True Food Kitchen
This health-conscious restaurant is a welcome new tenant in Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza.
On opening day, as dinner service was just ramping up at True Food Kitchen—an airy, brightly lit restaurant in the heart of Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza—a hive of 20 cooks plucked herbs, sliced citrus, and jockeyed for space on the long hot line. The prep counters teemed with sheet pans of football-size spaghetti squash, halved and ready for roasting—the base for a juicy, mozzarella-crusted vegetarian casserole that is just one of some three dozen savory dishes on the all-day menu.
That True Food Kitchen is part of a national chain makes its fresh-focused, prep-intensive global cuisine all the more exceptional. There’s nothing quite like it in the East Bay; even after a big meal, you feel energized.
That’s partly due to the busy restaurant’s revitalizing atmosphere, a buzz amplified by the scene of shoppers framed in high windows and by the decor’s striking yellows and greens. The feel-good vibe is epitomized by wall art spelling the word ‘positive' under a yellow bee.
Craft cocktails—such as the refreshing apple ginger mule with fig-infused vodka and the Thai grapefruit martini—and a selection of wines, many organic or even biodynamic, further add to the invigorating effect while also encouraging casual noshing at the lively bar.
Jill Winspear of Alamo sums it up for me after enjoying a bowl of tortilla soup and a ginger margarita. “It’s wonderful to have a new restaurant in Walnut Creek that serves nutritious natural food that actually tastes great,” she says.
The chain was founded in Phoenix in 2008 by restaurateur Sam Fox and nutrition guru Andrew Weil. (The seasonal, farm-to-table menu reflects Weil’s advocacy of an anti-inflammatory diet.) But True Food has only just hit its stride.
Chef Scott Caygill has been with the company for five years, and he is clearly jazzed about its new chief culinary officer, Clint Woods, who upgraded the menu “top to bottom” last year.
“The food requires such a high degree of execution,” says Caygill. “The roasting operation here, for instance, is insane: One person—all he or she does for eight hours a day is roast vegetables.”
Our first taste was, in fact, a roasted vegetable—cauliflower charred in small batches on sizzling hot pans in the oven. Spiked with harissa, dill, dates, and pistachios, the dish’s textures and contrasting notes are so intriguing that your jaw drops into low gear automatically. It’s a meditative eating experience. The liberal use of fresh herbs and citrus—which brighten the dish—awakens the senses.
While the cauliflower has Moroccan flair, the menu travels just as breezily throughout the Mediterranean and Asia. (We loved the albacore tataki and red curry noodles.) Surprisingly, some of the tastiest dishes are American favorites: pizza, tacos, and burgers.
The pizza dough—one of Caygill’s favorites—is most illustrative of the menu’s major renovation. Made partly with flax and spelt flour, the crust turns out sturdy and light, bubbly and blistered. Our earthy medley of roasted mushrooms, ripe Taleggio, and a scattering of charred brussels sprouts was scrumptious, with added pizzazz provided by a drizzle of lemon oil.
The grilled-to-order fish in True Food’s tacos is also entrée worthy. Our lush and pristine sea bass arrived simply on warm organic tortillas garnished with shredded cabbage and pickled onions.
The signature burger used to be made with bison, but the kitchen recently switched to grass-fed beef so it could grind it in-house—a change that makes a huge difference, according to Caygill. We loved it. The juicy patty came with a combo of caramelized onions and roasted mushrooms mingled with umami sauce, wafer-thin shavings of parmesan, and fresh arugula. Soft flaxseed buns (done to spec by San Francisco–based Panorama Wholesale Bakery) seal the deal; they’re crisped on the flat-top grill with just a brush of Vegenaise.
Jenny Schneider of Walnut Creek, who says she dines here practically every week, notes that the dishes are packed with flavor, not sodium. “This is the first restaurant in our area [where] I can eat tasty food made with healthy ingredients and not worry about salt intake,” she says. “The cauliflower is off the charts. And the $17 hamburger is worth every penny.”
True Food Kitchen, 120 Broadway Ln., Walnut Creek, (925) 952-7314, truefoodkitchen.com. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch Sat.–Sun.