New juice bar stresses a healthy, but tasty, lifestyle

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Matthew Kenney a strategic partner of Belfest, Maine (left) and Beth Taussig of Highland Park the founder of IN THE RAW sit inside their business. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

IN THE RAW

Location: 483 Central Ave., Highland Park

Menu: Organic, vegan, gluten-free and primarily raw

Management team: Highland Park residents Mark and Beth Taussig with raw food expert Matthew Kenney

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The Healthy Highland Park movement just received a boost, as a new health-conscience restaurant and juice bar opened Friday morning at the prime corner of Central Avenue and Sheridan Road.

In The Raw — created by Highland Park residents Mark and Beth Taussig with the culinary expertise of raw food chef Matthew Kenney — serves up an inspired organic, vegan and gluten-free menu that merges several health and wellness food trends around raw foods and juicing.

From the menu, the open kitchen, juice bar, dining room and cozy lounge area, In The Raw offers a clean, fresh vibe.

All the food is certified organic and exceedingly vibrant. The ingredients are never cooked above 110 degrees, and most of the dishes are completely raw. In fact, the kitchen lacks an oven. Instead, there are 10 dehydrators.

Kenney’s specialty — a refreshingly cold lasagna that replaces noodles with zucchini and is layered with a sun-dried tomato marinara, macadamia nut cheese and green, yellow and red tomatoes — looks like a work of healthy art.

“The food, the presentation, the appearance, it’s all a work of art,” said Mark Taussig in agreement.

Yet, the menu remains approachable and well priced, added Kenney, the raw culinary school owner behind the menu.

The dinner menu — also featuring avocado wrapped vegetable sushi and red chili tacos with spicy ‘beans,’ guacamole and mango salsa — is priced between $13 and $15. The fresh fruit and vegetable juices and blended drinks range from $7 to $10.

“You’ll be full and feel good, too,” Kenney said. “It’s a labor-intensive cuisine.”

Even the expansive beer, wine and liquor menu boasts dozens of organic or gluten-free options.

Beth Taussig got the idea to open a juice bar and healthy food restaurant after trying the alternative diet about four years ago. Taussig explained that she was feeling sluggish when she turned to juicing and raw food.

Taussig emerged feeling energized, but there was no local outlet to feed her new lease on life.

“There is a huge population on the North Shore interested in health,” said Taussig, citing the countless fitness options in the area, “but we didn’t have a place for healthy, nutritious meals.”

There are 24 seats inside and 28 on the outside patio. The restaurant turns from counter service to table service at 5 p.m., and the front lounge area is a perfect gathering place for coffee and drinks all day.

The early response has been nothing but positive, the Taussigs reported. On Saturday afternoon, In The Raw was hopping with patrons as it received a special opening weekend boost from the Festival of Fine Craft outside.

During an interview in the lounge area, a consistent flow of praise was overheard from guests coming and going. Comments on the décor were a constant. The walls, coffee tables, dining tables and chairs were all crafted out of reclaimed wood during the nine-month build-out.

In addition to the food and drink options, In The Raw offers a detox program and plans to host raw-cooking classes to help bring a renewed vitality to Highland Park.

The ultimate goal is to expand into an adjoining storefront to hold the classes while using the additional space to also serve as a production facility for potential satellite juice bars around the area.

“I’m so pleased with everything,” Beth Taussig said.