20 Aug 2014
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Alfresco Moves North and Stays Green

Santa Cruz's unique 'Healthy Fast Food' kiosk changed locations several months ago, but it's still as healthy, fast and green as ever.

Alfresco Moves North and Stays Green

Anyone who finds themselves strolling down Pacific Avenue, even if only once in a blue moon, can appreciate the food kiosks that dot the mall. There is Cafe Campesino, serving up soulful Mexican food, and  now Asana, which serves its signature teas, smoothies and lunch items. Then there is Alfresco, the "Healthy Fast Food" spot, chock full of mouth-watering, gut-friendly creations that never cease to satiate my every cell.

Recently, I was ambling down Pacific on one of those blue moons and suffered quite a blow when I realized that my all-time favorite healthy indulgence no longer occupied the corner of Lincoln Street and Pacific Avenue. For several days, I mourned the loss of that beloved gem, only to stumble across it one sunny day, a couple of blocks north, where the flowers used to be. 

Sure enough, there it was, the one-woman kitchen of good eats so delicious that even carnivores wouldn't notice the lack of cold cuts on the menu. Healthy fast food? A rare and refreshing concept, but owner Marilyn Strayer makes it delicious—and "green," too. 

Recently re-certified as a Green Business, Alfresco uses forks, spoons and knives made from biodegradable materials, plastic cups and cutlery made from corn, and to-go boxes made from sugar cane. Strayer;s vegetarian-almost-vegan menu (there are a few items with cheese) also has a minimum impact on the environment. As I chatted with the health-food guru, she raised a good point that the meat and livestock industry contributes more greenhouse gas than motor vehicles. 

Indeed, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that producing half a pound of hamburger for somebody's lunch releases as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as driving a 3,000-pound car nearly 10 miles. (Strayer drives an electric car, too.)

Since she moved in May, Strayer says business has picked up. No longer set up in the shadow of New Leaf Market, her northern Pacific location pops against the retail clothing, antique and book shops. Understandably, she does not miss "Hippy Corner." 

"A whole week will go by, and I don't hear the F-word!" she says.

Yes, please. I'll take a fresh heap of baby salad greens (grown locally at Happy Boy Farm), sliced avocado, teriyaki tofu, shredded carrots, cucumbers and shiitake mushrooms wrapped up tight in rice paper right in front of my eyes (ready in 45 seconds to two minutes) any day.

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