Andy Newman wants Cleveland diners to stop living to eat and start eating to live. He feels so strongly that a healthy diet can pave the way to a happier future that he's putting his money where his mouth is. If all goes as planned, his Phuel Café (1350 E. 14th St.) will open in the heart of Playhouse Square, just steps from Star Plaza, by the May 2 unveiling of the GE Chandelier.
"I'm 48 years old," he explains. "My body was changing and I didn't like where I was heading, so I started on this trend of plant-centered eating. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity… these are things you do not need to live with as you get older."
Newman has been entrenched in the restaurant business since the tender age of 15, when he secured his first job as dishwasher at Pearl of the Orient. He has since held posts in both the back and front of house at various restaurants in Cleveland and Columbus. He has taught professional and recreation classes at Loretta Paganini School of Cooking and has operated his own catering company.
Far from being a niche raw or vegan foods restaurant, serving the needs of just a sliver of Cleveland diners, Phuel will offer a menu that serves all diners, Newman promises.
"We're the bridge between vegan and raw food diets and eating poorly," he says. "We're more about eating healthy. This restaurant and the food will look similar to what you are used to eating, but without the sugars, white flours and processed foods."
The 1,400-square-foot, 40-seat café will serve an all-day menu of omelets and pancakes, sandwiches and salads, entrees and specials. The flavors of the Caribbean, Mediterranean and American South will be represented in dishes like house-cured gravlax, smoked white fish, portabella Ruebens, oven-baked fried chicken, vegan corned beef, duck breast salad and even macaroni and cheese. Prices will be in the $5 to $15 range.
"We'll use almond milk and aged cheeses so that the macaroni tastes like a full-fat version but without making you feel full," he says.
"Eating healthy and good doesn't have to mean bad flavors," Newman says. "You should enjoy all of your food, and eat it to energize yourself and be healthy. Our motto is 'Eat, learn and be happy.'"