Chennai’s new Mixed Café hopes to make healthy food quick, easy and cheap

With its range of healthy food that is ready-to-eat as well as guilt-free, Mixed Café, the new café at Express Avenue, seems promising

September 25, 2019 04:25 pm | Updated 08:35 pm IST

Can fast food be healthy? It is a riddle Sanjoy Das had been wanting to solve throughout his multiple years of experience with hotels. The answer, he hopes, lies in Mixed Café, a place that serves ready-to-go healthy food, which helps you keep track of your calories and macro count. The brainchild of Sanjoy, his wife Moumita Roy, and brother-sister duo Praveen and Dr Sunitha Raja, the cafe was launched on the first floor of Express Avenue this past week.

Few places invite self-indulgence as a mall does. And nestled among mannequins and candy shops, here is an outlet with sleek black exteriors, asking you to try out their healthy food options. A batch of salad ingredients in cool bain-maries line one side of the counter, and on the other, a display of shot glasses in which you can taste a variety of soups. “No refined flour, no refined sugar!” exclaim the boards outside.

“There are other restaurants that offer healthy or vegan food, but we wanted to bring that concept into the quick service restaurant business. When you are shopping in a mall, and want to grab a quick bite, it need not be a pizza or a burger, you can still eat healthy food that’s in your budget,” says Sanjoy. He and his wife approached Praveen and Sunitha a year ago, knowing they would have the same ethos — the duo run, a website and social media account that helps people understand nutrition and fitness. Sunitha is also a State powerlifting gold medalist.

“Everything that we have on the menu is nutritionally balanced,” says Praveen, who helped design the menu with the chef. The outlet sells salads with protein, which can be customised according to your preferences — make your own, or have the chef recommend what goes well, sandwiches that use only whole wheat bread, and desserts such as tofu peanut butter slices, almond and orange slices and oatmeal raisin cookies.

“We use palm jaggery instead of sugar, even with beverages,” he says, pointing to the table next to us, where a young man is mixing jaggery in his cup of coffee. The restaurant does not discriminate between food preferences: options range from shrimp soups to coffee with almond or soy milk for vegans.

Dinner time has not started yet, but the outlet has almost run out of soup — business is picking up. Sanjoy offers us a taste of each variety; they taste distinctly homely (the drumstick and lentil soup is plain sambar, no doubt). “We use potatoes or sweet potatoes as thickeners, instead of cornstarch,” says Sanjoy.

It is essential that the food gets sold out by the end of the day because the café has a fresh food policy. “The first two days that we started, there was so much wastage,” he recalls with a shudder, “But now we can gauge how much food to make.” In keeping with the ‘what’s healthy for the planet is healthy for you’ philosophy, the cutlery and packaging are biodegradable. “We also try to use as many local ingredients as possible, like swapping quinoa for millets,” adds Praveen. The team is now working on printing fresh menus with the calorie count and macro content for each dish listed.

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