At the heart of an Edgewater community, whose residents range from green architects and urban researchers to yoga clubgoers and aroma-therapists, True Nature Foods is a co-op dedicated to bringing local and organic foods to the north suburbs. We came to True Nature for its juice and smoothie bar but wound up losing ourselves in the aisles of produce, gluten-free snacks and farm-fresh alternatives to campus fare.
Table for Two: True Nature Foods
Whether you’re fretting about where to take that cutie you’ve been crushing on in chem for a casual coffee date or looking for a romantic anniversary dinner locale, we’ve got all the details here. We hope you enjoy reading about these date destinations as much as we enjoy writing about them, and that you’ll give some of them a taste.
So in the spirit of this selection: Drink up!
Restaurant: True Nature Foods
Hours: Sun-Fri, 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Sat, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (the juice bar is open from 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. every day)
Address: 6034 North Broadway, Edgewater
Getting there: A five-minute walk southwest from the Granville stop on the Red Line. About 30 minutes total transit time.
In my opinion, there are few things better in this world than fresh juice. Since coming to Chicago, I’ve discovered the magical places known as juice bars and I’ve been in heaven. True Nature’s juice bar is the first I've visited for Table for Two and it is definitely a good place to start. They offer a wide range of smoothies and juices, some made in individual doses and some in bulk. I chose a cup from the daily batch of ginger lemonade. I’ve become increasingly aware in the last few months of how awesome ginger is in concert with sweet things (see: the delectable gingered fruit at the Lucky Platter); ginger adds an interesting twist, and the ginger lemonade is no exception. Think of the typical sweet-and-sour flavor of freshly squeezed lemonade and give it a smoother finish, with a pleasant palate-cleansing effect. I can’t wait to come back and try it again on a hot summer day. Furthermore, the selection at True Nature, while relatively small, is surprisingly diverse. I found everything from farm eggs to lactose-free ice cream, fresh mangoes to Gorilla Munch. They even carry my favorite brand of organic mac and cheese and the best fruit popsicles. Prices, surprisingly, run lower than Whole Foods for most things, so if you stop by the juice bar or are just in the Edgewater area, I recommend picking up some groceries at True Nature.
The service at True Nature is quiet but kind, devoid of the smugness often associated with such hip (by this I mean more along the lines of hippie than hipster) locals as co-ops. The woman working the juice bar gave us suggestions based on her tastes, though they were a little more health-oriented than ours. The cashier was politely upfront about the store’s $10 minimum on credit and debit purchases.
I have a theory, based mostly on an experience I had inadvertently walking from Skokie to Edgewater with my roommate (we were trying to get back to campus from the Best Buy in Skokie and somehow got hopelessly lost), that space-time is a little flimsy in the Edgewater area. My only real evidence is our weird transportation and the fact that everything in Edgewater seems to be about four decades out of sync: the buildings and streets have a distinctly 1970s feel about them, complete with old-school vertical flashbulb signs. This feel continues inside of True Nature, where period-piece radios play classics like Paul Simon alongside newer fare. With bright orange walls and boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the front of the store, True Nature looks how I imagine the first Whole Foods looked. To confirm this, I texted my mom a picture of the place (back in the day she worked in an early incarnation of the now-giant grocers). She said that True Nature actually looked a lot nicer than the first Whole Foods, which occupied a converted 7-11 in Austin. Make of that what you will.
Date Factor (4/5)
While the sweet smoothies, juices and the grocery selection may not quite be enough to draw you and your date to True Nature, there are lots of cool couples-y things to do in the immediate vicinity. Edgewater is littered with secondhand stores and curio shops, and I think a stop at True Nature to grab a drink and some snacks for the ride home would be a great way to end a day of antiquing, etc. If that’s not your thing, I still think a True Nature beverage is worth the 25 cent transfer fee for getting off and back on the El.
Considering that this co-op is not primarily a restaurant, True Nature Foods offers a surprising variety of in-house consumables. True Nature serves a wide array of all-natural juices and smoothies, wheatgrass shots and homemade soups. At the suggestion of the juice barista, I ordered the Maca Pick Me Up smoothie. Maca is a root vegetable grown in central Peru that has been shown to have mood-improving qualities, in addition to being absolutely delicious. This intriguingly dense smoothie is a blend of peanut butter, bananas, coconut milk, maca and spices. I substituted almond butter for the typical peanut butter, which is a great option for individuals with specific nut allergies. The bananas and coconut milk created a subtle but vital foundation upon which the almond butter and maca built a structure for this smoothie. The dash of cayenne gave this smoothie a surprising kick; the cocoa powder and cinnamon contributed a pleasant sweetness to this otherwise intense drink. The interplay between sweet, savory and spicy gave the Maca Pick Me Up smoothie a complex flavor profile. The only downside to True Nature Food’s amazing drinks is their exorbitant prices: My twelve-ounce smoothie set me back $7.00. This high price does, however, include at least eight ounces of organic produce.
The employees at True Nature Foods are welcoming and relaxed, if not a bit elusive. Between the various ingredients I had never heard of (including spirulina, Echinacea and chard) and the throwbacks to 1970s organic movements, I was a little lost. The juice barista was more than willing to offer insights into the intimidatingly new-age menu, and the other workers were easily available to answer any questions. I appreciated the employees’ conscientious assistance; John and I were better served at this co-op than at many restaurants we have visited in the name of Table for Two.
True Nature Foods is first and foremost an organic co-op, and its atmosphere reflects that fact. This co-op boasts aisles and coolers stocked with organic and other specialty groceries. True Nature Foods has an abundant supply of gluten-free foods, and the organic produce is grown on their rooftop garden. Everything at True Nature Foods is fresh: There is even a machine that grinds whole shelled peanuts into fresh peanut butter! The small dining space is tucked into the front of the store, right between the produce and the peanut butter machine. It consists of a single long table with several chairs. The relaxed environment of True Nature Foods is a refreshing retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Windy City.
Date Factor (4/5)
Although True Nature Foods is not a typical restaurant, it could make for a unique casual date. The juices and smoothies at True Nature are delicious, and the atypical groceries are interesting to peruse. While sipping on a healthy organic juice, you can stumble across culinary gems such as fresh basil Jack cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows. If you’re looking for an actual meal, stop by m.henrietta (the satellite version of m.henry) on your way to a delightful afternoon exploring True Nature Foods.
The trendy but friendly attitude at True Nature Foods is evident in both their groceries and made-to-order drinks. An honest approach to organic eats, True Nature Foods provides reasonably priced natural groceries. True Nature’s juices and smoothies are unusual but delectable combinations of freshly grown produce and other health-conscious ingredients. A trip to True Nature is a memorable but casual date for couples in any stage of a relationship. The beautiful harmony of co-op and juice bar should put True Nature Foods near the top of your Edgewater to-do list.
If you've had an experience at True Nature Foods or have any suggestions on where we should dine next, feel free to leave a comment below!