Eat Clean Healthy Grill As Much a Statement as a Restaurant

The former home of Velma's will be replaced by a much healthier alternative this month.

The food revolution in downtown St. John’s continues, with restaurants like Rocket and cafes like Fixed bringing in a new appreciation for quality, fresh ingredients.

Now Eat Clean plans to bring affordable, nutritious meals to its new location on Water Street, filling in one more gap in the city’s restaurant scene.
The irony of the fact that he’s relocating to the former location of Velma’s, which served typically calorie-heavy Newfoundland fare, isn’t lost on owner J.P. Morrissey. But bringing healthier food to the province, which has the highest obesity rates in Canada, is part of his goals for Eat Clean.

“People are definitely more aware of their health in the last ten years than they’ve ever been,” Morrissey said of the people in the province. But he thinks that awareness isn’t matching up with availability, and he hopes that Eat Clean can be part of changing that.

The idea for Eat Clean began more than a decade ago, when Morrissey was living in Alberta. He had what he described as a “college lifestyle” – lots lots of beer, chicken wings, and fast food – and his weight showed it. He began a Body For Life program that involved eating “clean” (no processed foods, lots of whole foods) for six days, then whatever he wanted on the seventh day. He quickly discovered that he felt terrible on his free days, when he loaded up on his old favourites, and great on the rest of the days, and his passion for clean eating was born.

“The lightbulb kind of went off,” he said about the switch. Even then, he found it difficult to have healthy meals available when he was outside the home and wished there were an accessible, affordable option for eating out. About three years ago Morrissey started developing the plan for Eat Clean, which opened on Elizabeth Avenue just under a year and a half ago. The restaurant’s relocated outlet should open on Water Street, right beside Rocket Cafe and Bakery, in mid May.

Morrissey plans to expand the restaurant’s offerings on Water Street to reflect the more varied clientele he hopes to attract at the new location. Specifically, the new location of Eat Clean will offer lower-cost meals like bowls that provide a healthy food option downtown at a mainstream price point. He’s not just aiming to reach body-builders and gluten avoiders; Morrissey wants to reach downtown shoppers and workers who are simply looking for an alternative to fast food and pub fare.

And as he plans his move downtown, Morrissey is also working on an expansion of the Eat Clean concept via franchise locations. “My vision was never to do just one restaurant,” he said. “It was to develop a fast, healthy restaurant that just wasn’t being done.”

An Eat Clean is set to open in Fort McMurray in July, and another should be ready to open in Victoria BC by late summer or early fall. There’s also potential for locations in Halifax and Corner Brook, he said. And he’s received inquiries about Eat Clean from places as far away as the Middle East “It’s crazy that some little idea that comes out of St. John’s can make an impact around the world,” Morrissey said.

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