Chef, gardener and restaurateur Ian Brandt opened Cali’s Natural Foods grocery store to complement his other business endeavors, Sage’s Cafe and Vertical Diner. Upon entering Cali’s and seeing mounds of potatoes and winter squash along with rows of bulk beans and oats, you get a warehouse-y, no-frills, “heck-of-a-good-deal” feel.
Despite Sage’s Cafe reigning supreme as City Weekly Reader’s Choice “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” for years, this grocery store is not just for vegetarians. Cali’s focus is on raw, wholesome ingredients that support the local environment. Fry sauce: out; Sun River Farms garlic: in.
“Cali’s is atypical, not corporate. We didn’t open as a finished product; it’s a work in progress,” Brandt says. The company is striving to be all-organic and, where possible, Cali’s sells local goods. A sampling of the winter line: wheat berries from Wheatland Seed; Real Salt in bulk; Jeremy East potatoes and onions; Inspired Ice Cream; Agi’s Raw Foods; Raw Melissa foods; Vosen’s bread; and Cali’smade pickles and jalapeño chili oil.
Differentiating itself from stores like Liberty Heights Fresh, the focus is on bulk purchases, which are offered at 20 percent below competitors, says Brandt. Cali’s wants to keep it simple and sustainable, providing glass jars, natural baskets or potato-starch bags. As a Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky member, the store uses 40 percent wind-generated power.
Cali’s, located in the former production facility of the Uinta Brewing Co., is close to the DABC’s premier wine store and Costco. “Customers are already psychologically trained to shop in the area,” says Brandt.
Eventually, Brandt wants to display local artwork and offer cooking classes. At the front counter, Cali’s offers daily samples, of which I am a sucker for. Try the carrot cake; it’s delightful.
Cali’s Natural Foods
389 W. 1700 South, Suite C