at Purple Sprout Café and Juice Bar
Irina Kuznetsova and Karim Raimbekov
Health enthusiasts, raw foodists and anyone else in the Chicagoland area interested in a plant-based lifestyle can find kinship at the Purple Sprout Café and Juice Bar, in Wheeling. Irina Kuznetsova is the co-owner of the organic and vegan restaurant that specializes in raw and prepared cuisine, but also offers a gathering space for community events, education and outreach. “We attract people who are curious about plant-based living, energy healing, spiritual events, growing their own food, boosting immunity naturally or even cleaning up a forest preserve. Our recipes are designed for physical health, mental balance and spiritual growth,” she says.
The café offers an assortment of breakfast, lunch and dinner items that revolve around fresh ingredients and whole nutrition. “Fruit and vegetables are the most important foods for humans and contain the necessary vitamins, minerals and energy to function optimally,” says Kuznetsova. “Our bodies, minds and spirit are all connected. The fewer toxins we put in our bodies, the clearer the mind is, the purer the thoughts are and the cleaner the energy channels are. This makes us altogether healthier, happier and more connected to our core people.”
Kuznetsova’s passion for plant-based food comes from her family’s own health transformation. “When I was pregnant with my first son, I experienced a myriad of scary symptoms, including ulcers, migraines, bruising, autoimmune issues and a general feeling of malaise. My doctors had me on 12 medications at one point, but I still couldn’t believe how poorly I felt. After my son was born, the whole family switched to a plant-based diet. We immediately saw improvement in cholesterol, shortness of breath, eczema, anxiety and my postpartum depression. The body cleanses when we switch to plant-based nutrition, especially when it is primarily raw fruit and vegetables, and is better able to heal itself naturally,” she says.
The menu at Purple Sprout is a fusion of world cuisines that focuses on consciously created meals from organic and plant- based ingredients. Many of the items can be adapted to accommodate raw, oil-free, sugar-free or gluten-free diets. “We look at the food from the standpoint of nutrients, energetic composition and seasonality, but don’t sacrifice flavor and satisfaction. On any given day, we’ll offer Mexican burritos, French crepes, Asian stir-fries, Indian dosa and dal, and Middle-Eastern kebabs, as well as dishes from our own childhood in Russia and Kazakhstan. Our mom has helped created healthy vegan versions of dumplings that we fill with lentils and empanadas stuffed with cabbage and carrots, mixed greens, apples and pears or sweet potato mash,” says Kuznetsova.
Items are available for dining in or carryout, and Purple Sprout also offers catering, private events, and meal planning. Snacks like dehydrated apple or kale chips, live microgreens and a juice bar with ingredients such as kohlrabi, avocado, dates, raw cacao, mixed berries and kale, as well as add-ins like maca, hemp seeds and sea buckthorn oil round out the menu.
The café also carries specialty items such as CBD chocolate bars and organic hemp oil with pure, premium-quality CBD extract, an active compound in cannabis responsible for the plant’s medicinal properties that does not produce the “high” that THC does. Kuznetsova believes a key benefit lies in its effects on inflammation and pain and its calming, protective and restorative effect on the nervous system. “Our customers use it to help with any type of pain, arthritis, migraines, epilepsy, inflammation, high blood pressure, anxiety, scar tissue, insect bites, as a sleep aid and to alleviate symptoms of cancer and other serious diseases,” she says.
Purple Sprout is also a gathering spot for local community events and offers workshops, lectures, aura readings, nutritional counseling and specialty classes such as raw food preparation demonstrations. They host yoga classes, medical cannabis education and ChicagoVeg meetings, participate in fundraisers for local schools and libraries and partner with chiropractors, health clubs and plant-based doctors in the area. “There is a strong sense of community when people care about what they eat and where their food comes from. Customers become dear friends who come here frequently, bring friends and families in and send us holiday cards. Networking and developing partnerships for the benefit of the surrounding communities are at the heart of what we do,” says Kuznetsova.
Purple Sprout uses local ingredients whenever possible, and is committed to lowering their carbon footprint. “We stand for organic sustainable agriculture and don’t use pesticides or GMOs that destroy the Earth, pollute the water and cause habitat destruction and wildlife extinction. Plant-based living benefits human health, as well as the health of the planet, and creates balance between the body, mind, spirit, self and nature,” says Kuznetsova.
Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.