out here, their values are different than people downtown," said Gaines. "They want trees, they want grass."
The ideas of streamlined living and clean eating are reinforced in Hälsa's design -- the bright, white restaurant, designed by Streetsense, exemplifies the Swedish minimalism suggested by the restaurant's name. A shelf-lined wall will display products from local artisans, and cookbooks that match the restaurant's sensibilities. Gaines said she chose Hälsa because it means "health" in Swedish, inspired by the seasonal ethos of Nordic cuisine. (Hälsa is also the name of a thermos at Ikea, if you're looking for a way to keep that bone broth warm.)
If the concept takes off, future Hälsas may be even more hyperlocal, accompanied by gardens and chicken coops, if Gaines gets her way, she says. Gaines acknowledges that D.C. is in midst of a mix-and-match protein+starch+veg craze, but she said the formula is the best way to help diners learn how to listen to their bodies.
"It's really all about giving [guests] a lot of variety," she said, "so people can get what their body needs."
Hälsa, 655 Michigan Ave. NE. (Metro: Brookland). Opens Monday, Jan. 12.