By Randy Talley’s estimation, Asheville consumes more natural food per capita than anywhere else, but just 22 years ago, this situation seemed impossible.
Talley, owner of Green Sage Cafe, came to Asheville in 1992 to research the potential for a natural foods supermarket, Earth Fare. His team hired a renowned analyst to look for prospective customers; he couldn’t find any.
The analyst told Talley not to despair. “He said some market characteristics are so rare they only exist in one place,” Talley recalls. “Perhaps Asheville has its own psyche, a rare psyche, so it can’t be compared to other markets.”
Two decades later, Talley knows Asheville has that rare psyche and a hunger for healthy eats. The city boasts six natural groceries and three locations of Talley’s Green Sage Cafe, which serves nourishing meals in a casual, inviting atmosphere. “We’re trying to be very good at the simplest things,” Talley says. “We’re trying to be the comfortable place.”
Locals flock to Green Sage Cafe for its raw Citrus Kale Salad, its Miso Ginger Rice Bowl, and its fairer-than-fair trade Thrive Farmers Coffee. Most of the menu is easily modified for vegetarians and sensitive eaters. “Green Sage Cafe is a place where someone who has dietary restrictions can take their friends,” Talley says. “He can get his burger, and she can get a gluten-free vegan burger.”
A meal at the cafe is also a way to support environmentally friendly innovations; see the rooftop solar panels, and add your scraps to the compost bin. Talley knows sustainability is important to Asheville diners, and he provides a restaurant that supports their values.