Customers check out the new True Food Kitchen on Nov. 10. It’s officially opening on Monday, Nov. 13.

When Dr. Andrew Weil and Sam Fox teamed up in 2008 to create True Food Kitchen, Weil really wanted to see the restaurant come to Tucson.

Fifteen years and more than 40 locations in 17 states later, True Food Kitchen is opening in La Encantada on Monday, Nov. 13.

“I have been lobbying for that for a long time,” Weil said early this month. “I think there will be a huge following for the restaurant here. I’ve always felt that.”

True Food Kitchen was Weil’s baby from the start, when he approached Fox with the idea of a restaurant based on Weil’s revolutionary anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Fox has not been involved in the restaurant since 2017 when PF Chang, long an investor in the concept, took over the restaurant with plans to take it nationwide.

True Food Kitchen’s menu and philosophy is based around Weil’s food pyramid that closely follows the classic Mediterranean diet.

“But I made it better by adding Asian influences from cuisines that I am familiar with,” Weil said.

Weil

The emphasis is on fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood and healthy fats including walnuts, avocados and extra-virgin olive oil, and whole and cracked grains. Following his food pyramid, Weil said, helps ward off disease and maintain better health and, ultimately, live longer.

“I think it is a very sensible way to eat that in no way deprives people of pleasure,” he said.

When he pitched the restaurant idea to Tucson native Fox, who started his restaurant career with Wildflower on North Oracle Road before launching dozens of successful concepts from his Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts, Fox was hesitant.

“His response was that health food doesn’t sell,” said Weil, the world’s leading proponent of integrative medicine and the longtime director of the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. “I think he thought I meant tofu and sprouts.”

So the good doctor invited the foodie to his home and made him dinner, creating the dishes Weil wanted to see on the True Food menu.

Fox was sold, mostly, Weil said, and the pair opened the flagship True Food Kitchen at Phoenix’s Biltmore Fashion Park on Oct. 27, 2008. When PF Chang acquired a majority ownership of the brand nine years later, there were 20 locations nationwide.

The brand is now owned by a consortium of investors; Weil, who retained minority ownership, still consults on the menus. He also attends most of the new restaurant openings, including Monday’s at La Encantada.

“I think I’ll eat there quite often,” he said of the Tucson location, which is a 10-minute drive from his home.

The menu at True Food Kitchen includes roasted acorn squash flatbread and edamame dumpling appetizers, chicken sausage pizza, turkey and grass-fed beef burgers among the sandwiches and entrees including a poke bowl with wild-caught tuna.

His go-to favorite on the menu is the ancient grains bowl with miso sesame glazed sweet potato, which he tops with salmon. He’s also a big fan of the edamame dumplings and Korean noodle bowl made with sweet potato glass noodles and pickled shitake mushrooms.

The house-favorite spaghetti squash casserole has remained on the menu since day one, vying for attention with the newest player: pizza, including pies topped with Southwest Bison or chicken sausage. There’s another topped with roasted butternut squash and a vegetarian garden pesto using a cilantro pumpkin seed pesto.

The menu also includes beef and turkey burgers, salads and bowls, and several seafood entrees including wild caught tuna poke and Idaho rainbow trout.

“If you want to have the most amazing kale salad, have Dr. Weil’s original recipe. If you want a burger, have a burger and you’re still going to feel great because the burger is made with some of the best-quality ingredients,” said True Food Kitchen Chief Marketing Officer Rebecca Dye. “Everything on the menu is designed to be nutritious, nutritionally dense and amazing tasting but also make you feel great. You won’t feel like you’re eating healthy because it tastes so yummy.”

Weil said that was the point when he conceived of the idea 15 years ago. An avowed pescatarian (no red meat or poultry) and a self-proclaimed “very good home cook,” Weil said it has always been hard to find restaurants that fit his dietary restraints.

“I wanted a restaurant that I could go to and enjoy the food,” he said.

Weil said he’s not surprised by True Food Kitchen’s initial success and ensuing popularity.

“I think we had something for everyone. You could go there if you ate meat. If you were a vegetarian, gluten-free; there was something for everyone,” he said. “And I think it was wonderful food. The food looked attractive and tasted great. We didn’t push it as a health food restaurant, but just a place that served wonderful food.”

True Food Kitchen, 2905 E. Skyline Drive, will open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Learn more about True Food Kitchen at truefoodkitchen.com.


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Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com.

On Twitter @Starburch