The new World Café in Puyallup's South Hill is a dual-purpose food destination. For the drive-by eater, it's a fast, casual café with a limited menu of wraps, soups, salads, a few grain-based entrees, and a small breakfast menu of oatmeal, paninis and nutritious pastries. For the time-pressed cook (aka my fellow Puyallup moms), the cafe is a pickup place for Day By Day Gourmet, a meals ready business where frozen dinners can be picked up and stashed in a freezer until dinner is needed.
The company's mantra is healthy food – nutritious ingredients, prepared with a nod to ethnic flavors. And the concept is helped along by a Northwest healthy eats pioneer – former public television cooking host Graham Kerr, who helped develop the menu (other credentialed culinary professionals also helped with the concept, check the website for details).
Shown here: A Thai chicken wrap, called a trumpette, comes on a sundried tomato tortilla with a smear of garlic scented bean spread, coconut, curry and cilantro marinated chicken and fresh greens inside, and on the side.
The creator behind the World Café/Day by Day Gourmet Dinners is Brad Vorhees, founder of Dinners Ready, a meals ready company he left in 2006. So far, World Café/Day by Day Gourmet has locations in Puyallup and Lynnwood, and the company's website advertises franchise opportunities. The Puyallup location has been open for about two months.
I popped in recently at World Cafe to test the takeout menu, but not the prepared meals side of the business.
My first impression with the café food is that this is one of those places where you actually can find nutritious food that tastes pretty decent – for health food. It's similar in concept to Marlene's in Tacoma, but World Café has a more limited menu and lacks the stellar salad bar that makes Marlene's a great healthy lunch destination.
With the opening of World Café, I appreciate that an option exists for diners on South Hill -- me included -- who want to pick up something quick and healthy that doesn't come with the worry of consuming 1,500 calories of burgers and fries while behind the wheel rushing to swim practice.
One personal beef: the café that touts itself as a healthier option had no written nutritional information for its takeout food. I asked the woman behind the counter and she said the wraps probably are under 500 calories, but she had no other details (but they are working on it, she said). For a café that markets itself as "healthy" (it's written everywhere on their menu), it must be frustrating for health-focused diners to go there and find no calorie, carb or fiber counts.
Despite the lack of nutritional details, I appreciated that the ingredients seemed healthier – whole grains, fresh greens, lean meats, bean-based spreads and dips, fruit and probiotic yogurt lassis (similar to a smoothie, but less sweet) and sugar free breakfast breads.
I got stuck on the wraps menu. Called "trumpettes," the wraps (all $6.49) come in four flavors.
The Thai chicken wrap was served on a toasted, crispy tortilla, smeared with a garlic scented bean-based spread, and small pieces of dark chicken meat marinated in curry, coconut and cilantro. The wrap was served vertically, with a pile of undressed greens in the middle that seemed a bit confusing (there also were greens on the side). I picked up the wrap and bunched it around the greens, and ate it sandwich style. The side of fresh mixed greens came with a choice of lemon vinaigrette, cucumber dressing or miso. Dressing was served on the side, the way I like it.
I couldn't detect any of the promised lowfat Swiss cheese, and the cheese also seemed to be missing from the Pork Yucatan wrap. The Yucatan, with flavor popping achiote and orange braised pork, was the tastier of the two wraps, but I was surprised to find fatty pieces attached to a piece of pork.
A note about the meals ready portion of the business. According to the website, the dinners can be ordered by phone or online and picked up on arranged pickup dates and times. They can be frozen until ready to eat. The meals must be ordered by the dozen, and come in portion sizes that serve 1-6. Prices start at $99 for 12 one-portion meals (that breaks down to $8.25 per portion).
The take-and-bake meals include things like English cottage pie, pork medallions in pears and peppers, Hawaiian curried pineapple chicken and North African beef with matzo dumplings.
The café itself is a nice environment for fast-casual dining --vibrant, green walls and brightly colored, comfortable booths, with stained concrete floors and a world music soundtrack makes for a soothing eating environment.
Earth-friendly observation: I also liked the plastic cups and boxes are reyclable/compostable. This is a restaurant that seems to pay attention to health of people and the environment. I like that.
WHERE: 4102 S. Meridian, Puyallup
CONTACT: 253-435-8759, www.worldcafes.net
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays