• Where: Thrive Cafe, 191 River St. in Coolidge Park
• Phone: 800-0676
• Website: www.thrivestudio.net
• Hours: 6 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
• Price range: $3.25 for a yogurt parfait to $6.50 for a veggie burger.
For a city that bills itself as the outdoor mecca of the Southeast, Chattanooga restaurants sell a lot of fast food, fried chicken and french fries. If you want good, fast, reasonably priced AND healthy food, you may have to settle for one menu option out of a dozen -- at best.
But one recently opened cafe is doing its part to fill the Grand Canyon-size hole of healthy dining. Thrive Cafe, a part of Thrive Studio in Coolidge Park, offers a wide variety of tasty vegetarian choices for under $7 that make you forget you ever wanted fried chicken.
It's the bane of vegetarians eating out -- you get one or two food choices, while your companions chose from four kinds of meat cooked three different ways. And even those few choices feature strange foods masquerading as meat.
Not at Thrive. Its sandwiches, wraps, breakfast items and smoothies are all vegetarian and steer clear of tofu and meat substitutes, while providing fresh fruits and vegetables.
Breakfast begins with choices such as oatmeal with berries and honey, granola, bagels and a yogurt parfait. Their PB Banana ($3.95) -- peanut butter, banana and agave or honey on a bagel or waffle -- sounds especially tasty and like something that would hit the spot after an early morning run on the Tennessee Riverwalk.
Lunch options are even more varied, with six sandwiches served on a waffle or bagel and five kinds of wraps. There are nods to various cuisines in many of the sandwiches, such as Mediterranean hummus and roasted red peppers; Thai sauce; Mexican avocado and cilantro; and Italian pesto.
Sandwiches like the Namaste ($5.49) of sprouts, grapes, carrots and white chocolate peanut butter sound like they may be an acquired taste. But others such as the Vegenator ($5.49) hit a home run with hummus, avocado, roasted red pepper, carrots, tomatoes, sprouts and spinach.
Thrive also offers a variety of smoothies, coffee and teas. The restaurant uses locally roasted coffee and yogurt and fresh juice from Georgia producers.
With so many choices, making a decision on what to order was difficult. I finally settled on the Fit 'N' Phat Veggie Burger and a cup of hot tea. (Since it was lunchtime, and I had already had three cups of coffee).
The sandwich was served with a side of blue corn chips and green grapes.
The chipotle black bean burger came on a "thin bun," with a generous amount of avocado, spinach and tomato and just enough onions to taste. I skipped condiments, such as mayo or mustard, but those are available.
It was only last week I grumbled to a friend that most veggie burgers are swallowed up by huge buns. That amount of bread might work fine for a sturdy meat burger, but the less hearty veggies get lost in the carbs. Substituting less bread is the perfect solution, I discovered at Thrive.
The burger was moist and tasty, and the chips were fresh.
My server told me I couldn't go wrong with the Rishi brand tea Thrive serves, and he was right. The tropical hibiscus was perfect for a warm fall day.
Thrive offers the typical cafe service of ordering at the register and having your food brought to the table.
My server was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. He recommended his favorites from the menu and described the options.
Thrive Cafe shares its space with Thrive Studio, which offers yoga and spinning classes and personal training in what used to be the Rock/Creek store in Coolidge Park.
But this isn't eating in your neighborhood gym.
The space is warm and welcoming with colorful chairs and a long wooden bench along one side. Fresh sunflowers and ornamental pumpkins made cheerful centerpieces, while a large black (fake) spider crawling down the wall added a Halloween touch.
A canopy and several tables and chairs outdoors allow diners to look out into Coolidge Park while eating. Free Wi-Fi is available if you want to turn your breakfast in to a browsing session or do a working lunch.
If you are looking for an expensive, posh place for that new date or think potato chips and ketchup count as vegetables, Thrive Cafe isn't the place for you. But if you need a quick and healthy breakfast or lunch that tastes great before a strenuous day at the office or on the trail, it fits the bill.
Contact Mariann Martin at email@example.com or 423-757-6324.