ENCINITAS — A single mom of three left a cushy job in the banking industry to pursue nutrition and today she’s on track to have the largest vegan restaurant chain in the county.
Nastasha McKeon opened Choice Superfood Bar & Juicery five years ago in Carlsbad Village. She expanded to locations in Solana Beach, Del Sur (near 4S), Little Italy, and just this month opened her fifth location in Encinitas.
Next month McKeon opens her sixth location in Gateway center in Carlsbad near Bressi Ranch, which will officially make the establishment the largest vegan chain in San Diego.
“I had spent most of my adult life working for a paycheck, but I wanted more than that, I wanted to make a positive impact on my community and this planet,” McKeon said. “I was drawn to open a restaurant where everything on the menu was a ‘good choice.’”
McKeon said when she first left banking to pursue nutrition she started out teaching plant-based cooking and nutrition classes to busy doctors and nurses through a program at Scripps Hospital.
“Week after week they would come back because they loved what they were learning and they loved the foods, but they weren’t making a lot of changes outside of the class,” McKeon said. “One day I was chatting with one of the attendees after class and she said something to me that really struck a chord. She said, ‘I love all of this food and I agree that I should incorporate more plant-based options into my daily diet, but, it’s just not convenient.’”
That’s where the idea for Choice Juicery was born. McKeon said she wanted to encourage people to make better food choices by making them “convenient and in a fun and friendly environment.”
McKeon, who has been vegan for seven years, said she didn’t just want to reach the vegan community, she wanted to reach the larger community and expose them to certified organic, plant-based and gluten-free foods that taste amazing. Choice Juicery doesn’t pasteurize any of their items, they use glass bottles, and all of their utensils are made from plant fibers.
McKeon says they are most famous for their superfood smoothies, which are made with their homemade sprouted vanilla almond milk and are sweetened with whole fruit. Two favorites are the Warrior smoothie that McKeon says tastes like creamy vanilla but is packed with greens, and the PB&J, made from creamy peanut butter layered with their house made raspberry chia jam.
“Every smoothie is a complete meal because it contains our plant-based protein which is a complete protein and loaded with superfoods,” McKeon said. “Every smoothie can be turned into a bowl and topped with your choice of superfood toppings.”
Choice Juicery also specializes in cold-pressed juice that’s raw, organic and unpasteurized, and house made gluten-free bread made with ingredients like chickpea flour, chia seeds, and flax, which are high in Omega’s, fiber, protein and iron.
They offer fun menu items like spicy suntuna sushi, made from their suntuna pate and served with a miso ginger dipping sauce and gluten free Tamari, and macho nachos and macho taco salad served with their taco “meat” made from walnuts and sundried tomatoes.
They also have salads, such as the Coconut Bakon Cobb or McKeon’s personal favorite The Ultimate Cesar, a “mouthwatering” concoction made with chickpea croutons, cashew Cesar dressing, Brazil nut parmesan and coconut Bakon.
McKeon said beyond the food, her restaurants strive to create an amazing experience with every guest who walks through its doors. She says they “love on” each guest with a friendly smile and conversation, and through love notes the staff writes on patron’s compostable smoothie cups.
“We don’t just want to feed our guests and educate them about health choices, we also want to make a positive impact on their entire day,” McKeon said. “We believe in being kind and choosing happiness.”
McKeon, whose kids are 16, 14 and 3, says she balances being a single mom and running her business with the energy she gets from her healthy lifestyle, which includes surfing and jogging on the beach in Encinitas, as well as her diet.
“I believe that the food we eat directly impacts how we feel,” she said. “When we eat high quality nutrition, we have more energy, mental clarity and elevated moods. I think the food we serve promotes healthier, happier communities.”