The Herb Box Brings Tasty Local Foods to Life Time Fitness

I think of going to the gym as the penance I must do to absolve my love of ice cream, so I was pretty fascinated to hear that The Herb Box, Eden Prairie’s new local-food-minded restaurant, is located inside the Life Time Fitness center. Happily, The Herb Box is tucked between the lobby and the cleverly veiled indoor tennis courts, and its sports-bar-meets-Zen-retreat atmosphere -- and creative menu offerings -- kept my mind off of treadmills.

Susan Wilcox and chef Becky Windels founded The Herb Box in 1995 in Scottsdale, Arizona; the Eden Prairie location opened in December. Chef Windels shared with me her food philosophy, the challenges of sourcing local products during the winter, and why she loves working with farmers.

Chef Windels is proud that the menu, which she designs seasonally, has something for everyone. “It is important to me that every dish has the perfect balance of salt, sweet, spice, tang, and texture, and each dish must have a little ‘surprise,’” she told me in an e-mail.

The Herb Box offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, as well as happy-hour specials and take-home goodies in the market. My favorite dish was red velvet pancakes, a sophisticated spin on the red velvet craze. These cocoa pancakes, with a dollop of tangy, citrusy mascarpone crème, are a welcome alternative for other principled sorts who don’t eat cupcakes for breakfast (in public). Those who prefer more savory concoctions can enjoy house-made sweet potato chips; a bright, crunchy apple and frisee salad with dried cranberries and cashews; and butternut squash enchiladas made with squash from Pahl’s market in Apple Valley.

Chef Windels describes her menu philosophy as “vegetable-intensive,” so it’s no wonder that she’s passionate about working with local farmers to provide the best. “You cannot compare the flavors [of] locally farmed and mass-produced foods ... as a small, non-corporate organization, The Herb Box understands the importance of supporting other like-minded companies,” she said.

Over the past few years, Chef Windels has developed relationships with farmers in Arizona who provide produce for the restaurants there. She’s excited for her first growing season in Minnesota, when the menu will feature more local produce in addition to the local maple syrup, dried fruit, and meats offered this winter. Since she loves tomatoes, arugula, and chili peppers, I’m excited to see what she and The Herb Box have in store.

The Herb Box at Life Time Fitness
755 Prairie Center Drive
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Market and breakfast
Mon-Sat 7am-11am

Mon-Thu 11a-9p, Fri-Sat 11a-10p, Sun 7a-3p

Photos from the Herb Box website.

Ann Butkowski is happy to be back in her native Minnesota after spending the last two years in Boston. She’s learning to bike the streets of Minneapolis and grow tomatoes in her backyard. Ann has a master’s degree in nutrition science, but doesn’t let that stop her from eating ice cream right out of the carton. Ann is Simple, Good, and Tasty's resident Farm Bill expert. Her most recent post for us was Understanding the Farm Bill: Entrenched Interests, incremental Change.