Convenient and healthy. No two words probably better describe current food trends.
Pocket Produce will check off both of those boxes when it opens at 3496 N. High St. in Clintonville this spring with a menu focused on nutritionally-dense, whole-meal salads.
Being a busy working mom, Founder Natalie Appelbaum was always on the lookout for a healthy, substantial offering for what she considers the most important meal of the day – lunch.
“I just felt like I couldn’t find what I was looking,” Appelbaum says.
A big bowl of greens with a few dots of toppings left her unsatisfied and still starving. Alternatively, loading up at a salad bar got to be an expensive affair.
“To make a whole meal satisfying, culinarily speaking, there has to be things that are happening together,” Appelbaum says.
Starting at $7.95 a pop, Pocket Produce’s whole-meal salads present a well-rounded option with veggies, proteins and grains coming together for a more filling meal. Appelbaum compares them to the Mason Jar salads that populate Pinterest boards.
Sold in individual portions, “Everything is ready, prepared, refrigerated,” Appelbaum says.
Pocket Produce will round out their grab-and-go menu with smaller-portioned side dishes, smoothies made in-house, coffee, tea and other assorted beverages. Aiming for a late April or early May launch, the eatery will be open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
While Appelbaum didn’t necessarily expect to be on a culinary entrepreneurial adventure, it’s actually quite fitting. A self-proclaimed food enthusiast, she worked in the food service industry early on, going from fast food to waiting tables during school.
“I was always sort of nosing around in the kitchen,” Appelbaum says. “And I’ve just always connected myself with food in whatever way that I could.”
However, she put her degree to use, pursuing social work for a number of years before the birth of her first daughter. When she was born, Appelbaum took time off and somewhat accidentally started dabbling in catering. Her husband owns a photography studio for which she would whip up delectables. The questions started coming. Who is your caterer?
That was a sign it was time to find an outlet for her culinary creativity. Appelbuam’s sub-par salad experiences and opportunity to fill the gap of what she couldn’t find presented the perfect opportunity. She felt she knew how to do the concept and do it well.
Pocket Produce will be taking over the former Melissa’s Incredible Edibles space – an optimal location for many reasons.
“The layout of the space was just what we wanted,” Appelbaum says.
The small footprint of a 400 square foot kitchen and additional front-facing retail space fits the concept well. A spot directly across the street from the Clintonville Farmers Market and the community’s health-conscious and wellness-focused lifestyle are draws as well.
As she works towards opening, one that’s likely to coincide with the start of farmers market season in late April or early May, Appelbaum is already receiving a warm welcome.
“The feedback that we’ve gotten has been really enthusiastic,” she says.
Five years ago, opening a healthy restaurant would have raised some eyebrows, but healthy has now become a sought-after term when it comes to eating for a broad market of people.
“I think everyone is ready for it,” Appelbaum says.
She’s looking forward to not only changing the notion of what a salad can be, but being a part of what a healthy, convenient meal can mean to a person.
For updates, stay tuned at pocketproduce.com.