Whole Heart Provisions

By Molly McDonough   Allston-Brighton · $

There was a time when flaccid, flavorless vegetables were tossed on plates as a last-ditch attempt to add a conscionable component to dinner. Maybe you’d douse them in butter and salt, eat them first in order to get to the meaty stuff, or avoid them altogether (much to your nagging mother’s dismay). News flash: Those days are no more. The plant world is delicious, it’s photogenic, and it’s taking center stage at Whole Heart Provisions.

Eating healthy won’t feel like a chore when you encounter one of this Allston joint’s many overflowing bowls of rainbow goodness. Just enough raw and fermented veggies satisfy your urge for tang and crunch; think shaved Brussels sprouts, dark green kale, or pickled jalapeño. Browned and roasted beauties like charred eggplant, blistered green beans, and seared cauliflower up the umami factor. Sprinkles of fried and crunchy morsels—crispy chickpeas, corn nuts, peanut crumble—add layers of texture. And there might just be a zigzag of dressing, something creamy and packed with flavor and spice (tahini, harissa, gochujang) to round it all out.

Here’s how it works: Enter the tiny shop and order at the counter. Create your own combination or choose from seven Signature Bowls offered in different themes. Most draw from global inspiration; fans of Korean, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, and Vietnamese flavor combos will all find something to swoon over. Each requires a choice of base: jasmine rice, house pilaf, arugula, or marinated kale. Asking for a mix of our two favorites—the pilaf (a quinoa and brown rice mix) and the kale—results in a lovely blend that’s green enough but feels more like a meal than a salad.

We recommend garnishing your bronze tabletop with a sprinkling of colorful snacks: Seared Avocado, Sesame Shishitos, Crispy Old Bay Brussels, or—if you need a gluten fix—a Dijon-y Falafel Dog (that toasty bun’s the only menu item with wheat). These are saucy sides, best washed down with one of several zingy kombuchas on tap. Walking back out into the world, Speedwell coffee-laced Cold Brew Horchata in hand, you’ll feel satisfied both in hunger and in conscience. Even if your carnivorous urges kick in by dinnertime, we guarantee it: Someday soon, a relentless craving for that vegetable rainbow will draw you back.

It’s fitting that Boston’s best vegan ice cream is just two doors down from the city’s most coveted veggie spot. Like Whole Heart, FoMu passes the ultimate vegan food test: Carnivores love it, too. Don’t miss out on a post-bowl dessert here.

Head here from 10-2 on Sundays for all the brunch classics (pancakes, breakfast tacos, “huevos” rancheros) done Whole Heart-style. This is also the only time you can snag the famously purple beet-stuffed “Reuben.”

Never stress over meat-free holiday meals again. Whole Heart does special to-go menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Super Bowl and more. Check the Facebook page for up-to-date details.

Must Haves

  • With the perfect balance of textures and colors, this bowl’s more savory features alone (pickled cauliflower, green beans, and Japanese eggplant) merit the order. Does the Eastern Mediterranean-tinged mix of flavors remind you of something? (The bowl is named after Cassie Piuma, chef and co-owner of Sarma.)

  • Of all bowls, this Mexican-inspired one offers the most distinctive sweet-spicy combo, with jalapeños that beg to be balanced with sips of almond-milky horchata.

  • A testament to the power of this brassica, which somehow becomes more delicious the more it gets beaten into a charred, wilted version of itself.

Fun Fact

At first, healthy bowls might seem like the antithesis to the short rib-stuffed grilled cheeses of Roxy’s next door, but James DiSabatino is co-owner of both spots. On closer look, it makes sense: with his culinary chops and co-owner/chef Rebecca Arnold’s veggie mastery (she worked at both Sarma and Alden & Harlow), it’s no wonder Whole Heart manages to be simultaneously healthy and delicious.