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September 19, 2012

New Birmingham eatery encourages diners to 'Try It Raw'

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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 New Birmingham eatery encourages diners to 'Try It Raw'
The vegan raw lasagna is a customer favorite at Try It Raw, a new organic vegetarian café in downtown Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM — It’s long been said that you are what you eat. If that’s true, then Birmingham diners are about to get a lot healthier. Try It Raw, a new raw vegetarian restaurant in downtown Birmingham, is serving up fresh organic foods.

The new cafe is a labor of love for owners Marc Dobaczewski, and Michael Severance and his wife, Natalia Castro. Dobaczewski and Severance met while working as sushi chef’s at Clawson’s famed Noble Fish. There, the two learned the art of intricate Japanese cooking while also learning about each other and their shared love for all-natural cuisine.

“We like to eat healthy. I think that’s how we got our start,” said Severance. “My wife and I were on vacation and there was this little (vegetarian) restaurant in Miami. We loved it so much, and I thought ‘we need to do this in Birmingham.’”

The Beverly Hills couple teamed up with Birmingham resident Dobaczewski to open the eatery, which features an almost entirely uncooked menu. The trio made the decision to start the business in February, and by the end of July, Try It Raw was open and cooking — or rather, not cooking.

“The benefits of raw food are a lot more energy and general well-being,” said Severance. “It’s easier to maintain an optimal weight, and it makes you less tired, since raw food takes a lot less energy to digest.”

He and Dobaczewski have been cooking healthy food together for about three years, said Severance, and in that time they’ve created a number of recipes to make raw vegan food as tasty as it is nutritional. From organic smoothies and juices to vegetarian sushi, vegan desserts and even reverse-osmosis water, the menu has something to tempt even the most finicky of taste buds. A couple of the most popular items are the choco-banana smoothie and the raw vegan lasagna, the latter made with sliced squash in place of noodles, crushed walnuts and cashews standing in for ground meat and cheese, sundried tomatoes, herbs, and pesto.

So far, the chefs say, the Birmingham community has embraced the concept.

“I think it’s ridiculous there isn’t an organic restaurant here already,” said Dobaczewski. “Everyone is thankful that we’re here.”

One such customer is Birmingham resident Thom Lee, who said the natural food movement is one that’s long been in demand in the city.

“People in Birmingham are so forward thinking with this, and (Severance and Dobaczewski) are pros. Once people find out they’re here, it’s going to explode,” said Lee.

Cristina Kruger comes from Ferndale to enjoy the organic menu offerings, many of which, she said, are just as decadent as their more popular, less healthy counterparts.

“The restaurant is great. I had a raw lasagna, which tasted like lasagna, but healthier,” she said. “The owners are super talented and really sweet.”

For those who don’t want to eat an all-raw, organic vegan diet, Severance said there’s no need to stay away.

“We’re not purists, and we’re not trying to push it on everybody. But anytime you’re not putting something bad in your body it’s a good thing, even if you’re doing it just once. If one day you want a little extra energy, go raw that day.”

Try It Raw is located at 213 E. Maple in downtown Birmingham, and is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit Try It Raw on Facebook or call (248) 593-6994.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.