“A lot of people want to get healthy, lose weight or stay in shape, and a healthy, nutritious diet is a big part of that,” said owner Bret Nissen. “People can spend hours at the gym every day, but if you aren’t eating healthy, you aren’t going to see the results. So I wanted to create a place that encourages a healthy lifestyle.”
Crunch Café offers healthy meals to start your day, give you a boost through the afternoon or round our your evening. Nissen said his most popular dish is the brown rice bowl with grilled chicken. One bowl features 4 ounces of freshly grilled chicken, a cup of brown rice (or white rice if you prefer) and a splash of teriyaki sauce. The dish accounts for a mere 355 calories of your daily intake.
Nissen was inspired to open a café after he noticed that popular juice stations at gyms don’t have a health-conscious counterpart beyond their doors. He used to work in the construction industry, but when jobs became few and far between, Nissen said it was time to take his idea and make it happen. Some of his friends and family thought the concept was a little far-fetched, but Nissen, a 26-year-old amateur bodybuilder, viewed the venture as a risk worth taking.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take chances, and since I had the time off, I decided to do it now because I might never have an opportunity like this again,” Nissen said. “I’ve always been kind of spontaneous, so when I decided to go for something, I’m in 120 percent, so we’ll see how this goes. If you want to be successful, you have to take a gamble. You have to start somewhere. It’s still early, but for the first few months, things are going really well.”
Crunch Café opened in September and already has established a good reputation with locals. Nissen said the word-of-mouth response has been “amazing,” and he’s glad that he sees new costumers return for a second or third time, bringing friends with them to experience the Crunch revolution.
The menu offers dozens of options. For breakfast, Nissen recommends a breakfast burrito or bagel sandwich. Now that the weather has grown colder in the early hours of the day, the French roast coffee has been drawing in a crowd of regulars who appreciate spending less than at a brand-name java joint.
For lunch or dinner, diners may choose from an array of paninis, sandwiches, wraps and salads. One popular offering, regardless of the time of day, is a bowl of cereal with milk. Customers may go up to the cereal bar and mix and match the 20 cereal offerings and go back for as many refills as they’d like. The cereal bar is a hit with the kids, too. Tykes can enjoy a bowl of Fruity Pebbles or Lucky Charms while the grownups grab a bowl of oatmeal or Cheerios.
Nissen also offers protein shakes in five flavors: blueberry blast, chocolate banana cream, orange crush, strawberry banana swirl and fruit splash. The shakes consist of Triple Whey Protein, the same product Nissen uses when training for bodybuilding competitions. Trophies from his last competition rest atop a snack shelf stocked with trail mixes, nuts, fruit snacks and granola bars.
Nissen will be competing in the National Physique Committee’s Sacramento Body Builders Championship on Saturday, hoping to qualify for nationals.
“Training for a competition is like a full-time job,” Nissen said. “Going to the gym and training is the easy part. Diet is the challenge. I have to time out when I eat and I weigh what I eat, so there’s kind of a science to it. Some of my customers said they’ll be coming out this weekend to cheer me on. It’s really nice to know that I have made friends in the community in just a few months. I’m looking forward to making a lot more.”
Crunch Café, located at 729 First St. in Brentwood, is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and is closed on Sunday. For more information, call 925-584-0935 or visit the Brentwood Crunch Café Facebook page for updates and specials alerts.