Picture the Ocean City, MD Boardwalk and undoubtedly favorites as tantamount to a beach vacation as say, building a sandcastle, or looking for seashells, come to mind. It could be the iconic Pier, riding the carousel at Trimper’s, or making a stop at that little shop – a stand really – that serves French fries. And that last part is key, because food, and what we think of as “beach food” may be about to change.
Joining the ranks of would-be favorites this year is a brand new restaurant poised to become a Boardwalk staple for very different reasons. It’s the first of its kind in Ocean City, and on the entire Eastern Shore. The menu is completely raw and vegan; it’s winning rave reviews from both locals and visitors, and it’s called My Nature.
Housed in the Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel on 13th Street, My Nature is a restaurant, market, and educational gathering space. Owner Janet Phillips is often seen one-on-one with customers pouring over books, addressing specific dietary or health concerns, or simply sharing her love of not food per se, but a lifestyle that seems to be able to improve just about anything—including the alleviation of severe health disorders.
For the uninitiated, raw foods are unprocessed (whole, organic whenever possible) vegan foods that are not cooked over 115 degrees in order to retain all of the enzymes lost in the cooking process. And a vegan diet abstains from anything derived from an animal – from meats to dairy, to animal fats, fish, and eggs. It features mainly plants, seeds, and nuts. In the land of seafood buffets, all-you-can-eat crabs, and overstuffed sandwiches, this lifestyle is somewhat of anomaly, but Phillips and Manager Debbi Dean-Colley are quite pleased about leading the charge.
Phillips has spent the last 13 years studying wild edibles—learning what plants exist naturally that provide life-sustaining nutrients. Dean-Colley is a raw/vegan chef who had a restaurant in Florida before moving to the Eastern Shore. For Phillips, it was one of those awakening moments that lead her down this path,
“I stopped in the middle of my living room one day and said, ‘I’m not ungrateful, but there’s something else I should be doing,’” which lead her from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey learning to forage for wild edibles, to the famed Hippocrates Health Institute, where attendees consume a raw/vegan diet while participating in holistic healing techniques, in Florida.
“I went [to Hippocrates] for three weeks with my husband, and after leaving there I found myself skipping like a kid and thought, ‘everyone should feel this way.’”
At My Nature, Phillips hopes to be able to lead all who come through her doors down a similar path to health and wellness, and she knows there’s a real interest now because people are getting sick from the way they used to eat and live, and want to feel better.
“We are about educating people on how far we’ve strayed. The earth provides everything we need, but there’s such a disconnect and we want to bring it back,” says Phillips, furthering her philosophy by saying,
“90 – 100% of health issues are directly related to diet. Beyond that, when we make wise choices about our food, we solve almost every problem that we have, from health to environmental.”
A conversation with Phillips is a life lesson, though it’s far from preachy or admonishing. Her approach feels like a personal field guide to a deeper sense of health and wellbeing. She may for instance, sit and explain what goes into the Wild Green Drink—all wild edibles like Violet leaves, that contain five times more Vitamin A than spinach, or lambs quarters, the second most nutritious plant in the world—that could very well be growing in your own backyard. Or she may be apt to share little tidbits of information like,
“Don’t eat anything solid before 11am because the liver is still detoxifying from the day before.”
These things are all just part of the conversation at My Nature. But what makes customers visit in the first place, is the food. My Nature has a full salad bar daily, and various feature foods that change based on what is freshest. The chicken-less chicken salad is a standout – its key ingredient is zucchini, as is the vegan lasagna, and vegan meatloaf. Expect to try pestos and nut cheeses, dehydrated sprouted bagels, and wheatgrass, and know that every visit offers ever-changing menu items. It’s obvious that Dean-Colley enjoys creating new and inventive dishes, as does everyone who works at My Nature.
While it’s only been a few months since the doors opened, the support of the local community and daily crowds indicate that My Nature filled a void in this beach town.
A man from New York City, where raw/vegan options are commonplace, walked in and exclaimed,
“Wow! I can’t believe there’s a place like this in Ocean City.”
Undoubtedly Phillips is revolutionizing how the community thinks of food and health through My Nature. It begs mention that Phillips’s husband Jeff is the son of Brice and Shirley Phillips, known the world over for being pioneers in the seafood industry. And while Janet Phillips may have a very different philosophy on food than her in-laws once did — she would love to one day see all the chicken houses turned into green houses and the fishermen fish for self-sustaining seaweed — there is still common ground. As Janet explains,
“Really this place is in honor of my father-in-law and the entire family. They were always people who thought ahead. This is just one more step.”
**Photos by Natalee Dehart
If You Go:
- My Nature is located at 13th Street and the Boardwalk in the Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel
- Parking is available in the Beach Plaza lot – (must tell the attendant you are visiting the restaurant)
Restaurant hours: 8am – 2pm daily
Market: 8am – 8pm daily
Special events: Cooking classes with Debbi Dean-Colley and edible plant walks with Janet Phillips, dinners, and classes are announced on the Facebook page. “Like” My Nature on Facebook to find out more.
Grand Opening is Thursday June 20th from 5pm – 8pm.
- $20 all-you-can-eat; kids eat free
- Entertainment provided by Bryan Russo