Eat well at a new organic café

This time of year, we all vow to eat more healthfully. Wellness Café is a good start for those Capitol Hill types hoping to wean themselves off cafeteria pizza and meatball subs for lunch.

The small and narrow storefront, two blocks from the House office buildings at 325 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, is easy to miss. It’s sandwiched between two more eye-catching establishments, a wig shop and the Hawk ‘n’ Dove Bar, and at first glance, it looks like an independent version of a GNC vitamin store.

While Wellness Café does carry whey protein powder, fish oils and instant immune boosters, it also offers a self-serve soup bar and a full, organic menu of freshly made sandwiches, salads, wraps, smoothies and juices.

A recent lunchtime visit revealed a steady stream of customers, but not the overwhelming rush that can often swamp the city’s Così and Potbelly establishments. The soup of the day, mixed split pea and red lentil, came out at just the right temperature — hot but not scorching. Its deep auburn hue nearly guaranteed the daily recommended serving of beta carotene, and the heartiness of the pureed peas and beans made the soup a satisfying meal on its own.

Choices for sandwiches and wraps are standard: turkey, chicken breast and tuna salad, to name a few. The salmon burger stands out. A meaty, nicely cooked salmon round comes out warm on a toasted multigrain kaiser roll stuffed with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickles, alfalfa sprouts, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise or vegannaise (an egg-free spread that, to this reporter’s palate, was indistinguishable from the traditional condiment).

The sweet treats here are guilt-free, too. Smoothies are fruit-only; they have no added sugar. The peach-and-banana combination provided a cold, satisfying complement to the sandwich.

In-store seating is sparse — three two-person tables are wedged between the shelves of vitamin supplements — so Wellness Café is better suited for takeout. But while inside, enjoy the Enya-like music, peruse the boxes of homeopathic tea bags and choose a healthier way to eat lunch.

Out to Lunch is a new feature that will introduce readers to Capitol Hill’s many options for their midday meal. Any suggestions, e-mail Capital Living at