There are aspects of living a healthy lifestyle that are more difficult than others; most notably, there’s that whole ‘exercise’ thing. Running, lifting, jumping, stretching – among the myriad heart-rate hiking habits – are no easy task. Nor are they meant to be. Physical exertion in the name of a better quality of life is a facet of living to which Russel Aldredge is no stranger. Aldridge, the former owner of Deep Ellum Crossfit, is accustomed to seeing people sweat and strain every day to the ultimate betterment of their lifestyle. He’s seen lives transformed by hard work and dedication, souls who awake before sunrise to get their workout in so they can be showered and ready before their workday begins.
But not everything about the healthy lifestyle needs to be difficult. Working out is difficult enough, Aldredge and his fiancee Jess Myers decided. Eating healthy shouldn’t have to be. So they opened Origin Natural Food.
“We like to say that we’re taking the hard out of healthy,” says Myers, who along with Aldredge and manager Andrew Key opened Origin last month. “It’s not sacrificing the quality or the taste for convenience. And what we’ve seen here so far is that people are staying here to enjoy the food and enjoy the space – that’s really what our vision was: to create a hub where people in any realm of the community can come hang out and meet over healthy food and good coffee.”
The coffee bar and healthy food concept that Origin pursues are based on a locally minded, organic and ‘natural’ perspective, natural in this particular case meaning minimally processed. The food, which is all prepared by Chef Jeff Smith in an off-site kitchen, is packaged as entire meals and can be found in one of several refrigerators near the door. Pesto-stuffed, free-range chicken breast with cauliflower mash and a vegetable medley and a filet of pumpkin-crusted, sustainable wild salmon with braised carrots and grilled asparagus are just examples of the types of dishes that can be had. Meant to be reheated either at home or in the restaurant, the meals, while healthy and responsibly sourced, are also hearty by design.
“We’re noticing that people aren’t even finishing their whole portions,” says Jess. “They’re taking some home for later. Really, what we’re seeing is that people will stay here and enjoy it then pick up breakfast and lunch for the next day. It just kind of sets them up for the next whole week.”
“We’re passionate not only about the food, but where it comes from. That’s such a huge piece of what we’re doing, and it’s becoming a huge trend in North Texas,” adds Russell. “But the biggest thing is that it tastes good. It’s filling and it’s real, real food.”
But it’s not just the food that is getting people through the door at Origin. Nearly half of the restaurant’s interior is dedicated to coffee – and what better way to promote activity than getting customers their daily dose of wakeup? Using local roasters (Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters) and armed with a green La Marzocco espresso machine, Origin Coffee Manager and barista Louie Corwin are dedicated to ensuring that people get as much satisfaction from their daily brew or two as they do from the carefully considered cuisine.
“It’s cool to kind of see the coffee world and the health world come together,” Jess observes. “There aren’t too many places that combine those – I feel like they’ve been kept separate, and we’re about bringing those two communities together.”
The locally sourced coffee reflects Origin’s overall view of whole food, and they make an effort to source their proteins and produce from the nearest responsibly producing provider possible. Their chicken is purchased from Windy Meadow Farms (Campbell, TX), and their eggs from Vital farms, which is a mix of independent producers whose flagship farm is in Austin.
“It’s an opportunity to educate the community on not necessarily focusing so much on how many calories are in something, but where their foods coming from, how it’s been prepared and what oils it’s been prepared with,” says Russell.
And in doing so, both through their coffee options and their sourcing approach, Origin strives to bring the community together not just through quality dining, but a common philosophy: a philosophy that by its very nature is meant to lead to a better and more enjoyable quality of life.
“I think it’s not only a hub for the community, but a hub for integration for people to get together and really create their goals and their future,” says Jess. “We’ve already seen a couple of those things happening, and that’s really amazing to see.”
It’s a responsible and practical outlook on coffee and food – two aspects of just about everyone’s life that can either be overlooked or romanticized. But ultimately, as Jess says, “It really is something that you feel good enough going home and putting on a plate, and pretending you made it for dinner.”
It’s healthy, it’s practical, and – unlike showing up at a crossfit gym at six in the morning – it’s easy.