Opening a new restaurant is rarely an easy task, and for Fettle + Fare owner Amanda Vargas, who has multiple sclerosis and is legally blind, the journey to create her shop in Westfield, NJ, was extra challenging.
It was here that she created a space that is more to her than a place to find tasty, nutritious food. It’s a symbol of growth and helping others eat better and be their best selves.
Now 32, Vargas started to lose vision at age 6 from uveitis, inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle part of the eye. The medication, she said, led her to develop glaucoma. To this day, Vargas has 20/25 vision, but can't see anything on her left or right sides. She compared her vision to looking through a pinhole.
At age 21, Vargas experienced trouble walking and balancing weight on her legs, and she couldn’t feel hot and cold on her feet. After seeing about five doctors, she said, she was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, which is the first stage of the disease.
“Doctors kept sending me away at first,” Vargas said, likely because it’s uncommon for 21-year-olds to experience erratic symptoms like hers or to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“After I got out of my funk, I started doing diet changes, like I cut gluten, dairy and processed sugars out of my diet, for example,” she said. She made the omissions to help manage her symptoms, but finding a good meal got a lot harder.
“I learned that there’s nowhere to eat. Everywhere had gluten or dairy,” Vargas said. “I learned to cook for myself this way so I thought maybe other people would want it, too.”
She opened Fettle + Fare in May 2017 and the shop has grown ever since.
A sign on the wall calls the shop a “stress free zone,” and with its blue-painted walls and aqua benches, customers say the shop offers a relaxing atmosphere along with food to eat in or to go for just about any diet. The facility is entirely gluten- and dairy-free, its website notes, and there are several vegan and Paleo options available.
“There is a good vibe in there and Amanda has created a cool community. I was blown away by her story,” said Westfield resident Meaghan Murphy, who started going to Fettle + Fare about a month ago when she had pneumonia. “They truly make the best chicken soup I’ve had in my life,” she said.
Fettle + Fare’s is especially known for its signature bone broths, made from grass-fed beef and pasteurized chicken bones, with different flavors “on tap” daily, such as garlic & herb and curry-turmeric.
Bone broth contains protein, amino acids and other nutrients. At Fettle + Fare, the bones used to make it come from certified-organic farms where the cows are grass-fed, and the broth is slow-cooked up to 48 hours with organic vegetables and seasonings, according to Vargas.
Amy Ruth Finegold, a nutritional therapist based in Short Hills, is a fan of bone broth for several reasons.
“Because of the cooking process, there’s gelatin in the broth and that gelatin turns into collagen in our bodies, which is for healthy hair and nails,” said Finegold.
That collagen also helps repair your stomach and gut lining, which is helpful to people with MS and other autoimmune diseases, according to Vargas.
“For clients having digestive issues, I’d recommend it,” said Finegold of bone broth. “If people are looking to lose weight, I’d recommend it because it’s low in calories and it’s very filling. And it’s very nutritious.”
Other popular items at Fettle + Fare include dishes made with grass-fed meats (which Finegold said contain healthy Omega 3s), such as meatball parmigiana wraps and chili; zoodles (noodles made from zucchini); and vegan soups such as coconut curry vegetable and butternut squash.
“We try to keep things as fresh as possible. We have a lot of favorites and we try to keep people on their toes,” Vargas said.
“We try to offer something for everyone for all ages, something they can identify with because being dairy-free or gluten-free is such a different concept to people,” she explained. “Once you sample things and try them, they are amazing. You wouldn’t expect them to be as good as they are and healthy.”
If you go:
Fettle + Fare is located at 401 West Broad St. in Westfield, NJ. Food is available to eat in and to go. They recently started offering a lunch buffet where you can build a bowl with quinoa, broccoli rice, zoodles or roasted potatoes or vegetables, soy-free dressings and organic or grass-fed proteins.
The shop also offers bone broth challenges for people to boost their immune systems, which can be good for anyone but specifically for people with weakened immune systems and for athletes, Vargas said.
Visit their website at www.fettleandfare.com.