The balmy temperatures a few weekends ago made the city come alive with the smell of burning charcoal grills and wood bonfires. As I closed my eyes and relished the smells around me, I realized how hungry I was. I wanted to get out and try somewhere new and Hybrid Fit Food on University Avenue was on the top of my list. A part of me was craving barbecue, but the other part was remembering my resolution for this year: to get back in shape and make healthier food choices. The decision was made so I grabbed my keys and headed out the door into the warmth of the evening.
We got to Hybrid Fit Food as the last of the days light slipped away. I’m glad my hubby and I had a little light left because the cafe sign was on the smaller side. We parked and headed in to see what was in store for us. The whole place is painted a vibrant green and the tables and chairs are solid black and brown. There’s brightly colored inspirational artwork on the walls that the employees painted themselves. It was a nice touch of contrasting color to break up all of the black and green. We were greeted with a huge smile as we walked up to the counter to place our order. I chose Cellia’s chicken apple cravin’ salad on wheat bread for $6.99, and I couldn’t pass up a bowl of the tasty sounding turkey chili with pineapple for $4.99. My hubby got a salmon burger on flatbread for $8.99 and a strawberry banana smoothie for $4.99.
We sat down and checked out the artwork as we waited for our food. We came at a slower time so the wait was short. I was extremely thankful because something smelled delicious and I was ready to eat. The owner Yolanda brought our food out on clean white dishes and explained to us that all of the food is fresh and made to order. She also mentioned the turkey chili was gluten free and they also offer gluten free bread options. Yolanda and the cook were so kind and made us feel like honored guests at their home.
The smoothie was sweet and refreshing, a great way to start. Next, I bit into the chicken salad and was so happy to find big pieces of pecans and juicy red grapes. I love a good chicken salad with the bite of pecans or almonds and the pop of sweet grapes. It was also made with a light signature fat free yogurt dressing, tender chicken and fresh sliced apple. The amount of chicken salad on the sandwich was so generous that I started to feel full after eating only half of it. The sandwiches came with bags of veggie straws that I took home for my boys.
The look on my husband’s face as he bit into the salmon burger said it all. Once his moment of food bliss wore off, he told me the taste was fresh and delicious. He wasn’t sure about the combo at first because there was cheese on the salmon patty, but he changed his mind as soon as he tried it. The salmon, cheese, and chipotle sauce somehow worked to create one satisfying sammy. Lastly, it was time to try the dish I had been most looking forward to, the turkey chili with pineapple. It smelled amazing and tasted even better. The turkey was seasoned perfectly and the pineapple added a sweet acidity that kept me eating bite after bite until it was gone. There were white beans, kidney beans, red pepper and what I think were green chilies. I inquired about what gave the chili its spice, but that ingredient is kept top secret. The soups rotate, but hopefully this one will stick around for a long time.
We talked with the owner a bit more as we collected our things to leave. She really took the time to answer all of our questions and made us feel genuinely welcome. Before we left she ran back to the kitchen to get us a container of their sugar free banana pudding to go. My husband immediately popped the lid off to sneak a taste. I even had a little bite and I’m not a big fan of banana pudding. This one however had vanilla cookies bits and it was cool and refreshing without being overly sweet. I was honestly surprised how much I enjoyed it.
The staff at Hybrid Fit Food is friendly, the food is hearty, and the ingredients are healthy and fresh. It’s a small, quiet, off the beaten path place to study or meet up with friends for a light meal. We had a wonderful time and will be back again soon to try more from this locally run hidden gem.
Hybrid Fit Food is located at 401 East University Avenue, Urbana, and open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.to 4 p.m. All photos by Rebecca Wells.