Natural Selection

Natural Selection

Being natural is messy. B-Natural eats clean. The restaurant offers bowls, sandwiches, wraps, salads, smoothies, juices and all-day breakfast, with an open kitchen in back where, during a recent visit, made-to-order components sizzled and simmered.

As I placed my order, the cafe’s calm, cool playlist shifted to a smooth Latin cover of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” and it occurred to me that I, too, was like a virgin. This wasn’t my first experience at B-Natural, which has kicked around and morphed during its nearly 20-year history downtown, but it was my first time dining at the latest, not-so-new location on College Street, opened in 2020.

A visit was overdue, and I ordered like it, starting with the Green Lentil and Mushroom Bowl ($13.50, hold the parm): a spread of meaty sautéed mushrooms, plump wedges of beet, roasted Brussels sprouts with hints of char and vinegar, al dente green lentils topped with crunchy pepitas, a tomato, onion and pepper salsa with just a touch of heat, a supple rice-quinoa blend and a “jalapeño sweet ’n’ hot” sauce that was far subtler (almost like a citrus zest) than its name would suggest. Earthy yet refreshing and both wintery and summery, the dish was a pleasure to eat but also a pleasure to have eaten, in that all-too-rare way we feel when we’ve nourished ourselves with something both healthy and satisfying.

Ready to wet my whistle, I moved to the refreshing Tropics Pineapple smoothie ($9 for 16 ounces, $11 for 24), a pale yellow concoction which was smooth indeed (creamy, not icy). The flavor, too, was smooth—so smooth I would call it subdued, as if the banana, mango and pineapple could’ve been riper. The hemp protein listed on the menu was undetectable, which is exactly how I like my smoothie protein, but the overall effect felt too muted for the price.

Also wanting to test-drive the breakfast menu, I headed back to the counter and ordered the Vegan Scramble Bowl ($11.95). Spears of avocado laid over the top were beautifully ripe, and the turmeric tofu, the “scramble” of the dish, didn’t skimp on the yellow spice. Heat could be added using an espresso cup side of fir fir (an Ethiopian stew that was spicy, savory and funky) or a potent bomb of jalapeño sliced lengthwise into missiles and dropped into the bowl. A generous helping of kale was sautéed, according to the menu, but it was hard to tell; more time in the pan (or maybe a pre-cook massage) would’ve softened the fibrous superfood and eased it into a rapport with the rest of the dish while also teasing out some lovely bitterness. The avocado, meanwhile, needed just a sprinkle of salt to be as good as it could be.

As for me, I felt about as good as I could feel after the large early dinner was over. It carried me home with a pep in my step and a corporeal lightness I can only chalk up to fresh, balanced, nutritious whole foods and a health-first restaurant that lets them shine.

B-Natural Kitchen
260 College St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Sat 9am-9pm, Sun 9am-5pm
(203) 821-7093

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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