The Tallahassee restaurant focuses on a healthful, transparent menu.
When you visit this new Tallahassee restaurant, you’ll find a menu of bowls, salads, lavash bread and cauliflower-crust pizza. Au naturale, if you will. Afterall, what else would you expect from a place called Bare Naked Kitchen?
Yet, when the manager talks about baring it all, she’s not talking about the staff. Despite its titillating name, everyone is clothed. The name? It’s meant to be a fun, attention-getter.
“We picked it on purpose,” said Jen Ulmer, vice president of marketing and public relations for Bare Naked Kitchen. “It draws curiosity.”
The name also refers to the food — and transparency, she said.
“We’re using fresh foods and there’s no hiding behind ingredients,” said Jen.
The name may get your attention but it’s the food that will make you a fan. Dishes are filling but light and healthful, with the menu created by Chris Ponte, one of Tampa Bay’s premier chefs and a James Beard nominee.
Tallahassee was chosen for the debut of the concept, but there are plans for expansion, starting with South Tampa. Restaurateur Bob Basham, who is behind the chains Outback Steakhouse, PDQ and Glory Days, launched Bare Naked Kitchen this spring in the former home of Spear-It, near the Florida State University School of Music.
The casual restaurant is bright and breezy, decorated with light woods, potted plants and accents of cornflower blue and olive green. There’s seating for 14 on the patio and 108 inside, with several booths as well as a communal table. You order at the counter but food is brought to your table.
Bare Naked Kitchen is bound to be a hit with college students, but the appeal is cross-generational. I’ve been there a couple times, once with friends, and we all liked it.
Bowls are a prime attraction at Bare Naked Kitchen, and fittingly, most have catchy names.
My husband was happy with the Fit to be Thai’d bowl, a mix of black forbidden fried rice, peanuts and chunks of Asian-style chicken, topped with a cluster of crisp and wispy rice noodles.
My Moroccan chicken lavash bread was also very good, with pieces of harissa chicken that uses a sweet/smokey red chili paste, plus mozzarella, some roasted red peppers, red onions and cilantro. Lavash bread, also called Armenian flatbread, is getting increasingly popular around the globe. It’s a little thinner and crisper than a traditional flat bread so the ingredients stand out even more.
On another visit to Bare Naked Kitchen, we went with friends who raved about the place. My friend Gail said everything tasted fresh and each bowl had its own character. Keep digging into your bowl and you’ll find fresh veggies and grains, like the tri-color quinoa in the Skinny Mexican.
As for the Skinny Mexican, highlights include the black bean patties, lots of black beans and a perky pico de gallo, dressed with a chipotle agave vinaigrette.
The No Miss Steak was a little like a steak dinner in a bowl, but the sliced steak wasn’t the only main event. It’s joined by garlic potatoes, slices of artichokes, gorgonzola and lots of brown basmati rice with a gorgonzola yogurt dressing. The cut of steak is a rich teres major, which is also called the shoulder tender, mock tender or petite tender. The kitchen cooks the steak sous vide and grills it to order. The meat was very tender and flavorful.
We were also bowled over by the Roll in a Bowl as well. We liked the chopped golden beets, bok choy and jasmine rice as well as a mound of refreshing tuna poke served with a wasabi vinaigrette and crisps made from wonton skins.
I’ve never been a fan of cauliflower crusts but Bare Naked Kitchen did a good job with our choice of The Medi, with toppings of mozzarella, tomato sauce, eggplant, piquillo peppers, feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, olives and arugula. The pizzas and lavash breads are a good size for sharing.
You can also request vegan options. Desserts are marked Vegan, gluten-free or Keto. We liked the gluten-free cookie made in-house and the Keto chocolate brownie. If you’re a fan of Rice Krispies treats, which I’m not, there’s a vegan brown rice chocolate crispy version. They also have items like passion fruit curd with chantilly cream or yogurt panna cotta with basic peach compote.
I rarely drink soda but the Bare Naked Kitchen organic sodas are quite good. I really liked the root beer. A staffer suggested mixing lemongrass and cucumber sodas and that was a surprising treat.
You can also order batched cocktails made daily and served from a tap. The Blood Orange Sour, one of five available, was made with Bulleit bourbon, lemon juice, agave and blood orange. Feels like the First Lime, made with 1800 Silver Tequila, Cointreau and orange and lime juices, is a good match for your Skinny Mexican Bowl.
Bowls are $12 to $15, cauliflower pies are $14, lavash breads are $8 to $10, salads $12 to $15 (with add-ons available), grab-and-go items are $2 to $5, desserts are $2 to $4 and cocktails are $6.
The big reveal? Bare Naked Kitchen is a fun concept with generous portions of flavorful, healthful food, a relaxed setting and the beginning of what is likely to become a successful chain.
If you go…
Bare Naked Kitchen, 609 W. Tennessee St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.