Staying Alive in Salem, MA

“I think we should walk to the restaurant.”  I said to my husband.
“Why?” he asked.
“If we’re going to eat the healthiest meal we’ve ever had, I think we should get there in the healthiest way.”
“It makes more sense to chomp on Twinkies in our helicopter.”  He said with a straight face, “It’ll even out all that organic health food we’ll be consuming.”

I bet you’re curious to know where we were going at this point.  To the newly opened Life Alive Café on Essex Street in Salem, MA, of course!

This urban oasis, as they call themselves, opened quietly the second week of May.  The location is the third for owner Heidi Feinstein of Marblehead who opened her first store in Lowell 9 years ago – the other location is in Cambridge and both have a devoted following.

As we walked in that early evening, there was still sun slanting down through the full windows at the front of the store, illuminating the earthy décor of the cafe.  Behind the counter is a long exposed brick wall where you can read the menu – written in the free-spirited Papyrus typeface.

Speaking of the counter, it’s variegated wood exterior is awash with color and textures which are echoed in other elements throughout the cafe. The place conveys serenity and peacefulness, especially with the large prints of  buddhas serenely gazing down on grazers.  The whole restaurant is suffused in light from well-placed ceiling fixtures, warm buttery paint, and the sturdy light colored wood tables.

The principle behind the food served at the Life Alive Café is to allow food to renew your energy and connection to the environment, community and a global ecology.  The food is organic and “slow” –  much of it locally sourced.  If you’re looking for a burger or anything fried, you won’t find it here. They serve a wide array of salads and stir-fries –  the vegetables being the star attraction of each dish.  Each meal can be served in a bowl or wrap, and prices range from 7.95 to 9.50, before adding on any of their recommended sides, of which there are many options.  As they say, “Each meal is made to order and that means you get what you want.”  This is a restaurant where you can customize to your heart’s content.

I ordered The Seeker (one of their salads) and my husband ordered (get ready for it) The Hot and Healthy Bachelor.  Our friends ordered smoothies from an equally robust list of choices with names like Lust Alive and Flourish Alive (smoothie prices range from a little under $6.00 to $10.00).  After ordering we chose to sit in the lounge toward the back of the restaurant, a couch-lined area slightly shadowed by a few shelves of books on healthy living topics.

the Carrot Cake Alive smoothie

The service was prompt and the food presentation was careful, but not overly elaborate.  Their smoothies and drinks were served in rustic Ball jars, and the food placed on vibrant pottery.  The server pointed out where we could place our dirty dishes if the café became crowded.  As it was, on a Wednesday night, we were one of only four groups of people.  The portion sizes were reasonable, though not overly large.  We felt satisfied when we were finished with our dishes, but in the future, I would probably order a side dish as well.

This is definitely the type of café in downtown Salem to catch up with friends or enjoy a pleasant and relaxing afternoon or early evening.  I’ll be returning for smoothies quite a number of times in the future I’m sure.  Especially with the intriguing prospect of a nutri-boost like Bee Pollen!

The conclusion after the food was consumed and we were digesting?  Definitely feeling healthier – though perhaps not quite as spiritually connected to the earth as the café was pushing for us to be.  After all, next time, we’ll probably drive.

By Beth Melillo

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