Raw Power

Is the raw revolution about to heat up? Johnny Raw Appleseed and Brian Hudson, masterminds behind Bliss Raw Café & Elixir Bar, believe so. And Sting, Demi, Donna Karan, and countless other high profile celebs all agree.

Clearly the raw foods movement is no longer subject to tree-hugger culture. It's all so Hollywood now; why wouldn't Dallas want to jump on the bandwagon? I mean--it's a rage in New York and L.A., after all, and we are...um, Dallas.

Raw foods include any foods found in nature that are prepared or processed under certain temperatures (opinions vary, but generally 115 degrees). We're not talking about simply peeling carrots or shredding lettuce, but health is a central concern. Raw foodists believe consuming items in their purest form allows the body to heal itself and function more efficiently. Many claim their conversion to the raw foods lifestyle has helped them cure cancers and other ailments where Western medicine had failed.

Try and argue it with them, just be prepared for a shouting match.

Other touted benefits include weight loss, healthy skin, better sleep, and age reversal...hmm, sounds like a commercial for green tea--but that's an aside.

Don't expect to find sashimi or steak tartare at Bliss Raw Café & Elixir Bar--this is a vegan joint, mostly (some items contain honey and bee pollen)--but you can expect to find superfoods work their way into virtually every dish.

This has to be just another ploy to "keep Dallas plastic," right? Maybe--but Raw Appleseed and Hudson are anything but plastic (perhaps with the exception of that adopted name). These two odd creatures of nature are a couple of the most "real" people I've ever met...and possibly the healthiest looking. Hudson's previous work with world-renowned raw superfoods guru, David Wolfe, has earned him "rawk-star" status in the movement. And Appleseed has achieved equal celebrity through her culinary demos on YouTube. The two have sponsored large events featuring some of the big guns in the international raw foods scene and their fan base includes several major players in the industry. It's no wonder why the raw foodists think these two visionaries are going to put Dallas on the "raw-volutionary" map.

OK, rawk star and raw-volutionary are a bit over the top.

But the concept of a raw restaurant is not new to Dallas. Some might remember Pure Raw Café, the last attempt at a raw eatery in town. The restaurant was plagued with bad luck and other problems that eventually forced its closure. So what makes the rawists think Appleseed and Hudson are the new prophets?

On Friday, Bliss held a menu tasting at the soon-to-open place. The scene: Well, it isn't Hollywood. The space is much more SoCo Austin--homey enough for all sorts. And the choice location couldn't have been planned any smarter. The area is being gentrified at a rapid pace, and the new mega Whole Foods is set to open right around the corner.

Bliss is small. Really small. Think streetcar.

Most of the seating is outdoors (patio and rooftop), but there are a few bartop spots inside. The kitchen takes up most of the space--and that makes sense, as the tiny place is equipped with the high tech dehydrators, blenders, and refrigeration units necessary to serve raw foods en masse. They may even need to get rid of indoor seating altogether to keep up with anticipated demand.

Now, I'm not going to lie and say everything we sampled was fantastic. Some items, while I did understand their health benefits, just didn't do it for me. The nori bites, for instance: Beautifully crafted, yes, but these mock tuna sushi rolls tasted a little too real. The follow-up appetizer was a poorly balanced corn chowder.

The entrées, however, were all pretty impressive. We started out with the Rawko-Taco Plate (yeah, yeah--I know). The shells are made from a mix of puréed vegetables and spices, dehydrated for 24 hours. Taco "meat" is really a combination of sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and mound of spice. What's not to love? Pesto Pizza, followed--a decent dish that probably ranks last of the three main courses we sampled.

Our final entrée was the SunnBurger, a creation nothing short of brilliant. The totally raw bun is a simple mix of dehydrated kamut, agave nectar, salt, and raw olive oil...and it tastes just like a friggin' hamburger bun. Hudson, as "Chief Tonic Elixir Alchemist," (too clever?), also blends hemp seeds and mint extract into something that resembles a York Peppermint Patty in taste. Something called the Chocolate Elixir she mimics a Tootsie Roll.

Later, over a few glasses of wine, my friend and I shared an interesting discussion about how different this group of raw vegans is from my typical vegan acquaintances. While at Bliss, there was no mention of animal rights, nothing about the environmental effects of the meat and dairy industries--and nobody gave her shit about toting around a massive leather handbag. The raw vegans seem to be all about personal health. So after drinking more wine, I began to wonder: is this vanity aspect why some people think the raw foodists are so Hollywood?

Bliss Raw Café & Elixir Bar (6855 Greenville Ave.) opens its doors on April 28.

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