On this unseasonably warm December day, my husband and I decided to chase our shadows down to the Yellowstone River from Four Dances Trailhead. The crisp air encouraged us to move quickly down and then back up as topaz-colored light warmed the day. On our return into Billings, with hunger generated from our run, we decided to stop at the downtown Well Pared restaurant.
Upon stepping from the rush of 1st Avenue into the high-ceilinged space, I inhaled the light coming into this space from the north-facing wall of windows. I breathed in the oxygen expired from the green plants of different sizes scattered about. The white walls dazzled with tropical-colored accents while marble counters, wood-backed bench seating and concrete floors provided a clean and uncluttered spirit.
At the counter I ordered a "Humble Grain Bowl" while my husband decided on a "Spicy Kale Salad Wrap" of kale, Romaine lettuce, red onion, Parmesan cheese, sliced almonds and house-made almond Caesar dressing, with "Vegan Meatballs" made with beans, red peppers, onion and garlic. To wash it down I selected the "Detoxed" juice made up of beet, ginger, red apple, lime and carrot.
Owner Nicole Griffith ventured into the juicing business in June of 2013, beginning with a food truck and the business name Get Juiced. Griffith said, "We would go anywhere that invited us. On Saturdays in the summer, we would be at the farmers market." Then in the summer of 2014, Get Juiced became Well Pared. The rebranding redirected the focus of the company serving not only juices and smoothies but also food.
The name Well Pared was a play on words. To pare is to simplify and reduce, and Griffith hoped her food and drink offerings pair well with her customers' lifestyles.
As a cross-fit athlete, long distance runner and practitioner of yoga, Griffith wanted to create a "healthy food place" for those "who are active and want to be healthy and for those who are struggling to eat well." The business motto is "eating quality food that tastes good is the most important thing we can do for ourselves."
Griffith utilized her degree in Health and Human Performance, and worked with a nutritionist in preparing the menu. The food items come from the culinary creativity of Griffith's brother, General Manager Brian Speasl, who attended Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts in Denver. "We try to get the freshest ingredients," Speasl said. "Our produce comes locally from The Produce Depot."
A centrifugal juicer utilizing blades spinning against a mesh filter create the juices sold at Well Pared. Juices prepared in this method last about 72 hours, according to Griffith. Well Pared expanded their juice offerings into a cleansing regimen that "support the detox process by freeing energy" otherwise utilized to metabolize unnatural foods.
Griffith shared, "We go through 600 pounds of produce every other day. We try to reuse every component." Leftovers can go into broths and soups while the pulp is passed on to a handful of customers for composting.
My husband and I sat down at a table by the window, and near what Speasl called the Coffee house/Greenhouse, a sunny space where drip coffee is offered. "My Humble Grain Bowl" touched all textures — soft from the tender rosemary turmeric quinoa and butternut squash to even softer goat cheese to juicy pickled blueberries to crispy orange candied almonds. All my taste buds smiled as sweet mixed with sour, and for me, the right amount of saltiness and hints of bitterness.
In the last year, Griffith tried to be more creative as local palates adapt. For four months, during the onset of the pandemic, she organized an "all in one meal service" for takeout and delivery in collaboration with Walkers Grill, Sophie's Kitchen, Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant, Velvet Cravings and The Sassy Biscuit Co. Business has slowed but at the same time, Griffith believed their adaptability has allowed them to reach some new customers.
Griffith continues to hope that Well Pared can change mindsets: "If people can feel how their bodies feel when eating healthy food," they will intuitively make healthier choices.
Now feeling renewed and satisfied, we walked into the golden light of the day eager to follow our long shadows to our next adventure.
Stella Fong, author of 'Historic Restaurants of Billings and Billings Food' hosts 'Flavors Under the Big Sky: Celebrating the Bounty of the Region' for Yellowstone Public Radio.
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