Forage Kitchen, which opened last October, is one in a wave of new restaurants populating the State Street corridor. Many of these cater to college students’ demands for convenience and affordability. In addition to the ubiquitous array of chains—Wendy’s, Chipotle, Five Guys, Potbelly’s and the like—some local start-ups like Forage Kitchen are making their mark on the fast-food landscape.
Owned and operated by Henry Aschauer, who also owns Roast Public House on State Street, Forage is in touch with the preferences of college students who want something quick and easy without sacrificing nutritional benefits.
“The idea behind Forage is to provide our guests with real, wholesome, healthy food in a fast setting at a price point that is attainable for most. We want to revolutionize what people think a salad can be and make the community better off for it,” Aschauer said.
The menu offers salads, grain-based bowls and homemade smoothies, and draws on a variety of foreign cuisines. For a Mediterranean-inspired bowl they offer the $11 ‘Club Med Bowl,’ a mixed greens salad with quinoa, feta, cucumbers, raisins, cilantro, *grape* tomatoes, lemon chicken, hummus, pita chips and zhoug (a Mediterranean Chimichurri). The generous serving size is plenty for a full meal and the combination of tangy hummus, crispy pita, lemon chicken and quinoa provides enough variety in texture and flavor that it’s tempting to order it on return visits.
For a Southwestern bite there is the $10.50 ‘Batatas Rancheros,’ a salad built on shredded romaine, sweet potato, corn, black beans, roasted jerk chicken, green onion, cilantro, avocado and ranchero dressing. As with the ‘Club Med,’ the various elements work to balance the flavors in a way that avoids the single-note taste of many other salads that seem to try to do too much. The cool and creamy avocado balances the zestier flavor of the chicken and dressing, and the corn and green onions provide a welcome crunch that doesn’t lazily rely on the obvious crouton, that wouldn’t match the flavor profile of the dish.
While the carefully constructed offerings on the menu should not be neglected, Forage also allows make-your-own bowls from their vast array of fresh ingredients.
An extra effort is also made to prepare the ingredients in-house every day. Aschauer said, “Most everything is made in-house. All of our salad dressings, nut milks, nut butters, most beverages, hummus, we're starting to brew and bottle our own kombucha, I mean we even bake our own bread to simply cut up and bake for croutons. Sometimes it is cheaper to do it this way, sometimes it isn't, but what is guaranteed is that we have complete control over the end product.”
Another important part of Forage’s mission is to support farmers and purveyors that are local to the Madison area. “Generally speaking, it is simply better for the community,” Aschauer said “If we can get our spring mix from a local farm and pay them every week, that is money that is invested back into the local community rather than going to California or abroad. It is tough come late fall and winter to source fresh produce locally, but we still try to support local companies as much as possible during this time.”
For smaller snacks Forage also offers smoothies, fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices and acai bowls. This includes the $7.50 “Goji Berry High” which comes with the cold, smoothie-like consistency of Acai, topped with sliced banana, fresh berries and house-made goji granola.
For those looking to try something new for lunch, Forage Kitchen more than deserves a chance to experience a convenient way to get yourself a healthy, quality meal or snack.