Update: unfortunately, Thrive Cafe is now permanently closed.
Franklin’s restaurant repertoire is rich with menus sporting farm-to-table pork belly and sweet corn casseroles, but when it comes to the raw food scene, well, there hasn’t been a raw food scene. Pam Delay, owner of the newly opened Thrive Café in The Factory at Franklin, is set to change that in a deliciously accessible way.
The concept at Thrive is to offer 100 percent gluten-free, dairy-free and raw or gently cooked food in a casual atmosphere—all while inspiring people to eat better. For now, this means a tight lunch menu with items boxed in eco-friendly, to-go packages and a help-yourself fridge featuring local kombucha and other prohealth drinks.
Later this year, we’ll see the space double in size, incorporate a wine bar, expand to dinner service and offer healthy cooking classes. In other words, the current café is just a sneak peek of what’s to come.
Inspiration for the space struck Delay, who has been in various facets of the restaurant and food business for more than 30 years, when she noticed a desperate need for healthier fast food options in Nashville and its surrounding area. After seeing her own health and well-being improve with a 75 percent raw and 25 percent cooked foods diet, she knew a menu with a similar balance was the only way to go. “We are the first raw, grab-and-go concept in Nashville,” she says with a grin.
From a portobello mushroom slider sporting herbed nut cheese to a dreamy massaged kale salad, the offerings at Thrive are all thoughtfully prepared with one thing in mind: retain as many of the ingredients’ vital nutrients as possible. This means nothing cooks past the 115 degree Fahrenheit mark during preparation, and salt and oils are kept to a minimum.
Thrive Café also boasts a snazzy commercial dehydrator in its gluten- and dairy-free kitchen that’s capable of whipping up cranberry-almond granola and tasty raw chips by the bucketful. In fact, according to Delay, it’s one of only two in the state of Tennessee. Aside from daily food production, the dehydrator will be used in Thrive’s cooking classes to teach participants the benefits of dehydration versus traditional baking.
OK, so if this is starting to feel a bit too healthy, and you’re not exactly sold on seeing words like macrobiotic or ingredients such as raw maca powder lace your menu, stay with us. Thrive is surprisingly approachable for the raw food newbie because the recipes hinge on whole, quality ingredients sourced from local farms (Bloomsbury and Delvin Farms are chief providers) more than anything else.
That means there is nothing overdone or too bizarre in flavor—the massaged kale salad pops because it features seemingly impossibly green leaves, bright diced peppers and plump dried cranberries, not because it’s been drowned in a heavy, unrecognizable dressing.
The same goes for the Thai green curry, which is arguably Thrive’s most tempting and filling menu item. Organic quinoa, sprouted green lentils, local kale, caramelized onions, edamame, green curry sauce, a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and a remarkably good mango chutney comprise the impressive ingredient list. It also has a beautiful presentation, much like bibimbap, to boot.
And just like that, it’s official. Thrive has thrown down the raw-food gauntlet in Middle Tennessee. So next time you find yourself on the prowl for a casual lunch, skip the meat-and-three joints and swing by Thrive for nourishing, convenient foods your body will be thankful for.
Thrive Café is located in The Factory at Franklin at 230 Franklin Road. Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. View the full menu at Thethrivecafe.com and reach them at (615) 224-3075.