Located in the heart of Lowell’s Art District, Heidi Feinstein’s Life Alive provides customers with a unique vegetarian experience. The restaurant uses different combinations of certified organic vegetables, dressings, and grains that make for interesting fare.
Traditionally, we think of vegetables as a side dish or as something to put salad dressing on. Life Alive puts vegetables in the spotlight and makes you forget about meat.
At Life Alive you are greeted with a smile and can’t help but want to investigate the area. At the front of the restaurant there is a store where there are several different herbal supplements and remedies. There are facts displayed throughout the restaurant on the benefits of eating local and organic food, as well as lists of famous vegetarians such as Albert Einstein, Claudia Schiffer, and John Lennon. The staff is a fount of knowledge on the ingredients used in the dishes as well as the effects they have on the human body.
The restaurant has a comfortable, earthy feel. The warm lighting and colors on the wall impart a sense of nostalgia. The table sets are mismatched and there are books about our planet available for diners to flip through as they wait for their meals.
The restaurant offers a section where patrons can buy bulk items such as dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate treats, and there is a case of beverages available that features Honest Teas, Reed’s Ginger Brew, and Virgil’s cream soda; Kombucha is also available.
Life Alive has a juice bar that features smoothies, fresh juices and shots of wheat grass. Although there is no alcohol served, there is a wide variety of teas that are served in mini cast-iron tea kettles. The drinks come in mason jars, which is also a testament to the restaurant’s bohemian aesthetic. The ginger crush is one of the restaurant’s “jubilant juices,” containing ginger, lemon, maple syrup, ice, and pure water. There’s also a popular drink called the “almond joy alive smoothie,” which contains cocoa, coconut oil, banana, soy dream, and almond milk.
Life Alive adjusts its menu according to season. In the winter there are special soups, which are $5.25 (12-ounce cup) and $5.75 (16-ounce bowl). In the summer and spring, avocados can be added to any dish; squash can be added in the fall and winter. Diners have the option of having each concoction as a “filling bowl” for $9.05, “handy wrap” for $9.55 or “taster plate” for $5.65.
My last visit to Life Alive was on a Thursday night, and the restaurant was filled with a variety of people. There was a group of college kids, an older couple, a family with young children, and a table of people in business attire. The sweet sounds of Al Green and Aretha Franklin played on the radio and everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.
I was with two of my restaurant-going comrades and we ran into a friend who told us it was her second time at Life Alive, even though she is by no means a vegetarian. She said that, on her first visit, feeling a bit lost looking at the menu, she closed her eyes and picked a dish. She said it was fantastic and that she couldn’t wait to bring her avid meat-eating fiancé and some friends.
I ordered the Rebel filling bowl and a Virgil’s cream soda. The Rebel consists of short-grain brown rice infused with a blend of high-lignan flax oil and Braggs liquid aminos, topped with a mix of tofu; steamed carrots, beets, dark greens, broccoli, and hijiki; and flavored with a dressing of sesame-ginger and ginger nama shoyu sauces. The variety and proportion of ingredients are a huge reason for the dish’s success; no one ingredient overpowers another. The heaviness of the rice, the crunch of the carrots, and the slight chewiness of the dark greens are all elements in building the perfect bite. It was sweet and salty all at the same time. The vegetables in the dish are not over-processed or drenched in sauce. It is a dish that makes you appreciate the taste of each individual vegetable as well as the way they collectively complement each other.
After devouring my own dish, I sampled from the plates of my dinner companions. On the table we had my Rebel filling bowl, a Seeker handy wrap, the Healer filling bowl and the Romantic, with squash and brown rice. The Seeker wrap contained hummus, apples, cashews, cucumbers, carrots, spring greens, and ginger nama dressing. The proportions were just right, so that you could appreciate each element, especially the hummus and cucumber, and the crunch and slight nuttiness of the cashew. It was phenomenal.
Rarely after I eat a meal do I feel energized, clean and refreshed. Life Alive’s dishes don’t leave me with that heavy food coma. It’s the type of comfort food you don’t regret indulging in.
This story originally appeared in the Harvard Post.
Urban Oasis & Organic Café
194 Middle St., Lowell
Monday to Wednesday
10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Thursday and Friday
10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Noon - 6 p.m.
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