Nutritious nourishments

Erica Bryant creates fun, healthy ways for people to eat better through The Healthy Food Café

Erika and Keziah
Erika and Keziah

“Organic” food doesn’t have a different taste. Healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad or bland. Erica Bryant is working on changing people’s mindsets on what it means to eat healthy and be healthy.

Through The Healthy Food Café, 8028 S. Emerson Ave., Suite F, which she and her fiancé, Kennedy, opened in June, they serve everything from pizzas and hot dogs to salads and smoothies, also offering meal plans and advice.

“Indianapolis is the number one unhealthiest city in the nation,” Bryant said. “I was trying to make an easy, convenient, fun way for people to get healthy. I will stay right here on the Southside and get the Southside healthier.”

Growing up in Fort Wayne, Bryant joined the Navy just after high school. She left after serving 9 years, assigned to the medical field.

“I broke my spike (on the ship),” she said. “They wanted to replace four of my vertebras. I couldn’t walk. I was paralyzed for a little bit. I didn’t do any surgeries. It’s been 9 years now. It hurts still, but I still haven’t gone through any surgeries.”

DSC_2539After leaving the military, she moved from California to New Jersey before coming to Perry Township in Indianapolis in 2011. She worked as a medical assistant at the St. Vincent Heart Hospital and as a personal trainer.

“The main motivation for the restaurant and eating healthy is with my background in the medical field, trying to get people stronger and healthier,” she said. “Get people to stick with routines and make it convenient.”

Bryant had the opportunity to open a food truck nearly four years ago, and jumped on the opportunity to offer healthy food to people in and around Indianapolis.

“Being in the military, food trucks would come on the base and I loved it. It was always greasy stuff,” she said. “With me being a personal trainer, I was doing meal preps, plans. I wanted to have the truck to get around to more people.”

She continued, “I tried to reach out to other business owners, restaurant owners. One hundred percent of the people told me it was not a good idea to have a healthy food truck, that I needed to stick with the common things food trucks have.”

Business was slow to start, with the health craze not as large as it is currently.

“My clients and fit family have been my support system,” she said. “I kept pushing it and word of mouth. I’ve been doing farmer’s markets, going downtown to the circle, doing school events and fundraisers. Now I get calls every week with people wanting the healthy food truck. It completely shifted.”

Bryant opened a gym, Core 9 Fitness Center at 5153 Commerce Square Dr., Suite B, a year and a half ago, and says business is doing well. Right now she’s focusing on hosting group training classes and hopes to hire more trainers to help clients one-on-one.

Needing to rent out a kitchen to have a commissary for her food truck, she said it made sense to start her own restaurant. The Healthy Food Café celebrated its grand opening on June 23. It’s open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bryant operates the café during its open hours then trains at the gym in the evenings.

“I love doing this,” she said. “I like cooking for people. I like coming up with workout plans.”

The Healthy Food Café offers salads, burritos, subs, nachos, “fit bowls” made of brown rice, pasta or quinoa, soups, smoothies and more. Everything is customizable. Bryant also offers prepared food to accompany her meal plans. The shop has a “blender bike,” a stationary bicycle with an attachment for a blender so people can pedal to make their own smoothies.

“I like to eat. Through me, my clients, fiancé and family, we picked the foods that we love and we put a healthy spin on it,” she said. “He even does cheesecakes. It’s low-fat cheesecake and organic. We have gluten-free desserts.”

There is even a separate kids menu set up like the adult menu where children can create their own meal. Bryant’s daughter, Keziah, age 9, is often with her at work in the shop.

“It’s awesome,” Keziah said. “I love smoothies. I like the cookie monster and mango crush. In food I like the pasta and the (kosher) hot dogs.”

Bryant said she hopes to grow the restaurant and be successful by offering quality food, being honest and open and having a good support system behind her.

Getting to know Erica…

– I like to play sports, work out, eat, go to the park and animals.

-When I was younger, I played sports overseas as a sports ambassador: volleyball and basketball. I played basketball for the Marines.

-A personal achievement, I bypassed spinal surgery by getting my core strong and working out.

Best advice: Be passionate about what you’re doing and believe in it.

Worst advice: When I first started the food truck, I was told it was a horrible idea to have a healthy food truck in Indiana, that no one wants a fruit and veggie smoothie and it will never work.

Best Business Decision: To take some risk. I’m very by the book. Going with faith and believing in what I am trying to accomplish. For 2016, I said I’d take more risk and get my message across.

In 5 years: I would like to have a couple more restaurants or food trucks throughout Indiana.

Secret to success: Make sure that I keep integrity and be passionate about what I’m doing.

The Healthy Food Café

8028 S. Emerson Ave., Suite F

Indianapolis, IN

(317) 476-2361

Twitter: @TheHealthyFT