A taste for health and environment


Dining out is now a regular pastime for many people, especially as the food industry has birthed more options to suit different diets.

People who regularly eat out may have noticed some of the growing trends that have emerged in recent years that are helping to shape dining experiences, especially in Santa Clarita.

One major innovation is restaurants and cafes are offering “gut-friendly foods,” experimenting with preparing and offering foods that are healthier and made with only the best sorts of probiotic ingredients. They’re also cutting down on waste.

In Santa Clarita, Eat Real Cafe fits the bill for eating healthy. The sandwiches, wraps, salads and juices that the cafe offers are all made with the most organic ingredients, said owner Mike Meguerditchian.

With locations on Lyons Avenue and Newhall Ranch Road, the cafe is now expanding to a third location in the San Fernando Valley due to popular demand, Meguerditchian said.

Its origin story began when people wanted more tasty, fresh options.

“This was a pop-up store about four to five years ago,” Meguerditchian said. “A lot of people were asking for healthier options, so we opened this with the idea of a fresher look to the dining industry.”

The cafe refrains from using certain ingredients in its foods. Thus their chicken sandwiches or turkey wraps won’t have hydrogenated cooking oils or corn syrup, and all of their pastries, like scones and breads, are baked fresh every day in-house. Salad dressings also won’t see any artificial ingredients, and their juices have no sugar.

“We’re all about understanding what is going into our bodies, and being able to pronounce all of the ingredients in our foods is a big part of our mission statement,” said Meguerditchian, who sources his ingredients specifically from organic distributor Better Life Organics, which uses only reputable local farms in California.

Meanwhile, at Brewery Draconum, the brew pub also makes efforts to be waste-friendly and keep its in-house food fresh.

Owner Ben Law said new items are added to the brew pub’s small menu by remixing what it already has.

“So, for example, we have a new chicken chipotle sandwich,” he said. “And when we were making that, we already had bacon from making our burgers, chicken for salads, bread for our pudding … so we take what we have and make something new out of everything.”

The brew pub makes sure to only bring in six different proteins, Law said, which include chicken, salmon, lamb and other meats used for chili and shepherd’s pie.

Law said for a smaller business  — Brewery Draconum is owned by him, his mother and his sister — that isn’t striving to be a large, gourmet restaurant, keeping waste to a minimum can be a priority.

“For us, waste is huge,” he said. “We don’t want to bring in 25 different dishes, as we literally have less than 20 things on the menu. So when we try to add more dishes, we reinvent the stuff we have.”

Everything is made in-house and can be used for multiple items, he said. Classic staples for the brew pub include chuck and tri-tip that can be ground up for chili and shepherd’s pie, chicken for chicken burgers and the beer batter for fish and chips.

At Eat Real Cafe, a priority for the eat-fresh-mentality is always knowing there are real people making food in the back, Meguerditchian said.

“We like our customers to know it’s not just coming frozen in a warehouse somewhere,” he said. “If you’re going to be drinking these smoothies, why not get the freshest produce possible? People ask why we don’t have hazelnut or Nutella. Well, that’s because those things have palm oil and can be really nasty for your body.

“I believe what we put in our bodies is either killing us or helping us,” he said. “We have people with health issues who come here and are looking for gluten-free, vegan ideas, and that’s increased over the years. Since we opened in 2013, there’s been a surge in our customers over the last couple of years. People are becoming more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies in the restaurant industry, so customers are all taking more interest in what restaurants are making in their kitchens, how they’re making those things, too.”

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