Walking up to Nucleus Raw Foods in Luzerne, Pennsylvania, exactly 100 miles northeast of Philadelphia, in early April, I spotted the day’s special marked in chalk on the sidewalk. I took two more steps and stopped to take in an inspiring quote. Upon making it inside, I was warmed by friendly chefs Kamri Jacobs and Keri Venarchick, refreshing grassy green and sunny yellow walls—and chuckled when I spotted more than 100 pounds of bananas hanging from the ceiling.
Owner Dan McGrogan, who’s well-versed in Natural Hygiene, has got a very good thing going with his young raw food café—so much so that he decided after being open less than two months to knock down walls to almost triple the size of Nucleus Raw Foods. Construction of the expanded café is expected to wrap up soon.
“I prayed for a place like this to open,” one woman told McGrogran, whose place has evoked an if-you-build-it-they-will-come response in this town of about 3,000. Come they have in droves to slurp down juices and fruit and green smoothies and sink their spoons into Fronananas, raw vegan versions of ice cream made from a base of frozen bananas. Then there are the entrées, which are massive in size and deliver in taste while, thankfully, cutting back on and sometimes even eliminating the use of popular, heavy-hitting taste “enhancers” such as salt and nama shoyu. Nucleus Raw Foods offers clean-tasting gourmet raw food entrées in addition to its fruit-based offerings. Appetizers such as Raw Living Bread and Marinated Zucchini and salads, including Zesty Salad, which features apples along with traditional salad ingredients, round out the ample menu.
This reviewer is accustomed to ordering three meals at raw vegan cafés and sometimes calls for more plates of food to fill his fuel tank. I went with the Cheeze Sandwich, Veggie Berger Sandwich and Ray’s Smile, a chopped salad that also makes use of the Veggie Berger. I could finish only the Cheeze Sandwich, streaked with a zig-zag of cashew-based white sauce, and Ray’s Smile. I was mesmerized by the thickness of the cheeze spread and height and weight of the sandwich itself, piled high with vegetables, mostly grated carrots.
“Well, now you have another raw meal for tomorrow,” McGrogan told me, echoing a line he shares with many stuffed customers, and then smiled.
I heartily enjoyed both meals. Hot sauce—an old favorite—delivered a bit of fire in measured doses from a side ramekin. Its white color fooled me not. A friend to whom I gave Veggie Berger Sandwich, topped with a tomato-based red sauce, also gave a positive review.
The Nucleus Raw Foods menu is inspired by the Arnold’s Way menu. McGrogan apprenticed for a short period last winter under Arnold Kauffman, owner of the Lansdale, Pennsylvania, raw food café, before opening Nucleus Raw Foods. Kauffman gladly offers restauranteurs opportunities to shadow him and learn what’s kept Arnold’s Way evolving and thriving as a raw vegan café since 1998.
Raw vegan meals of pizza and spaghetti make Nucleus Raw Foods’ menu, as does an avocado-laden sandwich. Patrons may choose to swap out dehydrated bread for nori or collard green wraps if ordering a sandwich. One menu item, the cleverly named 3.14159, is a specialty smoothie featuring banana, raisin and cinnamon. Patrons looking to get creative may even build their own smoothies.
I joined Kauffman and Arnold’s Way regular Betty Komar on this trip. A larger crowd from the Arnold’s Way community is set for a return visit once construction is completed. I know now that I can eat to my heart’s content without breaking the bank at Nucleus Raw Foods. Luzerne is lucky to have this first-rate establishment, owned by one of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet.
Watch a Fruit-Powered Video Interview with Dan McGrogan Recorded in January 2014
Watch a Fruit-Powered Video Interview with Dan McGrogan Recorded in June 2014
Check out Dan’s feature story on his café, Nucleus Raw Foods!
Check out Dan’s transformation story!