Friends with benefits

Chef Chris Cowell puts together a Bison Burger at BFF Cafe.

Chef Chris Cowell puts together a Bison Burger at BFF Cafe.

Photo/Allison Young

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So, an omnivore and his vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, paleo and gluten-free friends walk into the same restaurant for lunch. An hour later, all leave satisfied. That’s it. That’s the punchline. Despite the potential humor/horror of a chef attempting to cater to every modern dietary concern, the creative cuisine served at BFF Café is no joke.

The sign says “your body’s best friend” and the menu is “powered by SoDo.” Fitness magazines are casually laid out on the fireplace coffee table, and the parent SoDo Restaurant is known for fresh ingredients, so right away you know processed foods won’t be on the menu.

The decor is simple and stylish with seating for perhaps 50, plus patio seating for warmer months. Ordering is informal. Menus are available at the counter. Place your order and seat yourself. One thing I found odd was being directed to serve myself water from a soda fountain set behind the counter, yet our food was delivered to the table. Maybe it’s just me.

There are two menus. The green menu features high-protein, low-fat dishes with nutritional information listed for each. The orange menu is full of American favorites including buffalo wings, fajitas, chicken fingers and sandwiches including cheesesteak and French dip. We were there to try the green menu, but if the orange is anything like the food at SoDo, it’s probably pretty good.

Cauliflower pizza has become a trendy option for those avoiding gluten and/or carbs. BFF’s version is served as two 5-inch mini pies with grilled chicken, red sauce, roasted red pepper, red onion, goat cheese, mozzarella and fresh basil ($8). I don’t know the recipe for their “crust,” but most involve steamed and pulverized cauliflower blended with cheese, egg and other ingredients to form a sort of dough. In fact, the texture reminds me of undercooked pizza, but not in a gross, doughy way. It’s not really pizza, but it's packed with a ton of flavor and nutrition.

Zoodles are long, thin strands of zucchini used in place of pasta. You can blanch them a bit to make the texture more pasta-like, but the entire house zoodle salad was raw including zoodles, cucumber, onion, tomato, goat cheese, mixed greens, lemon house dressing, and red pepper coils ($8). The dressing was very good, but I think the greens got lost among the mounds of shredded zucchini. We went veggie but you can add chicken, prawns, salmon or tri-tip for an additional fee.

My wife’s clucker bowl ($11) was loaded with grilled chicken, zoodles, cabbage, peppers, red potato and red onion, lightly drizzled with blue cheese dressing. Again, I think the amount of zoodles overwhelmed a bit, but the chicken and potatoes were tender and well-seasoned. My wife was pleased with her selection.

I wandered off the veggie train with a beefalo burger ($14) sporting an 8 ounce blend of ground beef and bison, blue cheese crumbles, spinach, balsamic-marinated tomato and mushrooms sandwiched between two squares of grilled falafel bread. I was pleasantly surprised with the “bread.” The meat was cooked exactly to order, and the mix of flavors and textures worked well. The quinoa salad I chose as a side was less amazing, but my wife added it to her bowl. Next time I’ll order the cauliflower sticks.

This place is just getting started but I think they’re on the right track. I’m told they’ll be replacing the beefalo with a pure bison burger, and breakfast offerings are in the future. If you’re looking for healthy options that are both delicious and filling, BFF Café could indeed become your best friend forever.