One peculiar trend has started to take businesses across the country by storm, and those in Philadelphia are no exception. It's called CBD, and you've probably heard of it. Stripped of THC—the chemical which causes the normal “high” from marijuana—CBD, or cannabidiol, is non–psychoactive. CBD is legal in Pennsylvania, but it still raises some constitutional concerns, according to Nihad Hajdarhodzic. He is the owner of Philly’s Latin Asian fusion restaurant, Ardiente, which has recently adopted optional CBD into their menu.
Hajdarhodzic explains that Ardiente only began to offer CBD in cocktails and food two and a half months ago. The CBD oil they offer has absolutely no trace of THC. “It would never show up on a drug test,” Hajdarhodzic explains. Brilliant, I thought.
When asked why people might venture into the world of CBD–infused foods, Hajdarhodzic is confident that the positive effects of CBD are plentiful: “If you have problems with joints or muscle pain, CBD can alleviate the pain, instead of resorting to heavy narcotics... If you have friends who smoke too much, if you give them CBD, it will counteract the feeling.” In other words, it seems like CBD can be a helpful alternative to other potentially more harmful (and actually psychoactive) drugs.
Hajdarhodzic’s inspiration for CBD–infused food comes from his fiancé, who works at Penn as a nurse practitioner in the Perelman Center of Advanced Medicine. Once his fiancé got involved with CBD for patients at work, Hajdarhodzic did his own research. “There’s still sort of a grey area,” Hajdarhodzic says, “because global authorities allow it, state authorities allow it, but not on a federal level.” Regardless, he ultimately decided to incorporate it into his own business.
Inside of Ardiente, a jazz rendition of “You Know How I Feel” blares in the background. The dim lighting in the room creates an inviting ambiance, along with the restaurant's sultry red, orange, and green tones.
Hajdarhodzic brings us a sampling of three mocktails: Mango limeade, Tropicolada, and Pepi le Cuke. Each drink is mixed with an undetectable 10mg of CBD. After ten minutes, the tension I feel in my head from a long day of school and exhaustion has lifted.
CBD poses a specific benefit to those who are mandated to take drug tests, such as athletes or government employees. Hajdarhodzic recalls an event Ardiente hosted for federal employees whose CBD meal was free of charge. “A lot of people were skeptical, but then a lot of people said ‘Oh my god this is incredible, since I can have the benefits of this without being petrified of being fired,’” Hajdarhodzic explains as the chilled octopus salad we ordered arrives at the table.
When asked where he sees the CBD trend going in the future, he has a lot to say. His prediction is that brands like Wawa and La Colombe will eventually jump on this train. “If you look at the trends with marijuana and hemp–based projects in general, the future is here,” he assures us.
Hopping on this trend of CBD–infused food and drinks is not the only thing that Ardiente is doing right—they also have an incredibly personal dining experience.
“I don’t look at my job from an ‘I’m a server and you’re just my guest’ angle. We’re human beings, we’re having an interaction that could be heightened with camaraderie... And I’m all about camaraderie,” says André M. Evers, the savvy, charismatic hostess of Ardiente.
Evers knows the inner workings of his role as maître d'. “I don’t look at it as like a job. There shouldn’t be any barriers [between servers and guests]. Sometimes you have difficult guests, who have a selective style of going out, so you just have to be mindful of that and able to cater to their needs and know what they want or need even before they know they need it.”
At Ardiente, there are no brief exchanges between servers and guests. Each time Evers comes to our table to serve us, he sits down at the adjacent table and sparks up a conversation. We discuss his adolescence, experience as an undergrad at Temple University, and his passion for acting. He asks us about our academics and interests, treating us like we’ve been friends for years.
His is carefree attitude sticks with me as I take bites out of the CBD–infused Brussel sprouts he has delivered to our table. The taste of shaved Brussel sprouts—perfectly roasted to a crisp and made with preserved lemon vinaigrette—mix incredibly with the citrus flavor of the certified double zero CBD oil. At the end of the dinner, I genuinely feel more relaxed physically and mentally. And after tasting the spicy shrimp bao with honey sriracha and lime cilantro mayo; skirt steak bibimbap; chilled octopus salad; and chicharron fried rice, I will undoubtedly be back. CBD–infused or not, these dishes were incredible.
I believe in Hajdarhodzic and his mission at Ardiente. This restaurant is delicious, personal, and unafraid. While I left feeling grateful for CBD and all of its benefits, Ardiente is infused with that and so much more.