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Life Alive, Central Square, Cambridge

MichaelB Oct 27, 2010 12:59 PM

This is the new branch of a Lowell restaurant - it just opened in the old Hollywood Express space in Central Square. I tried it with a friend today and it was surprisingly good! It's totally vegetarian and a vegan would have no problems here either, although they do have some egg and dairy on the menu. Most of the entrees come as a large or small bowl or as a wrap - I had "The Lover" and my friend had "The Goddess." (If you don't like earth-mother-ish names you are SO out of luck here.) These turned out to be very similar - a bowl of shredded or chopped and very lightly cooked carrots, beets, broccoli, and greens over very good brown rice with a slightly gingery soy dressing. The Goddess has tofu and the Lover has shiitakes; not sure how they decided who got which.

Everything was very fresh and well-prepared; I'd try the other dishes, although I might steer clear of the flax oil and the sprinkles of nutritional yeast. It's not especially cheap - the large bowls and wraps are just under 10 dollars and the small bowls around 6 dollars - but I think that's a reflection of the prep-work involved and the cost of using good produce, and perhaps of the real estate as well. I got the large bowl and boxed up half of it to go (is it wrong that I'm thinking it would go really well with some char siu?!?) - next time a "demi" portion would be plenty, although big eaters might want the full size.

There's also a big menu of smoothies (the Eros Alive, the Loco Coco Alive, etc.) - my friend tried a Chai Alive and it was pretty tasty, although wicked pricy at 6 dollars - and a juice bar, as well as some coffee substitute made of dandelion, beet, and chicory roots. Hmm.

Very friendly staff, and they seemed pretty together considering how recently they opened. The space itself is very nice - light and open, with a long ledge with stools spanning several windows, and some tables (a little cramped-looking) in the corner. Minor detail, but they use very nice bowls and some rather cool water glasses. Plenty of carved wood and LOTS of buddha figures (seated, reclining, etc.) everywhere, always a plus. They also have a nice selection of books on eastern philosophy, wellness, etc. on that window ledge if you feel like reading as you eat. It's obviously not a place that will appeal to everybody (one of my co-workers visibly blanched in horror as she read the take-out menu) but they clearly know what they're about and seem to know how to make it work.

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    Kinopio RE: MichaelB Oct 28, 2010 07:09 AM

    The Hollywood Express was two floors, so Im guessing they use the lower floor as storage, prep area etc and not as seating?

    I moved out of Central two months ago. For a vegetarian like myselt this place would have been nice to have around when I was there. I'll try to check it out before the pumpkinfest at Cambridge Brewing Co on saturday. Gonna need some healthy food before consuming many pints of beer.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Kinopio
      MichaelB RE: Kinopio Oct 28, 2010 07:14 PM

      There was a rope blocking the stairs down to the lower level, so I'm not sure if it's being used as kitchen space or if they'll eventually have any more seating down there.

      It's definitely a good place to get some healthy ballast before all that beer.

      1. re: Kinopio
        slaniel RE: Kinopio Jul 3, 2011 07:19 AM

        Probably updating folks on something they already know, but: the downstairs at Life Alive is additional seating. The place is packed almost all the time, so that seating turns out to be necessary.

        -----
        Life Alive
        194 Middle St Apt 3R, Lowell, MA 01852

        1. re: Kinopio
          yarm RE: Kinopio Jul 6, 2011 07:36 AM

          There is more spacious seating downstairs and the staff will bring your food down there when its ready.

          I've eaten there a half dozen times and haven't been disappointed (despite the aesthetic not really matching mine, the food is rather good).

        2. enhF94 RE: MichaelB Jul 5, 2011 03:23 PM

          old thread, but recently notched, so posting. I've been pleased three times by Life Alive's bowls. I usually find "healthy" restaurants consistently underseason, but not here.

          Curiously, from all those grains/greens/nuts, my jaw has been tired from the workout by the end of the meal. That's not bad in my book; just odd. I eat every day and I've never had that happen before.

          -----
          Life Alive
          194 Middle St Apt 3R, Lowell, MA 01852

          2 Replies
          1. re: enhF94
            JennyL RE: enhF94 Feb 6, 2012 01:27 PM

            ok, i have to confess, i love their salads though i still think they're a little overpriced for what you get. what amazes me is the taste--as the previous psoter said, they get the seasoning just right. so right that it's bugging me. does anyone have a sense of how they do it? is everything steamed, and perhaps kept overnight marinating in the sauce? how can it be so flavorful and so freshly prepared at the same time?

            1. re: JennyL
              enhF94 RE: JennyL Feb 6, 2012 04:11 PM

              I think there are a few options here:
              1. if they steam, they probably toss greens in Bragg's, or pour over, as they plate.
              or,
              2. if someone in the kitchen was trained French-ly, they blanch and shock the greens in salty water, which will season the greens.

              I suspect #1.

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