Don’t just eat, eat well.
That’s the mantra behind Happy Belly on Vine , a new breakfast and lunch spot in the city’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.
The new health-conscious eatery is owned by Abby Reckman, a University of Cincinnati grad who studied food and nutrition sciences, and her sister-in-law, Molly Reckman.
Happy Belly officially opened for business at 7 a.m. on July 14 with a goal of helping to change the way 9-to-5 workers approach not only their meals but how they live their life.
“We really want to provide options for traditional business types who maybe haven’t been able to make breakfast a part of their day because of their schedule, as well as local residents who can pop in for a quick bite and not worry about a wait,” said Molly, a former art teacher in Chicago and Cincinnati.
Molly, Abby and various members of the Reckman family were intimately involved with the interior design of the sleek, modern interior of the space at 1344 Vine St.
But Molly said she and her business partner are excited about getting their hands dirty and making some tasty, healthy food as well.
“It’s already been great. The goal is to give people a healthy alternative to what they might otherwise be eating during the early hours of the day," she said. "While they’re here, they can pick up a healthy lunch, as well.”
Abby came up with a diverse, simple yet delicious menu of options ranging from smoothies to range-free chicken wraps to a variety of healthy snacks like popcorn and fruit cups.
The sweet potato burger is one of the most popular items so far.
Molly said they predict about 75 percent or more of their business to come from carry-out sales. That includes made-to-go items, as well as goodies pulled from their cooler filled with cold sandwiches, wraps, salads and other treats.
Focusing on clean, healthy dining options for business people and downtown residents alike, the menu offers an almost-naked type of eating to diners.
They've done so by stripping away many of the preservatives and added refined sugars typically found in deli-style foods.
Cutting out white flour and eliminating butter altogether from their recipes by replacing it with so-called super foods like chia seeds are a few of the other culinary tricks they're utilizing.
All of the oats used at the boutique-style restaurant are gluten-free. There’s also a gluten-free, vegan bread option by local bread company, Elephant Bread.
“I think we’re noticing a lot of people are really starting to know what they’re actually eating and what they’re doing for their body,” said Molly. “A few years ago it was all about low-fat, sugar-free eating. People know eating healthy is more than that now."
They do this is by limiting the number of processed foods they serve. How? By shopping local.
Molly and Abby go to a variety of the vendors at Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine -- Busch's Country Corner for chicken; J. E. Gibbs Cheese for goat cheese and Amish cheese; Colonel De Gourmet Herbs for their flavorful add-ins; and numerous other season and year-round vendors at the historic venue.
“Shopping local lets us make pretty much everything on the menu fresh that morning, so you can get something tasty for breakfast or lunch without having to worry about where it came from,” Molly said. “Having places like Findlay Market nearby is a great resource for us."
Despite the oft-expensive nature of healthy eating, the women behind Happy Belly have managed to keep the prices surprisingly low. Nothing costs more than $8.
Being affordable and accessible to all those who call OTR home is important to the Reckmans, both of whom reside in the neighborhood.
Abby has lived in OTR since 2010, and her father-in-law, husband and brother-in-law have been part of the redevelopment there through their work.
“We really want to make sure the Over-the-Rhine community is involved and served well,” Molly said. “We both live in OTR, our families live here, so we get to interact with our neighbors, serve our neighbors. It’s really great.”
Feeling hungry yet?
You can check out Happy Belly Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. They're also open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.