BY HONEY MURRAY
LBN Community Series
“Rather than stop and get junk food, I’m so glad that Try It Raw is here,” she said as she sipped a frothy green smoothie while waiting for her favorite to-go lunch: nachos that are made with cabbage chips, walnut meat, cashew cheese, avocado, “and all sorts of goodness.”
OWNER, TRY IT RAW
Doman, who has been a regular customer since Try It Raw opened in 2012, eats mostly a vegetarian diet.
“They are super-accommodating,” Doman adds. “There was a point a few years ago when I couldn’t eat anything solid, and Michael (the owner) would blend up a bunch of protein-packed, natural drinks for me.”
“Being flexible – and able to give people what they specifically want and need – is one of the best things about running Try It Raw,” says Michael Severance who, with his wife, Natalia Castro, and Marc Dobaczewski opened the unique, organic, vegan café on Maple Road in Birmingham.
“Sometimes a customer will say, ‘I can only eat this or that kind of dressing. Can you make it?’ It makes you feel good to be able to do it, and sometimes what you create is so good that it ends up on the regular menu!”
In his late twenties, while working with Dobaczewski as a sushi chef at Clawson’s Noble Fish, Severance started making raw food at home.
“I think the first thing I made was a meatloaf out of walnuts,” he recalls.
“Even with lots of interests and ideas, nothing was going anywhere,” says Severance. “My wife realized I needed to choose a direction and focus on it, so we took a vacation to Miami to think things through.”
While there, they visited a tiny, raw foods restaurant.
“We loved it, and decided to open one, ourselves, in Birmingham. We came home, walked around the streets of Birmingham, and found this little place.”
Severance continues to remain flexible, adding new items and services – like the two or three types of soups he now serves every day.
“I had to adapt my concept of ‘raw’ to include something that my customers really want, and they are enjoying our daily soups,” he says, as he adds freshly chopped onion and squash to his steaming, commercial Insta-Pot.
“This squash soup is extremely popular, and we’ll be serving green lentil soup with lemon, dill, and turnips, too. Sometimes, when my staff sees me walking towards them, they know I’ll be saying, ‘Chop squash, guys!’”
Other currently popular menu items include Caesar salad with cashew dressing, collard green-leaf tacos, avocado toast, the monkey milkshake (with bananas, dates, almonds, cinnamon), and a special for each day of the week: kelp noodles on Monday, lasagna on Tuesday, pizza on Wednesday, burger classic on Thursday, beet “rye bread” Rueben on Friday, Birminghamburger on Saturday, veggie sandwich on Sunday (though exact menu is subject to varying – and to selling out).
Smoothies, juices and sweet treats are also available.
“Celery juice is a big seller right now’” says Severance, “as well as our blend of celery, cucumber, kale, cilantro, lemon, and ginger.”
“Though I don’t get elaborate with desserts,” he says, “the desserts I do have, people like a lot — like our gluten-free cinnamon rolls and our cashew-based chocolate-banana cheesecake. We have a cheesecake every day.”
Try It Raw Café also accommodates deliveries and, with Birmingham’s traffic-packed Maple Road, they’re very willing to make a curbside (or behind-the-building), hand-to-hand lunch delivery.
“That’s another thing I love about having this business,” Severance shares. “We can always do new and different things to meet people’s needs!”
To meet their own needs for fresh produce and other supplies, Try It Raw uses some of this area’s most trusted wholesalers.
“Our organic produce, year-round, comes mainly from B & B Organics, and Cinzori Farms provides our spring and summer stock. Our packaging and disposable goods, of compostable materials, are from Greensafe Products in Detroit.
“And,” Severance continues, “you’ll taste the difference in our cold-pressed juices because we use a Norwalk juicer.”
In addition to providing his home-grown menu (which is 100% gluten-free, with no cross-contamination), Severance enjoys being part of his community. He will be giving a presentation at Birmingham’s Baldwin Public Library on Thursday, January 31, from 7-8 p.m. titled, “Eating Healthy with Try It Raw.”
“I will always remain flexible,” says Severance, “and looking to provide a service people need that maybe no one else is doing. We find where we fit and say, ‘I can try it! I can do it.’”