TRAVERSE CITY — Tarah Elhardan and her husband Satya Pillay opened Zest Plant-Based Kitchen July 6 on East Front Street.
Elhardan said they sold out that day and another day that week, as locals and tourists flocked to their eatery.
The Traverse City natives intend to provide a vegan dining option in northern Michigan.
Elhardan said they encourage people to try something new, as the couple did when they decided to open a restaurant without prior cooking experience. Elhardan was a mental health therapist, and Pillay is also a practicing physician.
“We’re both passionate about plant-based eating,” she said. “We’re trying to promote a healthier community.”
The plant-based menu features a variety of smoothies, toasts, a loaded oatmeal, acai bowls and salads. Elhardan said the bowls are topped with coconut flakes and granola.
“We use whole fruit, no fruit concentrate,” she said. “We’re trying to do what’s in season and get as much local and organic items for our dishes as possible.”
The Bollywood burrito is becoming one of their most popular items already, Elhardan said. This handheld food features black beans, root vegetables, avocado, spinach, salsa and other ingredients.
In addition to this item, Elhardan said they plan to serve a different Indian dish every week. Recently, they created a chickpea curry.
“My husband’s father’s side is Indian, so we wanted to incorporate that,” she said. She added that they also aimed to bring more Indian cuisine to the area.
The menu may change slightly as the weather gets cooler in the fall. Elhardan said they could add stews and other warm dishes.
Bailey’s Farms Kombucha is on the beverage list at the new restaurant. The local company recently started making the fermented drink using Light of Day Organics tea.
Bailey’s Farms co-owners Steve and JC Bailey, another husband and wife team, received their license through the state at the end of April.
“My wife has been making it at home for a number of years,” Bailey said of the kombucha.
They currently make eight varieties and half are available at Zest Plant-Based Kitchen: “Hummingbird Nectar,” (cherry, grape, hibiscus, elderberry) “I Dream of Maui,” (mango, papaya, blue cornflower) “Sun in the Winter” (blueberry, cherry, elderberry, grape) and “Cherry Mint.”
Bailey said they use all organic ingredients.
“We’re a locally sourced, locally produced product,” he said.
They are excited, he added, to join the restaurant at its beginnings.
Zest Plant-Based Kitchen is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 439 E. Front St.
Elhardan said they may open for dinner in the future if there is enough interest and they can find staff.