Restaurant review: Alchemy converts satisfying homey fare into something healthy

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In the European Middle Ages, alchemy was a protoscience whose proponents attempted to convert cheap metals into gold. In modern day Columbus, the owners of Alchemy are attempting to convert the lobby of a gym into a hip eatery.

Another A&R Creative Group enterprise (The Crest, The Market Italian Village, Ethyl & Tank), Alchemy’s healthy aesthetic stands out because it diverges from trends like fatty comfort food and carbohydrate-dense craft beer. This groups Alchemy and a few new juice bars with Acre (my review last week), into an interesting little health-focused counter movement.

Unlike Acre though, Alchemy isn’t trying to be the next Northstar. It’s just a juice and smoothie bar serving enlightened lunch counter fare in a new building in a developing area (Schumacher Place). It’s a great — if not cheap — addition there.

Sure, Alchemy’s fitness center-foyer space recalls an institutional waiting room, but compensating some is pleasantly bouncy and soothing light electronica music (when I visited) and a super-friendly staff. Speaking of the staff — and this sounds like an Onion story — there’s a nutritionist on hand to offer lunch-ordering advice.

Using great breads from The Angry Baker and housemade spreads, Alchemy sells slices of toast for $3 and modest-sized sandwiches for $8. Alchemy also offers homemade soup ($4), fruit/granola bowls ($6.50) and its own pre-packaged salads.

My perfectly named Orange Zing juice ($4.50) was bright, complex, delicious and a new favorite. I also enjoyed the thick and rich Peanut Butter Power smoothie ($6) with cacao, banana and homemade peanut butter.

A hearty, minestrone-like vegetable and chickpea soup du jour was big, herby and pleasant. Toast with rich hummus, zatar and sea salt was exactly as simple and satisfying as it sounds. A Curried Almond Brussels Sprout Salad ($4.50) with raisins, ginger, mustard and maple syrup had a lot going on — but it all worked.

I tried two sandwiches — Jalapeno Turkey (a lotta warm organic deli meat, garlicky poblano/black bean spread and havarti) and Tuna Kraut (with cuts-above canned meat and fruit) — and would give turkey the edge. Still, both were good, if things you could assemble yourself if you had the right ingredients. But do you and would you?

Photo by Tim Johnson

Alchemy Juice Bar + Cafe

625 Parsons Ave., South Side