By Steve Robinson | June 25, 2018 - 10:58 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – When it comes to eating out in the Twin Cities, you name it and we practically have it: Chinese, sushi, Thai, Italian, pizza, burgers, Mexican, and on and on. The same can be said for the type of eatery you can have such dishes in, too: Casual, upscale, fast food, and so on.

Yet, in the eyes of the folks who considered bringing Core-Life Eatery to the Twin Cities, they felt something was still missing among all the existing options available to food lovers who were looking for something, not just different but something that would match a lifestyle that revolved around healthy eating.

Those folks may have found their new favorite dining spot in the Twin Cities, CoreLife Eatery, located at 115 S. Veterans Parkway , Suite D, in Normal , which opened June 7. Clay Baxter, managing partner and operating partner oversees the new restaurant which opened its doors June 5. It is one of 41 restaurants nationwide and the third in Illinois . The other two are in Champaign and Peoria , with a fourth one set to soon open in Springfield , Baxter said.

One look at their menu and you get the idea that your health is what comes first: Entrees include rice bowls featuring flank steak, tuna, barbecued chicken, or spicy chicken; Dinner plate options include antibiotic-free chicken, grass-fed steak, ahi tuna, and tofu all served with vegetable options or a seasonal vegetable medley. In addition to rice bowls, there are bowl dishes served with greens, grain, or broths.

And because this is a restaurant which keys in on healthy eating options, that includes the choice of beverages, too. Instead of a soda dispenser, the drink options include lemonade, a variety of teas, and ice coffee.

As you walk in, you note wood tables and benches, warm wood floors, and warm affirmations on signs throughout the dining area with phrases such as “change your lunch, change your life” and “life is not a spectator sport.”

“It’s something different and it plays to my lifestyle,” Baxter, 54, said about his move to his involvement with this franchise. “I used to be a double cheeseburger kind of guy. Since eating healthier, I’ve gotten into the gym and been pretty active.” Now that he has been working around it and promoting it, he adds, “I’m a believer in it.”

The category of restaurant CoreLife fits into is known as fast casual, Baxter said. He said his main competitors are Panera and Chipotle. In the fast casual division, Baxter added, “There are several different concepts around the country. Some are doing all salads, or doing some sandwiches or salads, but not with the breadth of what we’re doing with the number of ingredients that we’re doing, in my opinion.”

“This is a concept with a mission,” explained Baxter, who spent 14 years in management at Biaggi’s before taking command here. “This restaurant speaks to lifestyle.” He said other restaurants that address eating healthy do add sweets or goodies to complete a meal, “but we speak just to the clean, just to the healthy food.”

Ordering here involves going through a line where servers guide you to help them put together your bowl or plate, as is done at some of their competitors. “Everything’s raw,” Baxter adds, “Nothing processed, and our dressings are made in-house. Our broth bowls are vegetable using all the trimmings, and a chicken bone broth, and a beef bone broth.”

So far, Baxter said, the biggest selling item has been tuna poke fire rice bowl and spicy Thai chicken and rice bowl. Menu items range in price from $5.95 to $12.45.

CoreLife finds itself side-by-side at this location next to a place some might think is a total opposite in terms of healthy eating, The Original Pancake House. But as Baxter sees it, chuckling, where his restaurant is situated possibly helps people think about their choices through the “guilt” factor.

Baxter said he has noted that younger people are seeking out healthier food choices when they eat out nowadays. He cited that people in their teens and 20s have been known to make the choice to eat at his establishment, not just people for whom this place adds to their lifestyle. He said people whose health has been affected by illness and have been advised by their doctor to reevaluate their eating habits have also started coming into his restaurant.

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