By Mary Terrana, Features Contributor
One of the nice perks about being a commuter student is that I can eat wherever I want. I came across a real gem a few weeks ago. There are lots of great restaurants and places to eat in East Aurora that will please anyone’s palette, from the vegan/vegetarian to meat lovers. If you’re ever in this neck of the woods or just simply want to take a break from Canisius cuisine and try something new, come on out to HomeGrown Kitchen located at 650 Main Street in East Aurora, N.Y. They are all about healthy lifestyles and healthy communities. They serve great tasting, always fresh, healthy food that is sourced in a sustainable way — everything from fresh salads, grain bowls, soups, wraps, cold brew/coffee beverages and smoothies. They use fresh produce and real fruit sourced from local farms. Everything is made in-house. Nothing is commercial and everything I’ve eaten there so far has been delicious. While they do serve vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free items, they also do serve meat items as well. The inside is clean, modern and bright, and the big windows provide a nice view of busy Main Street.
Their menu is pretty simple, and everything is available as either a bowl or a wrap if you are ordering from their “Greens” or “Grains” menu. They also offer a couple different kinds of paninis, however these are not listed on the website. All the ingredients that make up each delicious dish on the menu are listed below it, along with the price. You can also tweak, omit or add anything you want. Orders can be placed online via their website as well. Delivery is not available, but they do offer catering. Cash/credit are accepted. Prices on salads and bowls range from $8.25 to $14.95. That may sound steep to you, but their portions are huge! Two people could easily share a bowl. Smoothies are $7.95 but believe me — they are worth it. Coffee ranges from $1.95 to $3.75.
When I first ate here three weeks ago, I tried a grain bowl called “Besto’ Pesto” ($12.25). This dish consists of mixed mesclun greens, quinoa, roasted chicken, shaved parmesan cheese, chopped walnut, tomato and red onion with pesto vinaigrette. I’m allergic to onions and I don’t like nuts in anything, so I omitted those two ingredients from my bowl. Everything was so delicious, and the salad was crisp just like it should be (nothing wilted in sight!). The pesto vinaigrette is so good. For those who do not like overpowering pesto, this dressing is for you. You can taste it, but it’s soft. There’s also a touch of lemon in it that makes it pop.
Since my first visit, I’ve eaten here twice more in the past two weeks. The Besto’ Pesto is what kept me coming, along with a beautiful, delicious smoothie called Orange Dreamsicle. This smoothie is composed of orange, banana, vanilla and almond milk. It really tastes like an orange creamsicle, and the banana adds a creamy texture to the drink. It is served with a light green, wide mouth, monstrous-sized straw.
On my most recent visit, I decided to try something different. This time I chose to create a bowl. When you create a bowl, you get your choice of two bases, four goodies (as they are called on the menu) and two dressings. Premium items such as meat or avocado can be added for an additional charge. Since I didn’t want salad greens as my base, I chose quinoa and wild rice. I went with raw corn, black beans, golden raisins and blue tortilla chips as my four goodies. I also added two premium items: avocado and roasted chicken. I concluded with my favorite pesto vinaigrette and decided to try a new dressing, Honey Sesame. I’m so glad I tried the dressing because it complimented the bowl very well. It tastes slightly Asian-inspired and it’s also the exact right amount of sweetness because of the honey in it. The basil vinaigrette, in my opinion, is more for the salad bowls, while the Honey Sesame perfectly accompanies the grains bowl.
Unfortunately, HomeGrown Kitchen does not sell a large bottle of their delicious homemade dressings, but you can buy them as a small side for 50 cents each. There was a seasonal greens dish on the menu that night which I also decided to try, called GOURDgeous Greens: it consisted of arugula, caramelized maple butternut squash, dried cranberry, pecans, feta, and roasted chicken with cider vinaigrette. I did not have a chance to taste the cider vinaigrette as I opted to enjoy my arugula without dressing. Arugula has a nice little spicy kick when eaten plain and you can taste it more. I enjoy it both with and without dressing, but I really like it raw and pure. Normally I modify and tweak my salad bowls, but I decided to try this non-modified. It was good, but I was not crazy about the squash as I felt it could have been caramelized a little bit more. It also tasted more like pumpkin; however, it was still a good salad. I also opted to try a different smoothie called Strawberry Shortcake which is made of strawberry, cashew butter, dates, maple, avocado, vanilla and almond milk. Quite the combination of ingredients, right? Surprisingly, it smells exactly like strawberry shortcake and tastes like it too. The cashew butter gives it that dough-like shortcake taste. The avocado adds a creamy, smooth texture while the vanilla and the almond milk adds to the creamy taste. To my surprise, I did not taste the maple or the dates. I mostly tasted the fruit, vanilla and the cashew butter, but it all works out to make it taste like strawberry shortcake. I still prefer my Orange Dreamsicle smoothie, though — that one is just perfect!
If this sounds like a place you’d enjoy, check out their website at www.homegrownwny.com. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. I suggest going out early and stopping by for lunch or dinner. Make a day of it and enjoy all that East Aurora has to offer.