The ‘True-ist’ Food Kitchen

The restaurant unveils a second location in La Jolla to promote healthy dining and wellness

While some may still view the health-craze as a “fad,” San Diegans proves that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is truly a ‘trend’ that is here to stay. Renowned physician and True Food Kitchen co-founder, Dr. Andrew Weil, is well aware of our city’s embrace of nutritious eating. So, he recently opened the second location of his popular eatery in America’s Finest City.

To welcomed applause, Weil’s True Food Kitchen opened its newest location at La Jolla’s renovated Westfield UTC Center, marking the second True Food location in San Diego. The first location already keeps people healthy in its Fashion Valley locale.

“The restaurant itself is beautiful and the location is just stellar. That mall is just amazing,” Weil explains of the recently unveiled location at UTC. Moreover, he adds that San Diego is a city that “just gets it” when it comes to his vision for the health-concious restaurant. “I think San Diego’s really supportive of the concept. People get it there. They love the food and I think there’s plenty of space for more than one.”

Weil’s True Food first opened its doors in 2008 in Phoenix, AZ, after the healthy trailblazer joined forces with restaurateur Sam Fox and Executive Chef, Michael Stebner. Fast-forward a decade later and the health-driven restaurant is just getting started. In fact, apart from San Diego, the chain is set to open additional locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, Texas, as well.

With 21 branches across the country, many may be quick to wonder what makes the earthy restaurant so appealing. But after a quick glance at the menu, it’s obvious.  Popular food staples are offered, but with a healthy twist. For instance, a teriyaki bowl consists of quinoa, ancient grains and fresh vegetables. While a grass-fed burger is covered by a flax-seed bun and complemented with a kale salad and roasted sweet potato (instead of French fries.) Yes, this restaurant is committed to offering a varied menu that can satisfy any craving, but never strays from maintaining nutritional value.   

“Our dishes are unique. Our food looks terrific. It tastes terrific and there’s something for everyone there,” Weil says of the menu.

And while a surplus of healthy eateries can be found around town, Weil’s True Food is home to an innovative concept that no eatery has thus tackled- Weil’s innovative anti-inflammatory food pyramid.

Based on the concept of an anti-inflammatory diet, the medical researcher created the pyramid as a way to guide those seeking the necessary foods needed to fight inflammation and assist in achieving and maintaining optimal health.  “They (menu food items) perform to a coherent nutritional philosophy, my anti-inflammatory diet. I don’t think there’s other restaurants that do something like that,” Weil emphasizes.

True Food’s menu is cooked-up from inflammatory-fighting ingredients such as lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and herbs and spices including tumeric and ginger. Additionally, customers can choose from a variety of salads, soups, entrées and desserts. The restaurant also features a breakfast specific-menu for morning guests and offers seasonally driven dishes that range from a Butternut Squash Pizza, Moroccan Chicken and the “foodie favorite” Squash Pie. Most importantly, the menu also appeals to all allergies and diets with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options available.

“My main motivation is to show people that there’s no opposition between food that’s good and food that’s good for you,” Weil explains. “Most people I meet think that eating healthy means giving up everything that you like and that’s absolutely not true. But many people have never had the experience of eating food that was healthy and also delicious.”

Known as an avid traveler, Weil finds inspiration in cultural meals; he’s always eager to create his own healthy twists. And to this day, he continues to remain heavily involved in creating the menu while assuring each ingredient, flavor and presentation meets the highest standards.

“Some of the recipes on the menu are mine,” Weil reveals. “I source new ingredients. I travel widely. I’m always on the lookout for new ingredients and new ideas. I work with the chef. I taste everything and I approve it.”

And if today’s climate seems to embody a new ‘health craze,’ Weil notes that his restaurant played an important role in influencing this healthy mindset, even when  introducing the beloved kale salad years ago. “I think we’re really responsible for creating the craze for kale salad,” Weil explains. “When we opened, that was a really unusual dish to have on the menu. I think we’ve been very innovative and ahead of the curve.”

Much like the restaurant’s Fashion Valley location, the new UTC Kitchen is a 9,000 square foot space with both outdoor and indoor dining areas. The dining room seats up to 200 guests and allows visitors to marvel at the organic, contemporary ambiance of the restaurant. The décor maintains an eco-friendly vibe. Indeed, the chairs are constructed from recycled soda bottles, the hardwood floors are created utilizing reclaimed wood and the indoor/outdoor garden basins are filled with organic herbs and spices.

Weil notes that there’s always “tweaking” with the look of each location. For example, the La Jolla location introduces the restaurant’s first glassed-in kitchen; normally it’s open and accessible to guest’s in other locations.

Naturally, the ambiance can be appealing to the eye, but it’s the eatery’s attitude that Weil finds the most special for customers. “There’s a culture at True Food that attracts people. Servers who lead the lifestyle… A lot of the people there look pretty, are enthusiastic, really believe in the mission of True Food and that’s really the outstanding thing,” Weil muses.

When you walk into the new La Jolla location, you’ll immediately notice murals on the wall that read “Feel Good Today” or “Love Your Mother”- references to the planet. And each waiter can be seen wearing shirts that read positive words such as “Honest,” “True” and “Shine On.” The luxurious appeal of the restaurant is modern-meets-Mother-Earth, and the eatery is filled with individuals who believe in the importance of a healthy lifestyle and also hope to promote  health consciousness.

Weil hopes that their menu will inspire others to embrace eating and cooking healthy. “I’d like them (customers) to make this kind of food at home. I want people to get to eating this way on their own,” Weil says, before explaining that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is based on three easy  principles that anyone can follow.

“I think the basic principles are pretty simple. I think with nutrition, (one must) really stop eating refined and manufactured foods. Second, I think it’s important to be really physically active. To get good rest and sleep. To learn and practice some methods of neutralizing harmful effects of stress.”

Weil’s cookbook “True Food,” is available in local retailers and includes more than 125 recipes from True Food Kitchen, making it easy to have the “true-ist” form of nutrition in your own home.