Locals are all smiles these days with the recent opening of Lovegrass Kitchen in downtown Holly Springs. The restaurant is committed to serving healthy, gluten-free offerings in a relaxed and hospitable environment.
Founded by soft-spoken Ethiopia native Meron Afework Kassa, the café offers a wide variety of sweet and savory crepes, waffles, salads, acai bowls, coffee, smoothies, and more.
“We wanted to create a café with a great atmosphere and nourishing food that people can come and enjoy often with friends and family,” says Kassa, who lives in Fuquay-Varina with her husband and 10 children, several of whom work alongside her at Lovegrass.
In her African homeland, Kassa grew up eating food made from a tiny, ancient grain called teff, also known as lovegrass. The naturally gluten free superfood is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals. It also includes the essential amino acid lysine, making it an excellent source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
Kassa moved to Belgium at a young age and developed a keen fondness for European cuisine. While in high school, she enrolled in culinary classes and learned to prepare sweet and savory European fare.
Since moving to the United States, Kassa has continued to use teff in baking and cooking, finding it works especially well when making European-style dishes.
“When I discovered the nutritional value of teff, I wanted to incorporate it into my family’s daily diet,” says Kassa. “I’m especially conscious about what I feed my children, and teff is a wholesome grain to use in items like pancakes, waffles, and granola.”
In 2017, Kassa started making and selling gluten-free granola and baking mixes from her home kitchen. Ultimately, the demand for her products grew beyond what she could produce at home, so she decided to open a café. Nowadays she uses teff as a primary ingredient in the food served at Lovegrass.
At the modern counter-service café, diners will find a comfortable, welcoming space with high ceilings, a polished cement floor, large windows, and ample seating in two separate dining areas. Live plants provide extra touches of warmth.
When it comes to the made-to-order food, consider the Crêpe Complete filled with smoked turkey, sunny-side-up eggs, and gruyere and aged cheddar cheeses. Or choose the Dark Chocolate Strawberry crepe featuring house-made Belgian chocolate ganache. It’s topped with vanilla ice cream.
Among the Belgian Liège waffles, order the distinctive Lemon Blueberry Compote with honey mascarpone cream cheese or the Berry Delight suffused with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and whipped cream.
Three varieties of dairy-free acai bowls are worthy of consideration. We recommend the Refreshing Acai, which includes fresh mango, pineapple, strawberry, organic banana, and coconut milk all studded with items like granola, organic chia seeds, nut butter, and local raw honey.
In the mood for a salad? Choose the Roasted Beets Goat Cheese with organic arugula, roasted beets, apple, toasted pecans, goat cheese, and apple cider vinaigrette.
“We are very careful to select ingredients that are not processed with refined flours or grains,” Kassa says. “We do not use any refined sugars. Our go-to sweetener is raw honey, and we also use pure maple syrup. As much as possible, we use organic fruit from local producers.”
Pair your meal with a smoothie, espresso beverage, or a Chai or turmeric latte. If it is available when you go, try the invigorating honey lavender lemonade.
Lovegrass partners with Fuquay-based Cultivate Coffee Roasters for its robust java.
“It’s nice to collaborate with other local business owners who have who a passion for providing excellent products,” Kassa says with a smile. “Cultivate makes a special Ethiopian blend for us, which is fantastic.”
Along with 13-ounce bags of coffee, the café also sells takeaway packages of granola. Additional items such as pancake and brownie mixes are accessible on the café’s website. Be advised: The popular maple pecan granola is habit-forming good.
Lovegrass Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. When weather permits, enjoy the spacious patio.
300 S. Main St., Suite 108
Block on Main, Holly Springs
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