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Paleo Delights at Just BE Kitchen

Delicious food that's free of grains, refined sugar, and gluten

Photo: Lori Midson

Despite a jet-setting career in the corporate world that included a 10-year stint in London, Jennifer Peters wasn’t fulfilled. “I had a great job, but there came a point when I realized that something was missing in my life,” says Peters, the owner of Just BE Kitchen {2364 15th Street, 303.284.6652}, a restaurant in LoHi that she, along with chef Carrie Baird, formerly of Brazen, opened last month with a feel-good mission for the body and soul: food that’s 100-percent free of gluten, grains, and refined sugar. In a word: paleo.

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“I’ve been on a food journey my entire life,” says Peters, who spent several years as a vegan and vegetarian, a lifestyle, she says, that stemmed from a necessity to save money while working as a server in a restaurant. But while she embraced a food regimen absent of animal protein, she admits that bread, pasta, and other carbohydrates made up the bulk of her diet—a diet that wasn’t particularly healthy. “I didn’t feel right because I wasn’t eating the right foods, and I felt like I was going backwards,” says Peters, who met with a holistic nutritionist who encouraged her to incorporate healthy proteins into her diet, a move that resulted in an epiphany. “I started feeling so much better, and it was the impetus for wanting to open a restaurant. I wanted my everyday life to be a piece of me, and I wanted to integrate food with wellness and mindfulness.”

Photo: Lori Midson

But she needed a business plan, so she enrolled in an MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and as part of a class project, she submitted a version of the vision she had for Just BE Kitchen. Her professor was impressed, so much so that he introduced her to Brad Blum, the former CEO of Burger King, who eventually left that company after unsuccessfully pitching healthier food options for the fast-food chain. “Brad took me under his wing, and he told me to stay true to what I wanted to do and that doors would open of I took the leap,” says Peters, adding that Blum also gave her this nugget of advice: Open a restaurant in a city you love.

After living in Portland, Oregon, Peters moved to Denver in 2013, and founded the Just BE Kitchen packaged-food business in 2015. She then began searching for a space to open a fast-casual restaurant dedicated to what she calls “satisfying, fulfilling and flavorful food that’s served in a peaceful haven.”

Photo: Lori Midson

The restaurant, housed in the former Mona’s space, is nothing if not serene. Sunshine filters through a large window, casting a tranquil glow on the farmhouse-inspired quarters, a collection of vintage and beetle kill pine tables, soft-grey and sage green chairs, cream-colored distressed wood floors, and pastel-hued walls painted and framed with inspirational quotes from everyone to Mary Angelou to Dalai Lama. Guests order at the counter from a chalkboard menu, a scroll that’s separated into categories like “Just Be Comforted,” “Just Be Satisfied” and “Just Be Awakened.” A coffee bar and bone broth bar are part of the equation, too.

Photo: Lori Midson

That bone broth, a restorative liquid that made headlines a few years ago, is one of our favorite things at Just BE Kitchen. Baird simmers chicken, beef, and pork bones for 48 hours and laces the warm broth with garlic, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, and a jolting punch of cayenne pepper. It’s sold by the mug, pint or in 32-ounce containers, and it’s delicious. Barid also uses the broth in her tomatillo and pork green chile, which smothers the Fulfilled burrito, a housemade almond flour tortilla, griddled and stuffed with sausage, scrambled eggs, and hashed sweet potatoes. Surfaced with a fistful of cilantro and jalapeño rings, it’s an elevated morning glory that’s filling but doesn’t bust your gut.

Photo: Lori Midson

If you have space for dessert (or a plump burrito simply isn’t enough), there are housemade chocolate-chip cookies and an excellent chia seed yogurt with granola and fresh fruit. And we love the lightly sweetened chai-spiced bullet coffee mixed with grass-fed butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, and a dash of maple syrup. The chai spices are sourced from the Savory Spice Shop, and the coffee beans are from Method Roasters. Our next magnificent obsession? Quite likely.

Photo: Lori Midson

Just BE Kitchen is open from 7 am-3 pm daily for breakfast and lunch. If you’re feeling reflective when you go, there’s a wall-size chalkboard in the back that invites guests to scribble the answer to this question: “If I weren’t afraid, I would…” For her part, Peters seems pretty fearless. Her goal, she reveals, is to open an additional 20 Just BE Kitchens over the next 10 years. “There are no fully scalable gluten-free or paleo fast-casual concepts in the nation. My mission is to change that,” she says.

By Lori Midson