If your mama was anything like mine, you probably heard "Eat your vegetables!" more than once at the supper table when you were a kid. As grownups, though, we've all read numerous times that eating a diet rich in fresh fruits, veggies and grains will make us feel better, look better and live longer.
Many of us, though, still want to savor all that good, rich, meaty stuff that mama put on the table. When I hear "vegan" or "vegetarian," I tend to think of crunchy granola and Birkenstocks (and sometimes think that the Birkenstocks may be the better-tasting option).
Domini Bradford and Hunter McGee are on a mission to change our carnivorous minds and to give Jackson a healthy eating alternative to your mama's all-too-rich southern cooking. And if you've already committed to the vegetarian lifestyle, you're in for a treat. Bradford, 38, and McGee, 34, have teamed with Terry Butler, owner of W.C. Don's, to open The Greenhouse, a new vegetarian restaurant in Butler's familiar Jackson venue. In a time when people are becoming more aware of what's in the food they eat and the air they breathe, all three want to provide a classy, smoke-free environment for lunch-time dining and night-time entertainment.
Bradford and McGee have been a couple for the last five years, but have known each other much longer. Both have been involved in the food-service industry, and Bradford, especially, has lots of experience cooking vegetarian fare. She apprenticed at several restaurants in the area before becoming head chef at the popular High Noon Café 11 years ago. In October, she took a promising new position in the Yucatan. For many reasons, Bradford returned to Jackson, her hometown, a little over a month later to team up with McGee and Butler in this new venture.
"We just want to be very down to earth," Bradford said.
We talked at length about the prospective menu. "People really like my soups a lot," Bradford said. "I make soups that are meals."
In addition to soups, she plans to have a selection of sandwiches and dishes made with organic free-range chicken. Bradford is open to experimenting with other organic meats, she told me, and is committed to using fresh ingredients from local producers. "My philosophy is to make food that people grew up with, but make them healthy," Bradford said. "I make chicken and dumplings," she offered as an example, "But there's absolutely no chicken in (it). It's completely vegan. I make (vegetarian) Philly cheese-steak sandwiches (and) gyros."
Bradford and McGee will prepare the dishes your mama made with healthy ingredients that won't pack on the pounds quite as fast as traditional Southern foods. "There are so many options," McGee said. "There's all this good Southern cooking … that (may not be) made out of good stuff."
Sitting in W.C. Don's back room today, there's still an ever-so-slight smoky odor in the as-yet unremarkable space. It reminds me more of a cave than a healthy restaurant—if you've been to Don's for the music or hot dogs, you know what I mean—but many changes are already afoot. McGee has brought a dozen or more plants in from the cold, and he plans to bring in many more. He and Bradford have scrubbed the space clean, they've decided on the color scheme, and a new gas stove is on order. Already, W.C. Don's has instituted a smoke-free policy in the room where the restaurant will be located (the same space where the bands perform), limiting smoking to the half of the building facing Commerce Street and, of course, the great outdoors.
"There's a sizeable population of people that do not go out because … they can't stand (the cigarette smoke). They'd love to have a nice drink and hear good music, but they don't want to be around the smoke," McGee said. The Greenhouse at W.C. Don's will be breaking new ground in Jackson with the no-smoking policy in the entertainment area.
"W.C. Don's has always been about having a venue for up-and-coming bands," Butler said. "In Spin magazine back in the mid-'80s, we were listed as one of the top-10 dives," he added with a grin, noting that just in the past year, he's booked more than 1,000 bands. Today, as in the past, Don's is known for putting talented, original music on the stage, and many bands, like the Indigo Girls, played Don's before they went on to the big time. Butler won't be changing his booking habits, just changing the club a bit for the better. As for the bands, they're enthusiastic about playing in a smoke-free club—if you've ever tried to sing after sitting in a smoky bar for a few hours, you'll understand their eagerness.
As for me, I just want to get some of those "chicken" and dumplings, Domini Bradford-style.
The Greenhouse at W.C. Don's will be introducing their full lunch menu in January, and if Hunter McGee gets his way, will be phasing in dishes, beginning with soups, later in December. They are considering a dinner menu, as well.
This is GREAT NEWS! Keep us posted on the menu and the opening dates, and so forth.
Of course, I'm still trying to wrap my head around "WC Don's" and "healthy" being using in the same breath. Can't wait for the opening.
I know. I can't wait for the "chicken & dumplings"! And I've had those Philly cheese un-steaks. Delish!
Imagine: Two veggie (or almost-veggie) restaurants in town!
yayyyyyyy!!! smoke freeeeeeeeeeeee! hooray I am one who sometimes stays home rather than get the smoke haze in my face but love live music. WC Don's is pushing ahead, I can't wait to check this out...