n TASTE Beast + Bounty is a vegetable- forward restaurant that also serves meat. PHOTO: COURTESY OF RAN ALBERTO Are you a flexitarian? TWEET US WHY @COMSTOCKSMAG. 36 comstocksmag.com | December 201 8 Like Woolston, Hargis disavows any interest in pushing diners toward vege- tarianism. “At LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar, I’m encouraging people to eat more meat,” he says. “But there’s a group of peo- ple that eat meat and a group of people that eat vegetables; why are we keeping them separated? This place is about bring- ing people together.” Among the influences Hargis credits for his concept, including the iconic Los Angeles restaurant Gjelina, his own daily eating habits rank foremost. After running into health issues in his 20s, Hargis shift- ed his diet toward vegetables, but without abandoning his love of meat. “I wouldn’t necessarily categorize it — it’s just about eating things that make my body feel good,” Hargis says. “I think flexitarian- ism might be more people understanding that you don’t have to be completely ani- mal-protein free to be healthy.” Molly Spencer, a postdoctoral fellow at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Phil- adelphia who researched flexitarianism while completing her Ph.D. at UC Davis, defines this burgeoning food movement in two parts. “You can have the flexibili- ty of having mostly vegetarian meals and then sometimes having the traditional, meat-centric meal, or you can practice flexitarianism by reducing the meat and increasing the plant-based ingredients within a meal,” she says. Spencer sees restaurants like Backbone Café and Beast & Bounty as places for people to find plant- based options without committing to a meatless diet. “There are a lot of consumers who want to reduce their meat impact, but a lot of them don’t want to give up the fla- vor and texture of meat entirely,” she says. “That’s an interesting opportunity for restaurants.” By staying abreast of oppor- tunities, trends and innovations on either side of the meat-eating fence, restaurants can remain relevant in a rapidly changing food culture. Woolston, a born insider of the local restaurant scene (his parents own Mat- teo’s Pizza & Bistro in Carmichael and the catering company Supper Club) sees Back- bone as especially relevant in Sacramento, where he has a hard time finding food that meets his standards for health and ethics. “I’m not vegan at all, but I think it’s insane that anyone’s supporting factory farming anymore,” he says. “I just tried to make a place for my people.” During a recent weekday lunch rush, “his people” included office workers in rolled-up shirtsleeves eating tacos and beef-laden rice bowls; a table of young women sharing salads and avocado toast; a man at his laptop sipping a vegan golden latte through a full beard. “For a restaurant that doesn’t adver- tise, I think we’re getting a good amount of attention,” Woolston muses. “We’re doing something no one else does, and we do things right.” n Jennifer Fergesen writes about food, trav- el and sustainability. She earned her B.A. in geology and English at Mount Holyoke College and is currently completing her M.A. in creative writing at UC Davis. Read more at jcfrgsn.journoportfolio.com.