Provisions: Ahead Of Health Food Trend

Hannah Selinger

It may feel like the matcha and almond milk-obsessed consumer is endemic to this decade, but let’s be clear: Health food is not a new craze. Just ask Rich Kresberg, owner of Sag Harbor’s Provisions, the café, juice bar, and market that has occupied the corners of Bay and Division Streets since 1987.

Actually, Provisions is even older than its Sag Harbor location. The store originally opened in Port Jefferson in the 1970s, later moving to Division and Henry Streets. The store moved again when it added a café, over to Main Street. But it has occupied its current space for over 30 years, a testament to the fact that eating healthily is not, in fact, a recent trend. In recent years, the store has enjoyed an even bigger following. This is the era of avocado toast and Instagrammed smoothies, the era of en vogue natural dining.

Before Kresberg stepped in, in 1996, the market and café space was owned by former Provisions employee Linley Pennebaker Whelan and current East Hampton Farmers Market manager Kate Plumb. Kresberg had been a successful Manhattan restaurateur who came east and developed a passion for a healthy lifestyle. His interest in Provisions as a consumer parlayed itself into a business interest when the restaurant went up for sale.

Although many regard Provisions as a market (in fact, Provisions makes the majority of its money from the wares sold outside of the café, in the store), these days it functions as a bustling restaurant, where the health-minded can convene over a fresh-pressed juice. There is, of course, every manner of green juice, designed to purify and invigorate and detoxify. There are, too, a wealth of food options that don’t feel heavy-handed in their healthfulness. Take, for instance, the eggs jambalaya (the café serves breakfast until 11 AM on weekdays and all day on weekends): three scrambled eggs served with Cajun-spiced rice, tomato sauce, and veggie sausage, wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla. The dish is a nod to Kresberg’s roots; he once owned the Lower East Side’s Great Jones Café, a Cajun restaurant.

Provisions’ lunch menu — it does not serve dinner — is comprehensive. There are tuna melts and chicken hot dogs, avocado-cheddar sandwiches and tempeh reubens. A turkey taco salad is reminiscent of a 1980s taco night, full of shredded lettuce (romaine, to be fair), corn salsa, avocado, and tomato, and adorned with crispy tortilla strips — with apologies to El Paso’s yellow corn shells. There is, too, an entire category dedicated to wraps and burritos, offering international-inflected options, like a vegetable stir-fry with tamari, brown rice, sesame oil, ginger, and seasonal vegetables, and a Thai wrap with chicken, cabbage slaw, and spicy peanut sauce.

If dessert is your thing, Provisions isn’t exactly a bastion of pastry options. But its smoothies make adequate stand-ins for the less healthy donuts served around the corner at Grindstone. If the piña colada — pineapple and coconut juices mixed with rice milk, banana, vanilla, and spirulina protein powder — doesn’t transport you to the Islands on a grim winter day, you’re lacking imagination. Even the Chocolate Thunder (chocolate rice milk, banana, and chocolate spirulina powder) feels like a decadent respite from too many healthy options, even though it is also — surprise! — good for you.

It may be hard to leave the café without grabbing a market item or two to take home, and that’s not an accident. The store is, by far, the most comprehensive of the East End’s health food markets, selling a wide array of fresh, frozen, and packaged items, organic and otherwise. Consider it your good deed for the week when you stock up on your way out. It’s health food, after all.

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