A meal at The Sanctum, a newer vegan restaurant on Colonial Drive, will leave you feeling full and healthy.
Slightly obscured from view, in a corner behind an abandoned Chevron gas station on East Colonial Drive, is a small restaurant that locals are just beginning to discover. The Sanctum serves a menu of nutritious, plant-based meals, each one of them vegan unless otherwise noted.
Whether you had a traumatic veggie experience as a child and are looking for a cure, are a vegetarian or vegan looking for the next hot-spot that caters to your diet, or are a carnivore who enjoys a vegetarian meal every now and then, the gourmet cuisine served at this venue will satisfy any taste.
The culinary artist behind each dish is Chelsie Savage, a former nutritional health coach turned restaurateur. She opened The Sanctum with her husband Jamie in January after her clients urged her to make her healthy food available to them every day of the week.
The items on the lunch and dinner menu are divided into categories: green bowls for salads, grain bowls containing brown rice or quinoa, and pasta bowls. The Sanctum also serves breakfast daily and brunch on Sundays.
The favorite from the pasta category is The DiPaulo, which Savage says is her take on traditional Italian recipes she ate growing up. This mix of brown rice pasta tossed with house-made pesto is served with zucchini noodles, roasted eggplant and crimini mushrooms. As if that weren’t filling enough, the dish is also topped with “meetballs” made of tempeh and walnuts, crispy polenta, green marinara sauce and cashew cream.
The green bowls, also known as humongous salads, are piled high with veggies and other good-for-you toppings. The Shiva Salad is a hearty bowl of kale tossed in curried peanut dressing and topped with organic pink lady apples, celery, roasted butternut squash, candied walnuts, toasted chickpeas and coconut flakes. As with all of The Sanctum’s dishes, this salad is completely prepared from scratch and offers a delightful combination of sweet and salty.
In alignment with the made-from-scratch recipes, The Sanctum’s decor features an earth tone color scheme with pastel green, beige and maroon walls. Along with hanging light fixtures, potted plants and orchids furnish the refinished wooden tables and walls, lending this hole-in-the-wall eatery the ability to instill a serene, calming effect on those who enter its glass doors.
“We wanted to be a place that felt super welcoming,” Savage says. “A place where anybody could come in, sit down, hang out and not be one of those restaurants that are kind of cold and stark, but also not have it be so granola that you didn’t feel like you could bring your dad in because it was too hipster or anything like that.”
The tranquil ambiance is not the only thing that makes a visit to The Sanctum pleasant. Eating a tasty and healthy meal, such as the popular Sedona Bowl, can put anyone in a good mood. This dish comes with a choice of brown rice or quinoa and also has black beans, tempeh, arugula, Roma tomatoes and cabbage slaw. Of course, it also includes a plethora of veggies, such as roasted beets, tempeh, sweet potatoes, red onions and corn, topped with cilantro, pumpkin seeds, chili queso and creamy avocado ranch dressing.
One of Savage’s personal favorites is the Pasta E Crema bowl, which she describes as macaroni and cheese for adults. Brown rice pasta and peas are tossed in cashew cream sauce then topped with roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts and carrots before being mixed in a mildly spicy rosemary dressing.
After munching on what might feel like the healthiest meal you’ve ever had, you can choose from four light dessert items: a ginger oatmeal raisin cookie, a house brownie, a coconut macaroon and, in the spirit of nutrition, a spirulina chocolate coconut cookie. The latter is the most popular. It might sound odd, but with a moist, almost minty chocolate filling coupled with a hint of coconut flavoring, it is surprisingly scrumptious.
When asked why she decided to open her own restaurant, Savage answers in the fashion of a true nutritionist with a passion for cooking.
“I mean, I really wanted to teach people to fall in love with vegetables,” she says. She adds that she found many of her clients were unsure how to prepare vegetables in exciting ways, often resorting to a typical salad or stir fry, and her strong suit is creating recipes that are complex and different. “I knew that the vegetarian and vegan community would find us, but I really just wanted to offer really fresh, healthy options for Orlando.”