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Roots Natural Kitchen Opening In State College

A new healthy eating option is coming to downtown State College.

Roots Natural Kitchen will open on July 1 at 270 E. Beaver Ave., on the first floor of The Edge apartment and retail building, which opened last year. State College will be the restaurant’s fifth location, with each based in university communities.

Co-founder Alberto Namnum said Happy Valley seemed like a natural fit.

“We felt really good about it,” Namnum said. “It’s a big school with a really active and engaged student population. The campus is stunning. We talked to a lot of students and to a lot of friends who went there and people seemed to say good things.”

Roots Natural Kitchen offers signature salad and grain bowls with and the option to create your own from a variety of salad and grain bases; beans, vegetables and cheeses; dressings; and grill items including chicken, tofu, mushroom, and veggie.

Namnum and co-founder Alvaro Anspach opened their first restaurant four years ago in Charlottesville, Va. Dissatisfied with his job working in finance, Namnum always wanted to open a restaurant and teamed up with fellow University of Virginia alumnus Anspach to fill what seemed to be missing from the local dining scene.

“Anyone you talked to at UVA was kind of shocked that there was no healthy option to eat. Everyone seemed pretty health-conscious but  the food offerings to them were nothing like that,” he said. 

After entering a startup pitch contest at UVA and meeting an investor, they partnered with chefs from a local fine dining restaurant and launched the first Roots Natural Kitchen. 

Since then, they’ve opened restaurants in Richmond, Va., Newark, Del., and Pittsburgh.

Namnum said new customers should be “a bit surprised” by what healthy eating can mean.

“We wanted to serve natural food but make it taste really good, make it really filling,” he said. “The goal was to make it really easy and enjoyable to eat natural food and not have to make tons of sacrifices, whether it’s spending too much, whether it’s being hungry, whether it’s the food only being cold. Sometimes with salads or other healthy food you don’t really enjoy it. You’re only eating it because it’s ‘healthy.’ That doesn’t seem right and that seems really hard to sustain and make a habit.”

He added that because the food is tasty and filling, he believes customers don’t need to be thinking about “eating healthy” to enjoy it.

Following that philosophy, kids 12 and younger can eat for free at the restaurant all day every day. Namnum said he knows it can be challenging to take kids out to eat while trying to find healthy options that they’ll enjoy.

“If you’ re taking two kids out to eat and you’re trying to eat a healthy meal, those places generally don’t have kids meals and they’re sometimes a little more on the expensive side,” he said. “It just overall seems like a tough experience to go and do that so we just thought we would help. If an adult comes in with two kids, we lose money on that, but who cares? It feels like the right thing to do. Running restaurants is hard and there’s moments of fun. Having kids in the restaurants is one of those and we do cherish those.”

Roots Natural Kitchen’s new location will launch just before two big local summer events — Central PA 4thFest and the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. The restaurant will be providing 60 percent discount coupons to volunteers for both festivals and the timing will be a way to jump into the community, Namnum said.

“It will be a good way to meet people,” he said. “It’s a good time to open and we’ll very quickly get to know what State College is all about.”

The restaurant also will be opening next to another health-oriented eatery, Frutta Bowls, which opened in The Edge earlier this year and serves acai, pitaya and kale bowls.

“The more places serving natural foods the better for everyone,” Namnum said. “You have 21 meals a week and the more places that exist serving natural foods, the more people start to get into the habit of only eating those kind of food and that’s good for everyone.”

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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