During a recent visit to the South Side, as I traversed the lively main corridor of East Carson St. that stretches block after glorious block, I marveled at the sea change the neighborhood has undergone in the last few years. While the bars and nightlife capture the news these days, my daytime exploration opened my eyes to a different side of the neighborhood. Dare I say, the healthy side?

Here’s my declaration: the South Side is becoming a destination for health and fitness. Let’s start with the bike trails that line the riverfront and the fact that it’s one of the most walkable neighborhoods in town. Not to mention the iconic stairs and the workout they provide. But there are more reasons, from fresh produce and healthy cafes to alternative health centers–and here they are:

Food

Amazing Cafe's Smoothie/Leah Lizarondo

Amazing Cafe’s Smoothie/Photo by Leah Lizarondo

Amazing Cafe/Photo by Leah Lizarondo

Amazing Cafe/Photo by Leah Lizarondo

Amazing Café – The food at Amazing Cafe is so beautifully presented you might hesitate to dig in. But once you do, you will discover what everything “healthy” is supposed to be: delicious. From the amped up smoothies to the raw food main dishes, there’s a range of creative and delectable food here.  That includes the homemade soups and thick sandwiches, not to mention the desserts which set a new standard (as in how can this be healthy?). This cafe is simply…amazing. I could eat here every day.

Zenith1

Zenith Tea Room/photo by Rob Larson

Zenith Tea Room – The Zenith is a South Side classic yet it is also one of the city’s “best kept secrets in vegetarian dining” perhaps because you have to walk through the antique store and gallery to get there. The brunches are legendary and lines often stretch out the door with diners hungry for the healthy and outstanding buffet-style feast. During the week enjoy their lentil salad, seitan Reubens and asian tacos.

Fresh & Seasonal Produce – South Side residents and workers also have access to fresh produce during the season through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions and Farmers Markets. Many farms that offer CSA shares have drop-offs in the neighborhood. Two of the biggest networks, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance and Clarion River Organics, drop off weekly at The South Side Chamber of Commerce Welcome and Delanie’s Coffee, respectively. Tip: Get on the list before they sell out.

Additionally, Citiparks operates a seasonal farmers market on Tuesdays from 3:30-7:30 pm at the corner of East Carson and 18th St, a great addition to the neighborhood.

Alternative Health

The Birch Center. Since 2005, husband and wife licensed acupuncturists David and Melissa Sokulski have been treating patients for conditions ranging from high blood pressure to depression using traditional Chinese medicine and alternative health methods. The idea is to restore balance in the body and optimize health. (If you’ve never tried it, you might be pleased to know that acupuncture can be surprisingly relaxing.) David and Melissa bring a wealth of knowledge to their practice and they’re experts in wild edibles, holding seasonal wild edible walks throughout the city.

Schwartz Living Market. 1317 East Carson St. used to be home to the Schwartz Market, a longtime anchor of the neighborhood. In its new incarnation, Schwartz Living Market is an “urban oasis community for alternative health and healing.” The market houses whole food purveyors and alternative practitioners and hosts community events.

Schwartz Market/Rob Larson

Schwartz Market/Rob Larson

Yoga

The South Side  has two yoga studios that offer a diverse range of classes. BYS Yoga features multiple levels of hatha yoga from beginner to advanced as well as meditation classes, teacher training and specialized workshops. Amazing Yoga (whose owners also started Amazing Cafe) offers heated-room power yoga classes and teacher training.

Fitness

When it comes to working out, the South Side has something for everyone. Prefer a traditional gym? Head to the Works—that’s the Southside Works—and sign up with LA Fitness. Want Fitness with a Twist, as in pole dancing? There’s that as well as the latest dance routines at The Millennium Dance Complex which just opened and features some of the leading choreographers in the country. Or maybe you fancy some martial arts. Get your fix at Rothrocks Kung Fu & Tai Chi Studio. Curious about CrossFit? Then Integrated Fitness is for you. And for spinning fans, Club Cycle offers classes with a live DJ that spins while you do.

For outdoors, the riverfront trails are hard to beat and the famous South Side steps offer a heart-pounding workout complete with city views. Where else?