Loudoun County's Healthy Fast Casual Restaurant: : Life & Honey
Chris and I are both born and raised Loudoun County-ers which is rare. Loudoun has been one of the top 5 fastest growing counties the the US for several years and that means our population (and tourism thanks to our wine industry) has grown exponentially. And yet with the massive growth, one thing Loudoun continues to lack is a vibrant food scene and healthy options. (Side note: We remember when there was just a Walmart and Hechinger's in Leesburg and one of our major neighborhoods was a sod farm).
Don't get me wrong, we have 5 or so restaurants and specialty shops we really love and recommend. But the fact that the number I'm typing is FIVE in this huge county brimming with western county farms and wineries is pathetic. More than anything, what Loudoun County's food scene lacks is fast, good and healthy food. Thankfully, when Cava (BLESS YOU CAVA!) decided to come to town, that became our go-to stop but we would love even more fast, healthy stops to come to Northern Virginia. So when I got an email that Life & Honey was opening, it gave me hope that more business owners are starting to realize the huge hole in our dining scene.
When I went to the opening late last year I immediately loved how different the space was for this region: bright, clean, open. Virginia can tend towards country-club, wood laden with fox and horse prints (which I love, but we could all use more zen space). The menu has a variety of healthy options with smart protein options. There's sustainably raised salmon, beef, chicken, black beans and more for bowls. They do toasts, soups, smoothies and even their kid's menu is great (butternut squash mac n cheese).
So with all that background on my local dining scene, it's time for you to meet Nicole, who took her health into her own hands and made the restaurant she couldn't find.
1. Tell us about yourself and your business.
I am the founder and CEO of Life & Honey. I learned the hard way that being healthy is a conscious choice, not something that just “happens” to you. For most of my life, I felt sick and suffered from extreme fatigue and an autoimmune disease. From the outside, I looked fine. On the inside, I was suffering. I went to all kinds of doctors and specialists seeking answers. Why was I sick? But no one could diagnose me with any degree of certainty. I was a health mystery in the eyes of Western medicine, so I did what any self-respecting badass lady would do… I decided to become an advocate for myself and went the alternative route. Only then did I discover how foods would play a big role in my healing process.
Just imagine how alive I could have felt had I known sooner. SO, off I went on a journey to find foods that made me feel good, vibrant and alive. My quest sent me beyond grocery stores and back to the farm. It took me from conventional to local. From suffering to healed. And it taught me more about the foods served in 99.9% of dining establishments in the US. It became more and more obvious to me that there were no fast and fresh restaurants that are both convenient and healthy.
LIFE & HONEY IS THE ESTABLISHMENT I LONGED FOR. It’s a hub where active, and adventurous people can connect over green smoothie and a healthy bowl. It’s a place where you (and your family) can comfortably attend a workshop, eat quinoa together, or meet your favorite running group for a jog. It’s a home where you can work on your novel, support local farmers, and become part of a family.
2. If you could define your food philosophy in one sentence, it would be…
The quality of your food impacts the quality of your life.
3. What are your 3 must have foods in your kitchen?
Organic wild rice, avocados, and ginger.
4. It’s your birthday. What are you eating?
Most likely, I would eat steak or salmon, veggies, and a healthy carb + cake or donuts to celebrate!
5. Signature cocktail?
6. Food you can’t like no matter how hard you try?
7. What are your go-to resources for all things food (websites/magazines/groceries, etc.)
I love the Fraiche Nutrition blog & Sprouted Kitchen blog.
8. Food fad you wish would die a horrible death?
9. Must have kitchen tool.
10. What’s the one thing you learned this year that changed the way you think about food?
This year I learned just how important it is to fuel my body with the proper nutrients. Having an autoimmune disease has caused me to truly look at the nutrients I am putting in my body and to focus on food as a healer. The more clean and nutritious food I put in my body, the better I feel.
Do you know a woman in the food world who should be part of this interview series? Let me know!
Check our previous women in food interviews here Including:
Dietitian Nutritionist and cookbook author sharing flavor-forward recipes and simplified science-driven wellness.