Admit it. The holidays weren’t even over, and you were already thinking detox.
It’s cool. “New Year’s Resolutionaries” do it every year: they hit Google for diet fads, rekindle the on-again off-again love affair with their gym, and ponder healthier eats—all while hoping to continue the enjoyment of dining out that the holidays encourage.
But what about just eating that way all the time? And enjoying it?
Shelley Underwood gets it. Always has. She was way ahead of the healthy, hip and global dining curve in Cleveland when she opened the esteemed Johnny Mango World Café and Bar in Ohio City 18 years ago.
Where do chefs and foodies and others go when they want some good chow, or to shop, uncover some cool gadgets or hard-to-find ingredients, or maybe just kick back and grab a drink? Welcome to Five for Friday — a weekly look at where Northeast Ohioans find their favorite indulgences, and the treats they like the most.
Named for a fictional world traveler, Johnny Mango was a trendsetter for healthy, vegetarian and vegan options and fresh fruit and vegetable juices in Cleveland. Outside of Tommy’s on Coventry, no one was doing anything remotely close.
Underwood helped set the bar for the city’s current dining scene—notably opening in Ohio City before it was considered a hip dining destination; offering complex, global flavors in what had been a burgers-wings-and-beer town, and running a “smoke-free” establishment long before the laws caught up to her.
But to hear her tell it, Johnny Mango wasn’t a plan to turn dining in Cleveland at the time on its ear. It all came from a love of street food, complex flavors and clean, healthy eating.
“I’m vegan and have been for two years,” she told Cleveland.com last week. “And I’ve been vegetarian forever. [Meat] has just never really been my thing… we are all dairy-free and mostly gluten-free at my house. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love really good food, or don’t like to eat! Just the opposite.”
She caters to the like-minded and, yes, even meat-eaters. And she does so quite effectively. Underwood gave us her favorite five-plus fresh-and-healthy eats stops in the area, in her own words:
Aladdin’s Eatery (multiple locations; www.aladdinseatery.com). Love, love, three-times-a-week love Aladdin’s. My husband and I go [to the Westlake/Crocker Park location] quite often and the servers know my high-maintenance order. So it’s perfect. I went with a girlfriend yesterday, and while I was waiting for her, they were already putting our stuff on the table thinking it was Matt and I! (laughs) It’s great. Hummus with hot sauce and a veggie plate, but no pickles, no turnips, sub in some cucumbers and a pomegranate iced tea with extra lemons.