FOOD: Kasha’s Kitchen’s 20-Year Secret: Do You Know It?

Jimmy-thumbOn the chain restaurant-laden, chaotically congested Route 7 stretch that cuts through the City, Kennedy’s Natural Foods (map) is an oasis. Quaint and casual, it’s got a genuinely small-town feel. It also happens to have some lovingly prepared and thoroughly delicious food at the back lunch counter known as “Kasha’s Kitchen.”

Owner Kasha Neam put in the deli 20 years ago when she bought the store from its previous owners, hoping to bring some wholesome, healthy food to the neighborhood. City residents have been grateful ever since.

Somehow I’ve managed to drive by the place for the 15 years I’ve lived in the area and never stop by once. But I’ve been twice in the last week and like many of the regulars that show up for lunch, I’m afraid I’m hooked for life. There is just too much to like.

First off, of course, is the food. You can make your own sandwich with the typical array of veggies and top-notch Boar’s Head meats and leave happily full, but part of the fun of eating at this funky little health food spot are some of the unique vegetarian offerings.

Take the lentil burger, for instance.

Now, a lentil burger may not conjure up images of a satisfying, flavorful sandwich, but Neam’s famously overstuffed behemoth is outrageous. It comes on toasted wholegrain bread packed with fresh veggies, sprouts, and a potent garlic dressing reminiscent of a Lebanese shawarma sauce. The bites seem to get progressively better as you make your way through the layers of crunch and the moist, well-seasoned lentil patty.

kasha cookie-1

20-year veteran Kasha Neam

The Power Veggie, another top seller, is supremely fresh and tasty as well. An otherwise normal pile-up of vegetables is enlivened with hot and sweet peppers and a generous spread of smashed avocado, which provides the perfect amount of fatty goodness.  

The fact that these veggie sandwiches can stand up on their own is a testament to the quality of the produce (much of it locally sourced) that Neam brings in. The carrots are crunchy and sweet. The lettuce doesn’t come from a bagged mix. The tomatoes taste like tomatoes. There’s no need to drown out the ingredients with the typical deli’s assortment of super salty meats, creamy dressings, and heavy bread.

For those with a sweet tooth after a healthy lunch there are even freshly baked cookies, which seem out of place among the sprouts and seven grain breads but are properly chewy in the middle and slightly crisp on the edges. The not-too-sweet ginger molasses is habit-forming.

But it’s not just the food that will lure you back to this gem. There’s a vibe, somewhere between being in your neighbor’s house and being in a country café, that makes it so utterly likeable. That vibe is no doubt due the constant presence of the bubbly Neam.

On my last visit I chatted with her about the business of running a small café and the conversation quickly turned to healthy eating and the heavily processed and pre-packaged foods that dominate so many people’s diets. She has dreams of overhauling the food system and getting everybody to eat right, but for now she’s happy to be doing it on a small scale, making her family recipes every day from scratch.  

“Whatever we have here, we make,” said Neam, with a confidence that assured me that “Kasha’s Kitchen” will never sell its soul.

It helps that her daughter, Elaine Neam, who helps run the store, seems to have taken the torch and run with it. She’s just as passionate about healthy eating and nutrition as her mom.

It looks like we could be in for another 20 years of lentil burgers. And that’s fine by me.

July 3, 2009 


3 Responses to “FOOD: Kasha’s Kitchen’s 20-Year Secret: Do You Know It?”

  1. Barry Buschow on July 3rd, 2009 9:42 pm

    Kasha’s is the BEST FOOD in Town, If you have not eaten there you have no idea what your missing…the soups are unbelievable, the cookies are the greatest and the main course is (no words to describe it)……. We must keep her in falls Church…..

  2. Annette Hennessey on July 8th, 2009 12:00 pm

    Can I just say, she makes the best chicken and egg salad as well. Piled high with all the veggies on multi-grain bread…yum! Maybe that’s what I’ll have for lunch today.

  3. L.H. on July 21st, 2009 8:56 pm

    Kasha’s food is so amazing! Not only does it taste great, but the decour and staff makes you feel right at home. My personal favorites are the Chicken Salad Sandwiches and ginger molasses cookies. Go Kasha!

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