Gluten-free Southern inspired Karma Farm in Buckhead portends a friendly casual atmosphere with a wide variety of cafeteria-style healthy and hearty offerings.
Just west of Peachtree Street and two blocks east of the Atlanta History Center is this locally owned farm-to-table fast casual restaurant with pans of a variety of homemade healthy items. Do not be scared off by the healthy image, there are dozens of proteins, salads, hot and cold sides, soups, fresh-made juices and sweets. The open space is lined with comfortable benches and orange accents. The wall painting of Harold the Karma llama elicits a smile.
A few of us old-timers recalled the long-gone Veggieland on Pharr Road. Karma Farm goes beyond by balancing the art of what’s fresh and in season by day in a smorgasbord of surprises and staples – all without guilt of pesticides and additives. Buckhead resident Ruth Katz noted, “We have known the family for years and were probably one of their first customers. We like everything about the place. I need gluten-free choices and like the avocado salad, free-range Springer Mountain chicken, black-eyed peas and brownies. My husband, who is not glut-free, likes everything!”
The daily menu is also dairy and whole nut free, with a sustainability focus. Karma Farm is the brainchild of McCall and Scott Wilder, a husband and wife team who respectively left the children’s boutique clothing and financial businesses when their son developed a nut allergy. They got the idea four years ago, and recently celebrated their one-year anniversary.
McCall said, “Here we are with two teenagers and three dogs working six days a week attracting this diverse crowd of diners who appreciate our quality and embrace us. We see dating couples, loyal customers from Kennesaw, Johns Creek, Buckhead, and bikers from the BeltLine who routinely eat with us.” She continued, “People now realize that they don’t need fillers in their food. Also note that our ‘Dirty Dozen’ fruits and veggies like celery, strawberries, are organic.” To be gluten-free, coconut amino is used as a soy substitute.
McCall handles the register and social media, greets guests, and develops the menu. Scotty manages the finances and makes Karma Farm’s signature arepas. They are pockets made of yucca root with a mashed potato consistency that are grilled and stuffed with a variety of ingredients. Referred to as a “wonderful mess,” we had Scott’s Arepa ($10.24) with humus, avocado, organic sundried tomatoes, sriracha, spinach, Vidalia onions and vegan ranch dressing. It was a warm, rich package. Pre-Columbian arepas are a staple in Venezuela and in some Mexican and Salvadorian diets. They are flat, round, unleavened and spilt for sandwiches.
Using the term “food inclusive,” Karma Farm has rows of choices. Vegan mac and cheese, organic spicy cubed Japanese sweet potatoes, 10 meat options; items come in and out based on local market availability. Our favorites were the roasted cauliflower in mustard, cider vinegar BBQ sauce, and the wood-grilled smoked salmon salad, Mama’s spicy noodles, and lemon-flavored kale. We sampled three soups that were all hearty.
Desserts are first-come first-served, and some are not vegan. We had the very rich chocolatey brownie, cinnamon donut, and an addictive crumbled organic oats “Oat Crack” in hardened maple syrup reminiscent of pralines. Blueberry and chocolate banana muffins are popular menu items.
Healthy beverages abound: Local Montane (Callaway Gardens) sparkling water, organic teas (like strawberry basil green, turmeric ginger), zero water, lattes, lemonade and Yirgacheffe Ethiopian coffee are just a few.
The Wilders take the “Do Good” in their mission motto seriously. McCall was proud that the mayor’s office sent representatives to study their green/recycling formula. “With all this volume, we are 90 percent compostable and have only one trash bag a day!”
A sign on the wall says, “If you can’t feed a 100 people, just feed one,” Mother Teresa. That’s why they support the No Kid Hungry Atlanta, where for every meal sold, one is donated locally.
Take out is also popular.
Karma Fam is located at 54 Pharr Road. It’s closed Sunday and closes at 3 p.m. Monday and Saturday. Tuesday through Friday hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.