Imagine a meal just as delicious as a burger and fries but with healthy ingredients that also support local farmers and sustainable practices. That’s the mission of Whole Harvest, a new vegan-friendly, healthy-living-centric cafe, which will be opening on Thursday, March 14, in Downtown Saratoga Springs. The restaurant of mostly vegan or vegetarian fare—you can non-vegan/veggie items such as chicken, cheese or a fried/hard boiled egg to most items—will be tapping local farmers and food businesses for most of its ingredients. Even the salad dressings, which are a major component to some of the meals, are all made in house.
Whole Harvest’s menu features savory health food staples such as avocado toast (with sun dried tomatoes and pistachios), seasonal soups and sandwiches (buffalo chicken with avocado or smoked tempeh and carrots). It’ll also be serving up unique smoothie and grain bowls such as one of the cafe’s signature items, the “toga-rashi” (a play on “Saratoga” and the Japanese seasoning), a bowl of brown rice, mixed greens and veggies, toasted almonds and sesame seeds, tofu and, of course, spicy togarashi.
But what would a healthy restaurant be without some cheat-meal options? “I love eating healthy in a well balanced diet, but we also definitely have dessert on the menu, as well as beer, wine and cider,” says Kelsey Whalen, Founder and Owner of Whole Harvest. Born downstate but raised in the Spa City, Whalen finished a dual masters degree in business and nutrition from Northeastern University four years ago, and ever since, she’s been searching, on and off, for the right space in Saratoga to open up her deli of delicious, health-conscious food. Toward the end of 2017, Whalen officially founded Whole Harvest and slowly started doing some trial catering events and festivals (including this year’s Chowderfest) to test out the menu. “Everything went really well and the response to the food has been so positive,” says Whalen. Back in November of last year, she finally found the right spot for her healthy cafe on 5 Caroline Street, where Smokin’ Sam’s Cigar Shop used to be.
Since November, Whalen has just been turning the former cigar shop into a cozy, corner eatery, where guests can dine in when they like or grab a quick healthy bite or meal on the go. It’s Whalen’s first restaurant opening, but food service is in her family. “My dad does national sales for US Foods, my sister is a liquor rep, and I grew up working at restaurants in Saratoga,” she says, citing particularly formative experiences at Cold Stone Creamery and Chianti Ristorante. “Chianti is where I really fell in love with food in the restaurant industry,” says Whalen. “And I also have to give credit to my Mom, who’s a wonderful cook.”
Whalen has big plans for the little space. The interior has a unique and welcoming design: All menus are handmade by Saratoga’s own Alyssa Menshausen of Paper Dolls boutique, and the dining tables are fashioned from refurnished bowling alley lanes. Another local, Chef Maxwell Schroeder from Scallions, will be moving over to Whole Harvest to serve as its Head Chef. In addition to the regular menu items, Schroeder will also create weekly specials and seasonal dishes. Premiering this week, the first weekly soup special will be sweet potato with apples sourced from Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville. Whalen hopes to introduce online ordering in about a month and after that, she has plans for regular delivery in addition to meal subscriptions, with daily lunches/dinners delivered to offices in Downtown Saratoga Monday through Friday.
Whalen is also planning some slightly naughtier offerings—for example, be prepared for two dessert menus! The regular dessert menu will include whoopie pies, chocolate chip cookies and vanilla cupcakes, all vegan, free of the top eight allergens, and baked at Alexander’s Bakery in Clifton Park. Then, starting this summer, Whole Harvest will introduce its late-night desserts on the weekends (Whole Harvest is on Caroline Street after all), a selection of red velvet whoopie pies, cake batter brownies and edible cookie dough, again all vegan and made by The Caker Bri in Rensselaer.
As for having to compete with other established healthy food spots in town, Whalen says, “I think each restaurant in the area has some healthy things on the menu, but no one with a dietetic background that can really say that, for example, the salad dressings are all homemade.” Whalen has already received so many messages about the opening that she stocked extra ingredients and restaurant essentials for the big unveiling on Thursday. “We’re hoping at least a hundred or so orders tomorrow, maybe more,” she says.
Whole Harvest will open its doors tomorrow at 10:30am.