The tale of Left Coast Food & Juice (2878 N. Lincoln Ave., Lake View) is one of love, friendship, and food allergies.
Chicago native Michael Madden met his wife, Jamie, when both were living in Scottsdale, Arizona. During their courtship, Jamie was diagnosed with a laundry list of food allergies. Love trumped Michael’s distaste for stereotypical health foods—“Eating well felt more like a procedure than an enjoyable event,” he admits—and together the two discovered dining options they both deemed tasty, with allergy friendly fare and approachable pricing to boot.
Upon moving to Chicago, where Michael became food and beverage director for hotel restaurants including Nico Osteria and Jamie now works as a graphic artist and designer, the pair discovered that similar dining options were impossible to find.
Fast-forward to March, and the couple will introduce their new fast-casual restaurant in the quirky space that housed longstanding fast food joint Muskie’s until 2014. The compact menu consists of wraps, salads, bowls, smoothies, and cold-pressed juices created with the aid of Michael’s friend—one Paul Kahan. The two got to know each other through Michael’s work at Nico Osteria, and when Michael shared his idea for the new concept with Kahan, the healthy-eating chef was so passionate about the idea that he agreed to develop the menu. “I caught him on a good day,” Michael jokes.
Though customers with food allergies will have a heyday, there will be plenty of gluten, meat, and dairy to be consumed. Each dish will come customizable with add-ons such as organic chicken, GMO-free steak, sustainable salmon, or a seven-minute egg. Michael highlights the “unreal” Cadillac Curry bowl with brown rice, curried garnet yams, green beans, green onion, basil, mint, and shaved coconut, as a must-order. “To call these dishes ‘salads, wraps, and bowls’ is a significant understatement,” says Michael. “We plan to change the perception that eating healthy is synonymous with boring and bland,” he adds.
The story doesn’t end here, as the Maddens have lofty goals for Left Coast. The industrious Michael, who was once the youngest partner at P.F. Chang’s, says, “I learned how you could take one concept and scale it. I could absolutely see that happening with this idea.” To be continued…