By Donald Liebenson in Lake County News-Sun Nov 15, 2017

To Be or not to Be? That was never the question for Vade Sankar, who spent three years researching and operating a test kitchen before opening the Be Market in Lake Bluff in the space formerly occupied by Wisma.

He describes it as “a place you can get diverse healthy gourmet foods from different regions, have a glass of wine or beer, and meet people in a fun environment.” There is a dine-in menu (the kitchen is in the basement), but as with Wisma, packaged foods and groceries are also available to bring home.

Freshly opened, Sankar is gratified by the response he received during the market’s “soft launch.” “So many people came in to say hello and welcome us to the neighborhood,” he said. “That is very special to us.”

About the owner: A Trinidad native, Sankar always considered himself to be “a fairly healthy person,” he said, but his career (accounting and finance with a focus on risk management) and hectic lifestyle were literally making him sick. About 10 years ago, he gained 90 pounds, his cholesterol skyrocketed, he experienced aches and allergies, and he felt a loss of focus and brain clarity.

Around this time, his mother passed away from brain cancer. “I have a strong research and analytical background,” he said, “so I wanted to learn about good health and implementing changes in my life.” He formulated a drink he called the Be Green elixir, which impressed his trainer (it is on sale at Be Market), and inspired Sankar to develop his concept of a market that would offer gourmet comfort foods that promoted wellness and a healthy lifestyle.

Decor: Sankar wanted to establish “a small European cafe environment.” The lighting is soft and low energy. There is a communal table in the center of the space that can accommodate up to 14 people. There is also counter seating and two tabled standing areas. Indicative of the wellness vibe is a Himalayan salt lamp at the register counter. “It helps to clean the air,” Sankar explains.

On the menu: Soups, salads, dairy-free pizzas, and open-faced sandwiches, including Avocado Toast and PLT (Portobello, lettuce, and tomato) on gluten-free or Ezekiel bread. Sides include baked sweet potato fries and spinach artichoke dip. Packaged foods and groceries include maple syrup from Vermont-based Idle Hour Maple, stone-milled breads from Zapp’s Dancing Green in Glenview, microgreens from Grow Well Farms, which operates a greenhouse at the Lake Forest Country Day School, and organic, small-batch Naturally Nutty Peanut Butter out of Michigan.

Wines and Beer: Be Market offers a selection of wines previously available from Wisma. Craft beers include Green Flash Beer, Brown Sugga’ Ale, and La Fin du Monde.

Pricing: $12 for an 8-inch “Cheeze” pizza, $9 for sandwiches, $5 for sides, and $4 for a cup of soup ($7 for a bowl). Add-ons, including Portobello bacon, hummus, and probiotic sauerkraut for $2.

What’s new: It’s all new, but Sankar anticipates expanding Be Market’s offerings to include juice cleanses, monthly beer tastings, and opening earlier for breakfast.