MESA, AZ — Intentional Foods Cafe and Market on W. Guadalupe Road in Mesa has been ranked #9 on Yelp's Top 100 Places to Eat in 2021, but the restaurant owners struggled to even keep their doors open at the beginning of the pandemic.
Intentional Foods, which opened in December 2018, doesn't use the nine most common food allergens. They are free of peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, seafood, soy and sesame.
It's been a safe haven for people like Stephanie Scarim from Chandler. She's severely allergic to milk and mango.
"Food's really good, the atmosphere is fantastic, and I don't have to worry about what I eat here," said Scarim.
She said it's hard for people with severe allergies to go out to eat.
"Here, I can just walk in and I can just order whatever I want off the menu, whatever I'm feeling that day, and not have to worry about anything. And that's priceless to have," said Scarim.
That is the reason Ned and Lisa Heath opened the restaurant in the first place.
"The thing about food allergies is that unless you're dealing with them, you don't understand that it's a life-threatening situation," said Lisa.
One of their daughters has a life-threatening food allergy. They know how important it is for them --and other families--to have safe food options.
"We make sure all of our food every single ingredient is manufactured at facilities that we can trust, down to the salt and pepper," said Lisa.
Chef Ned is in charge in the kitchen and Mama Lisa takes care of the customers and orders. Though during COVID, they both had to do it all.
"Immediately, we had to let go of our entire staff... people just weren't coming," said Ned.
They said closing was not an option, so shifted to curbside. Soon, they were busier than ever.
"I began baking all the baked goods in the morning, Ned doing all of the cooking, and both of us answering the phones and packing the bags," said Lisa.
They said the community response has been incredible.
"The way they have come out in full force and continues to support us has been truly amazing, it means everything," said Ned.
Intentional Foods plans to expand its indoor space. They also just got a liquor license, so they'll be offering allergy-friendly alcohol on the patio and inside once indoor dining reopens.
Learn more about Intentional Foods.