It's the time of year when I'm looking for a quick bite on the run - or after a run. Bonus if I can find a healthy nibble. Café Red Point, located in the Lincoln Center, brings the outdoors in with cleverly designed hammock chairs, artificial turf, and a vibe that feels a bit like you've reached the end of a trailhead. The minimalist décor translates to the similarly basic - but flavorfully complex - approach to drinks and plates on the menu: nutrient-dense whole foods that will fuel you up for your next adventure (or 12-hour day at the office).
On my first visit I opted for a straightforward smoothie - though the Tropical Thunder ($5.50) is far from rudimentary. The base is nature's sports drink: coconut water. A natural electrolyte - filled with sodium, potassium and other minerals - lime and pineapple in the coconut water make it a thirst quencher; the banana sweetens the drink and jacks up the potassium. While you can add protein for $1, I skip it because the cashews - which turn this into an ice cream-like treat - boast 5 grams of protein. I'll take this smoothie over a Gatorade any day.
For a completely different meal in liquid form, I opt for the Green Machine ($5.50) particularly when I want to kick the effects of spring allergies to the curb. This stereotypically vegan smoothie (hello, kale) is verdant with the coarse leafy green and lighter, nuttier pistachio. (Did you know that pistachios are legumes? Legumes and beans are a terrific source of protein and iron for those following a plant-exclusive diet.) Order this smoothie "make it meaner," to omit the honey (it comes from a bee!) and add cayenne pepper. Okay, you might be thinking that cayenne in a sweet(ish) drink just doesn't sound right. I'll admit that I had a bit of a horrifying flashback to the one and only time I did the Master Cleanse (three days of fasting and only drinking "lemonade" comprised of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne - never again!) but the spicy red vegetable's active component is capsaicin - a natural anti-inflammatory - and it's a solid source of vitamins C, and E. Regardless of those health perks, a fiery pinch of pepper in a kale drink lightens up the earthy flavor, which might be just what you need to get used to drinking kale.
For those of us who prefer to chew our breakfast, go for the hot breakfast bowl ($3). Quinoa - pronounced keen-whah - is the base and it just might be a food that you've never heard of (or one that you are so over). An "honorary legume," the ancient seed's nutrition profile mimics beans. A great source of protein, you get to then add bites and nibbles as you see fit. My go-to add-ons: crushed almonds or chopped walnuts ($.50 each), cacao nibs ($.75), and sliced banana ($.50). A fine alternative to oatmeal, the neutral flavor balances stronger flavors such as cacao, which is the purest form of chocolate, therefore more bitter than sweet. The bowl is remarkably filling.
For lunch, salads are the name of the game. All four on the menu feature poultry. Step one: ask them to hold the chicken. Step two: order one of the two salads built on quinoa. I've already waxed poetic about the protein-packed ancient grain (seed!) so you know it's good and good for you. The Bouldering Bowl ($5 when ordered vegan) is simply quinoa, baby spinach, tomatoes and apple cider vinegar and olive oil dressing. It's fresh and wholesome. The Mediterranean Bowl (also $5 when ordered with no poultry or eggs) is all about the quinoa. The generous bed of rather bland cooked quinoa is brightened up with sliced grape tomatoes and green cucumbers and whole Kalamata olives. For my preferred bowl, next time I'll just have them add some of the spinach from the other for the best of both salad bowls.
Café Red Point's smoothies and salads are, well, on point. Filled with wholesome plants and nothing more, think of it as food as fuel. Energy that will power you through - or recover you from - a workout or just another long day of work.
Before you leave be sure to check out the variety of vegan protein powders on sale ($20 to $65) and take a swing in the hammock chair. It's fun.