If you know me at all, one of the things you’re probably aware of is that I have never been the biggest fan of so-called “health food.” So, you can probably imagine my skepticism when I heard about Ithaca’s newest chain restaurant, “CoreLife Eatery.” Emphatically marketed on the website as “more than a restaurant” that can “promote unlimited peak performance for everyone,” CoreLife opened just off Route 13 next to Chipotle on April 21. The restaurant had already opened locations throughout Upstate New York, before finally coming to the realization that Ithaca is the ultimate target market for the kind of place with the stated goal of “raising awareness to the power of real food.” In fact, this is exactly the kind of marketing that people around here really eat up (somewhat literally), so I decided to see if the restaurant’s health-food message could translate to a more average consumer like myself.
Despite all our initial concerns, my sister (Amanda Heitzman ’17) and I decided to walk into the restaurant with open minds. The exterior looks great, with a covered seating area and a hardwood-esque facade. Upon entering, I was impressed with the amount of seating they had managed to comfortably fit in the space. There are menus on the wall to look over while in line, with one menu each for their three types of dishes; “grain bowls,” “green bowls,” and “bone broth bowls.” Although these names are creative, I ultimately felt that they were kind of obnoxious more than anything; why can’t we just call them what they are (noodle dishes, salads, and soups, respectively)? The name “bone broth,” in particular, just makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. After careful deliberation, we decided to try one broth bowl and one green bowl, ordering the chicken cobb green bowl and the chicken and rice noodle bone broth. The ordering system is similar to that of Subway, but with what appear to be actual fresh ingredients (how does Jared Fogle expect me to “eat fresh” when they’re microwaving my bacon?). When we got to the checkout, we were surprised to find that their drink choices were limited to bottled “antioxidant infusion drinks,” Fiji Water, and CoreLife’s “handcrafted beverages,” which consisted of fruit punch, iced tea, and four types of lemonade. We both decided to make the safe choice in this situation, the “fresh-squeezed lemonade,” over their other lemonade flavors, which included “cilantro basil” and “cranberry cayenne.” After getting our drinks, we sat down to try the food.
I decided to try the chicken cobb green bowl first. The chicken cobb was a basic salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, large pieces of chicken, egg, and bacon. I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of this green bowl. The chicken was well seasoned, and the balsamic vinaigrette had a good flavor that was not overpowering. However, I cannot give the same praise to the broth bowl. If the dishes I tried at CoreLife were the Jonas Brothers, the bone broth would probably be Joe; it may have a cool, alliterative name, but it isn’t actually very good. The chief issue I had with the bone broth was that it seemed to be completely devoid of salt. There are salt grinders in the same area where you get lids and straws for drinks, but going up there made me feel pretty awkward. After all, nobody wants to be the guy who doesn’t “appreciate the flavor beyond the sodium.” The contents of the bone broth besides the broth itself were similarly lacking any real flavor, particularly the noodles. The lemonade was perhaps a bit sour for my taste, but it was still decent. Ultimately, the restaurant was one which I would not choose to eat at. However, if I had to eat there, I wouldn’t necessarily be unhappy. I suggest that you give it a try, but you should probably stick with one of the green bowls (or grain bowls, which I did not try during my visit), unless you enjoy eating water with a spoon as a meal. There are many vegetarian and vegan options, and common allergens are listed on the website. I must admit, however, that not too long after eating at CoreLife, my sister and I ended up eating ice cream at Purity. There goes my health kick, I guess.