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Whole Heart Provisions Brings a Taste of LA to Cambridge

Whole Heart Provisions is a vegan cafe that recently opened in the Smith Campus Center.
Whole Heart Provisions is a vegan cafe that recently opened in the Smith Campus Center. By Sienna R. Santer
By Sienna R. Santer, Contributing Writer

Anyone strolling through the Smith Campus Center following a large line of hungry students will soon find Whole Heart Provisions, nestled into a nook between two elevators opposite Common Spaces. The quick-serve counter that opened on Oct. 14 boasts an entirely plant-based menu, and is Harvard Square’s first entirely vegan restaurant. If you haven't heard of them yet, you’re about to. Their pumpkin butter parfait, available each morning for breakfast, already has a cult-following.

Whole Heart immediately welcomes customers with its cheerful logo and cartoon vegetables, and the rainbow plethora of ingredients spread out on the counter are enough to make even the most stubborn brussels-sprouts hater smile.

The menu is any vegan or vegetarian’s dream, offering a variety of grain and salad bowls, street food sides, desserts, drinks, and açai bowls, making it the only restaurant in the Square to sell the West Coast classic. If a New England açai bowl is enough to make a California girl happy — and I pride myself on being an expert in all things açai — then you know it must be outstanding. And Whole Heart’s açai bowls just really are that good. They’re flavorful and creative, with ingredients you’ve never seen paired with açai, such as strawberry jelly and a creamy strawberry yogurt drizzle. If there is one thing Whole Heart nails every time, it’s flavor. The tartness of the jam combined with the crunch of the pumpkin seed granola will have you visualizing yourself taking your lunch break under a palm tree after a quick surf at Manhattan Beach.

A variety of bowls — from the Korean-inspired “Seoul” to the Mediterranean-flavored “Levant” — are the meat (pun intended) of the menu. Combine greens such as kale and arugula with grains like quinoa and brown rice for a unique flavor experience every time. What sets Whole Heart apart from its salad bowl counterpart, Sweetgreen, is that it uses Asian food-inspired ingredients in their bowls, like bulgogi style beets, japanese eggplant, and Szechuan dukkah. The ingredients are so fresh and flavorful you forget you’re actually eating a salad. Each portion of your taste buds — from sweet to sour to salty to spicy to umami — is satisfied with every bite. Good luck fighting off your friends’ forks as they attempt to steal some of your roasted chickpeas.

Whole Heart’s signature is the vegetable in disguise. Proclaiming their mission is to “make veggies the star of the show,” the Harvard Square location delivers and then some. The Falafel Dog is the VIP of the street food snacks, tempting meat-eaters and vegans alike. A soft bun is filled with crispy falafel, juicy tomato, crunchy pickle, tangy mustard, and a creamy tahini drizzled on top. You won’t believe that it’s entirely made of vegetables.

Those disheartened by the dining halls’ lack of avocados can look no further than the Seared Avocado, a creamy and crunchy explosion that melts in your mouth. Baked inside the skin of the avocado itself, this side provides the perfect opportunity to snap that aesthetic Instagram picture. If you think “baked” and “avocado” are mutually exclusive, think again. The buttery texture of the warm avocado combined with the creamy tahini, the slight kick of the za’atar spice, and the pop of the crispy lentils is a culinary masterpiece. I recommend combining the Seared Avocado with any of the grain bowls or the Falafel Dog for an out-of-body experience.

No plant-based meal would be complete without dessert, and Whole Heart offers both chocolate chip cookies and brownies wrapped in minimalistic packaging, so you can stash a few to munch on between classes. Crispy with that just-out-of-the-oven taste, the chocolate chip cookie is a home away from home. The rich chocolate combined with the (plant-based) butter and sugar grains dissolve instantly on your tongue. It’s so good you might just forget it’s vegan.

If these options weren’t already enough to make you scramble for your wallet, Whole Heart also boasts a stunning Sunday brunch menu, complete with seasonally flavored pancakes, tofu huevos rancheros, avocado tacos, and the Spanish classic, patatas bravas. No matter what you end up picking on the menu, you’ll still walk away feeling guilty because healthy foods just shouldn’t taste this good.

Now that Whole Heart takes Crimson Cash and might soon accept Board Plus, we just might see everyone there, meat-eaters and vegans alike. It’s time to move over, Clover. Healthy just got a whole lot tastier.

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