When Coven opened at 281 Essex Street in Salem, we really loved their concept and baked goods. While disappointed by their departure, we were happy to find the space was filled almost immediately by another restaurant.
The new tenant, Life Alive, is one of three organic cafes founded by Heidi Feinstein, a natural health consultant. We’ve eaten lunch there a couple of times now and have really enjoyed it. Despite being an organic café focusing on nutrition, health conscious meals, juices and smoothies, the hippy-crunchy vibe doesn’t overwhelm. The staff is welcoming and happy to explain any unfamiliar ingredients or options available. You order and pay at the counter, and they bring your meal to you when ready.
One rainy afternoon, the Udon Miso Masterful ($9.15) really fit the bill: warm, filling and energizing. Chock full of veggies, udon noodles, and dark barley miso broth, it was a soup with attitude and almost too large to finish.
On a return trip, we tried two of the signature meals-in-a-bowl, the Goddess ($8.55) and the Lover ($9). The beets, carrots, broccoli and dark leafy greens are only lightly cooked so they retain flavor and crunch, and the short grain brown rice adds body and texture. The Goddess featured tofu, while shitake mushrooms graced the Lover. Both were drizzled with Sesame Ginger Nama sauce that was addictively tasty.
The persnickety 13 year old along for the ride was horrified when she realized where we planned to eat. “You brought me to a vegetarian restaurant without telling me?” And the eyes rolled skyward. But she was very pleased to discover a wrap called The Feisty Child ($7). PB&J along with honey and banana on a warm wheat tortilla earned raves.
While dropping $10 on lunch might not fit your daily budget, the same items and prices are served at dinner and if you’re looking for a hearty, healthy fresh alternative, Life Alive is definitely worth investigating. Everything we tasted was super fresh, and the bowl portions were impressive.
Life Alive Cafe
281 Essex Street, Salem