Great New Places to Eat 2018

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This is not your hippie uncle's health food: Entrées like a California Curry rice bowl shares table space with a plate of vegan cauliflower steak in thyme sauce and bone marrow appetizer topped with bacon jam and citrus fennel. (Photo by Alina Tyulyu)

Backbone Café

With bone broth and bone marrow on the menu, you’d be forgiven for thinking the name of this downtown cafe to be beefy in origin, but it’s more of a nod to an accident at Burning Man that broke co-owner Joey Woolston’s back in 2016. While he was laid up for a year, he and his brother Tomas (their family also runs the Crocker’s Supper Club and Matteo’s Pizza & Bistro) expanded on a concept they’d previously been working on for a new health drink bar, opening Backbone in December. “I have tried out every kind of healthy diet,” says Woolston, “but you go to these vegan places that market themselves as serving healthy food, and everything is drenched in canola oil or tons of sugar. There was always something cringeworthy.” 

Backbone Café patrons can bliss out on gluten-free dishes while admiring a woodland mural by Irubiel Moreno. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)

He credits bone broth—simmered for 48 hours with ginger and anise—with helping his recovery, and it’s a key ingredient in the boîte’s colorful curry bowls, fragrant with mint, basil and cilantro. Everything from smoothies to tacos to salads is prepared using healthy oils, and nuts and grains are sprouted to maximize the bioavailability of nutrients. (With the exception of the breads, everything is also gluten-free—there is a non-gluten bun option from Pushkin’s Bakery—and all the produce is organic.)

The space is cozy and a bit trippy—a large mural by local artist Irubiel Moreno depicts psilocybin mushrooms and the vine from which Amazonian shamans brew vision-inducing Ayahuasca, and there's a leather couch where you can sip on a Golden Milk spiced with turmeric, ginger, cardamom, pepper, honey, nutmeg and cinnamon blended with coconut oil and nut milk. You might even get to drink your keto coffee—an energetic concoction with grass-fed butter and MCT oil—elbow to elbow with a King. Being a stone’s throw from the Golden 1 Center, Woolston says, “we have seen a number of very tall gentlemen come in.” —Hillary Louise Johnson

729 J St. 916-970-5545.

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