Destination Fast and Healthy: Organika Kitchen
By Eileen Weber
When it comes to wholesome food, there’s a new sheriff in town. Organika Kitchen on the Post Road in Southport is a little spot dedicated to organic, vegan, plant-based, gluten-free, and non-GMO food.
Offering breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, you can order and eat in or take it to go, or choose from the Grab and Go cooler. Almost everything on the menu is handmade in-house, even the pita bread for the falafel sandwiches. From an open greens bar for salads to more hearty fare like burgers, pitas, and pizzas, there is something to satisfy the appetites and tastes of every member of your family or friends group.
Organika occupies what was formerly The Nest on the corner of Hulls Highway. A relatively tight space, the Organika team managed a renovation that’s produced an open and airy space with recycled wood and floor to ceiling glass doors that open onto the front stoop in fair weather. Seating includes live edge communal tables from Brooklyn’s From The Source and a cozy corner complete with a couch and stools to curl up with friends to enjoy a meal or snack. Sporting a motto of “Because We Kale,” the ambiance is approachable, homey, and fun.
The “team” is a family affair. Owners Gino and Kathy Riccio, married about 20 years now, are seasoned restaurateurs. The Riccios own Quattro Pazzi in Fairfield and FISH in Stamford, but sold Osianna (now Toto) for this venture. Nephew Dimitri Pantzos is the general manager and he and Kathy can be found there seven days a week. They have also partnered with New Beauty Wellness in Westport to serve lunch as part of a spa package. Need a massage and a smoothie? They’ve got you covered.
Kathy has been a vegetarian for the past 30 years, so this restaurant was definitely a labor of love. They use only the finest organic ingredients and go the extra mile to source responsibly. They have organic kamut flour for their baked goods while whole grains like millet, farro, and quinoa round out their protein bowls. All organic produce either comes from local farms like Sweet Acre Farm in the summer or companies like Baldor and Ace Natural when the local farm season comes to an end. And who takes the time to soak their own dried beans to cook them fresh each day? They do.
“I believe we should live by example and hope that people begin to understand it,” Kathy explained. “You know the phrase, ‘Let food be thy medicine.’ There’s just no other solution.”
Kathy is happy to tell you that agribusiness is evil and we have no business putting pesticide-laden food into our bodies. Presenting an alternative for her customers was an important step.
“We’re not here for the vegans and vegetarians. They’ve done their homework and know what to eat,” she remarked. “We’re here for the masses to find something to eat that’s healthy. The body has the ability to heal itself if you give it the right things.”
She explained that vegetarian food has definitely come a long way. Many restaurants have worked hard to elevate the vegetable experience giving the average consumer a much-needed epiphany: It’s O.K. not to eat meat every day.
Fairfield Green Food Guide had the pleasure of dining at Organika. We tried the Kalifornia burger and the “Pull Pork” quesadilla as main dishes. We sampled the dragon pitaya bowl with its unique fuchsia color (thanks to the dragon fruit), hummus, pesto pasta, rice pudding, and polenta from the Grab & Go cooler, and a made to order chocolate avocado mylk shake and a super green smoothie.
The Kalifornia burger was killer. The “burger” is really a sweet potato patty with black beans and quinoa topped with guacamole and chipotle sauce on a multigrain bun. The chipotle gave it just the right amount of kick to offset the sultry sweetness of the potato. It is substantial and satisfying and one of their top sellers. This should be the first choice for the meat eater you’re dragging with you to check it out.
The “pull pork” was not pork at all, yet it felt like it. Using jackfruit, which is from the star fruit family, they roasted and shredded it, then dressed it in a tangy barbecue sauce. The addition of shiitake mushrooms, avocado, mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, produced a close facsimile of a typical pulled pork sandwich but in a whole wheat wrap.
The chocolate avocado mylk shake got its silkiness and body from avocado and banana while the cacao and honey provided the chocolaty sweetness. The super green can also thank the banana for its smooth texture. With the added spike of mango, kale, spinach, and coconut water, it had the proper vegetal overtone for a green drink. Both were flavorful, well balanced, and refreshing. The chocolate avocado mylk would make a great choice for a child or someone used to high calorie, low nutrient dense fast food that is looking for a healthier yet satisfying alternative.
Another good pick was the lemon hummus, which is made from scratch and tastes like it. With a consistency almost like thick whipped cream, the citrusy base had zing without being overpowering. It was topped with whole chickpeas and cayenne. Super nice touch. All you need are some celery and carrot sticks or some crackers and you have a healthy and flavorful snack.
The pesto pasta salad was generously dressed with a basil and garlic pesto, and topped with halved cherry tomatoes. This is best reheated to bring out all the flavors. Add a generous pinch of grated Parmesan cheese or just kosher salt to taste to make it sing. To make a meal of it, add some cheese or other protein and you might have enough to share.
If you’re not in the mood for cookies, mousse, or muffins, try their rice pudding. The vanilla-spiked brown rice pudding topped with cinnamon and raisins would even make a good breakfast. Just enough sweetness to make it feel like a dessert, it’s also got just enough goodness to feel like you’re not cheating on your real food diet.
The polenta with fall vegetables included butternut squash, wilted spinach and pine nuts, making it a great side dish. Add some protein to turn it into a full meal. Many of the grab and go items can easily be transformed into complete meals with the addition of a pantry or fridge item at home.
One side note that’s super important to mention: This place is quiet and clean! We had the rare opportunity to visit the inside of the kitchen and the basement space where they store supplies. The countertops were consistently wiped down. The entire kitchen space was devoid of debris. Frankly, you could eat off the floor. To be able to say that about any restaurant after a day’s work is pretty significant.
So the next time you’re looking for something healthy to eat quickly or on the go, try Organika and say hello to Kathy and Dimitri. Everyone there is friendly and seem so proud of their work feeding hungry guests who care very much about their food, where it comes from, and who’s making it.
3546 Post Road