I’m not a health guy per se, but I try to avoid processed foods, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients. That’s why I was happy to see CoreLife Eatery join the vast Mentor food scene some time ago.
CoreLife is a national franchise dedicated to healthy eating. There are no fries, desserts or soda. Everything is completely natural and locally sourced as much as possible. The beef is grass fed, the chicken does not contain antibiotics, and there are no GMOs. The Mentor store opened in 2018 and is one of five CoreLife locations in Ohio, where the franchisee is the Red Letter Hospitality regional restaurant group.
I hadn’t been there until recently when my son and I were on the go and needed a quick lunch that wasn’t unhealthy. Online ordering is available, but we were right there and outside tables were available so we walked in.
The space itself is large and modern with an industrial-chic vibe. Wood tones and black metal abound. There are lots of large windows, and contemporary pendant lighting adds to the brightness of the place. There is a big open feel, and there was some upbeat music in the background.
It was inviting until we got to the counter.
We were ignored for a few minutes by the two people working there – no recognition, not even a glance. A third employee rushed over to the counter from somewhere and was a little abrupt, as if we had interrupted him. It was off-putting, but I tried to ignore it. It’s not a five-star restaurant, after all, and working in the restaurant industry right now can’t be fun.
Ordering at CoreLife is a lot like other fast-food, casual restaurants, like Chipotle. You can build a salad, a bowl of rice broth by selecting a base and then adding toppings. There are also special salads and bowls, in case you don’t want to be in charge of preparing the ingredients yourself. We weren’t really in the mood to build, so we ordered a few of the signature items.
My son went with a Buffalo Chicken Macaroni ($ 10.25), which, no, doesn’t sound really healthy. But even with a ranch dressing on Buffalo Chicken, the dish was only 620 calories, according to the menu. It’s not exactly a LIGHT lunch, but I would have expected it to have more calories than it had.
The dish wasn’t drowned in bison sauce, ranch, or cheese, which is probably why it wasn’t the anti-diet diet one might imagine. The portion was large enough that my 13 year old, not a particularly light eater, ate half of it and took the rest home for later. I only tasted a few bites, but the sauce, cheese and chicken were all very good.
Likewise, the chicken on my kale Caesar salad was delicious. The kale – the most I ate in one sitting in my life – seemed very fresh, and the dressing was as good as a Caesar dressing I have had (although I am not a dressing expert. Caesar). There could have been a little less, but it was exceptional, as was the Parmesan. The small bowl portion was enough to satisfy my hunger without feeling any tricks.
I paired the small Caesar bowl with a side of Brussels sprouts with maple bacon; at $ 9.45 for the combo, I think it’s exceptional value. The grated sprouts were perfectly cooked and full of flavor. I don’t believe there is a way to eat Brussels sprouts without bacon and maple syrup, but I’ve learned that I can go lighter the next time I make them at home.
There are also a handful of tacos on the menu, all priced at $ 3.70. I wasn’t going not to try a taco while I was there, and I landed on the steak fajita version, which had a lot going on.
It was lean three-tipped beef with an interesting pineapple vinaigrette and shredded cabbage, cotija cheese and an avocado cream, plus the peppers and onions you’d expect with fajitas. It was served on one of those seashells which are more pitas than tortillas. The highlight of the meal for me was a fantastic mix of tastes and textures. I’ll be back just for that taco. A highlight in the highlight was the cream, which was superb.
We sort of didn’t have any drinks. It was perhaps the first time in my life that I was not asked if I would like to have a drink with my meal, and I never thought to ask. If we had had drinks, we both would have skipped the beetroot lemonade. It’s cool that such a thing exists, however. There are a few other craft options, as well as bottled water.
I was really surprised by the quality and inventiveness of the food. It was beyond what I expected from a quick and relaxed place. The atmosphere is cool, both inside and on the terrace. The whole concept seems well planned, especially the menu.
Hope I just caught CoreLife having a bad day, in terms of service, because there is a lot to like otherwise.
7809 avenue Mentor
Site: On the north side of Mentor Avenue, just east of Plaza Boulevard.
Type of catering: Fast-casual.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
Liquor and wine: No alcohol.
Facilities for disabled people: Yes.
Credit card: All adults.
Vegetarian: There are plenty of them, including vegan options.
Special diets: Gluten free, learn about other food preferences.
Suitable for children: Children’s menu, family atmosphere.
Outdoor dining: Yes.
Dress code: Relaxed.
Online order : Yes, for curbside pickup and delivery.
Prices: Very reasonable. Salads, broth bowls, and rice bowls are in the $ 9 to $ 12 range; tacos and sides are $ 3 to $ 4.
Value: Very well.
Notes (out of five):
A service: 2.5.