The greatest economic crisis in the history of American restaurants may not seem like an ideal time to open a new business, but Watever Fresh isn't an ordinary restaurant. Located in Bravery Chef Hall, the new project from chef Martin Weaver (Kuu, Brennan's) replaces Atlas Diner in the popular downtown food hall.
Watever Fresh gives Bravery a plant-based concept to balance out some of its more animal-focused offerings like Cherry Block Craft Butcher & Kitchen and Kokoro Sushi. The menu offers a range of choices such as a grilled tofu burger, butternut squash soup, and an arugula and beet salad. Over time, Weaver tells CultureMap that he plans to expand the menu to include lean animal proteins such as HeartBrand and seafood that's low in mercury.
Weaver says he intends for dishes like that, as well as items like cauliflower tikka masala and roasted vegetable tacos with gluten-free tortillas, to become staples, but the concept will be flexible. As its name implies, Watever Fresh sources produce from local farmers. If they don't have cauliflower available, Weaver will substitute a different Brassica in its place.
The restaurant's goal is to serve people who consider food to be medicine. Whether someone is seeking vegetarian, vegan, or even a specialty diet like the Blue Zone, Watever Fresh aims to have dishes that will accommodate their preferences.
For now, the concept is still in soft opening mode with a limited menu — it doesn't even have a presence on social media (yet). Diners can order it via the Bravery website for delivery or curbside pickup, and the food hall has been sending food to staff members at St. Luke's hospital who are treating patients with COVID-19. So far, the chef says the feedback has been positive.
Weaver notes that the new project may be a change from Brennan's butter-heavy approach, but he's long maintained an interest in vegetable cooking. The chef attempted to open a salad restaurant in West University Place, but permitting difficulties prompted Weaver and his partners to pivot to creating Grinders Coffee Bar, a CBD dispensary and coffee shop. In addition, he's been cooking for his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Soriano, who is eating a lean, mostly plant-based diet while she waits for a kidney transplant.
With the Company of Nomads, the group behind Bravery Chef Hall, set to expand its footprint with new food halls in EaDo, Midtown, near the Heights, and near the Galleria, Watever Fresh could grow quickly. At a time when people are concerned about their health, it could catch on.