Loving My Food Everyday at LYFE Kitchen

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Meaning there will be a lot of this….

 (apple cranberry crostata)

And this….

 (sweet potato pecan)

An excellent baker that works with my company made these  beautiful pies, and I can’t wait to dive into them; it’s been torture having them here and not being able to dig in. I’ve never had sweet potato pie, or pecan come to think of it, so a new pie adventure will be fun.

Because it’s Thanksgiving week, and because life has been a bit hectic lately – writing 50,000 words in 30 days is hard! – I didn’t go grocery shopping. I thought we could scrounge through today, but I ended up going out for dinner, lunch and happy hour/dinner Tuesday, and lunch today! Evidently, I underestimated our capacity to consume leftovers.

So I thought it would be fun to write about one of the restaurants I visited. I usually hesitate a bit to post restaurant reviews because not everyone that reads lives in the Bay Area, but this one has a particularly interesting concept so I thought I’d share.

LYFE (which stands for Love Your Food Everyday) Kitchen just opened recently in Palo Alto, but the concept is to be a healthy fast food chain aiming to open 250 restaurants within the next five years. The concept was developed and implemented by two veteran McDonald’s executives who saw the healthy food train picking up speed and decided to jump on.

On their website, they describe themselves as such: “LYFE Kitchen is rooted in progressive, principled decision-making that promotes the well-being of our customers, our employees, and our communities. With every interaction, we hope to awaken our “6th Sense” – the intrinsic desire to do right and inspire good in the world around us.” Sounds pretty lofty for a fast food joint, but based on their other values, it seems they are genuinely operating within a “sustainability first” methodology. They even have a wall of herbs inside the restaurant!

But of course, no restaurant, no matter how healthy or sustainable, would be successful if the food didn’t taste good. People can only learn your story and embrace your values if they come to eat at your venue. And so, without further ado, the food. The majority of the food is vegetarian, with some chicken and fish thrown in. They have and entire separate menu that exclusively has the vegan options which I thought was a nice touch.

I had heard from a coworker that the Farro Salad with Beets wasn’t that filling, but it sounded so good! Here’s everything that was in it: organic field greens, whole-grain farro, roasted red beets, roasted fennel, walnuts, dried cranberries, orange, red onion, basil, maple-sherry vinaigrette.

It sounded so perfect and fall-esque! But I’m never happy when I eat and then am hungry shortly thereafter, so I decided to order a side of Brussels sprouts and winter squash to bulk up the meal. My total came to $11.15.

The salad was pretty when it arrived – the bright greens contrasting nicely with the deep red of the beets. But I’m never convinced by looks alone, so I dug in.

The salad definitely felt large enough for a meal, but I can see how it wouldn’t fill you up for long. The bulk of it is greens, even though it’s advertised as a farro and beet salad. Perhaps to add staying power they could add some garbanzo beans, or swap the ratio of the farro and the greens.

Flavor-wise, I thought everything melded quite nicely. The salad was mixed when it came out, which I always appreciate. I hate it when I get a salad with all the components laid out on the plate separately because at the end I always end up with dry, lifeless lettuce. So the pre-toss was a good thing in my book.

Thank goodness for the fennel and the pomegranate seeds, because otherwise, I think the whole thing may have been a bit too sweet. I could have done without the dried cranberries – the maple sherry vinaigrette made the salad sweet enough and they overpowered the perfectly roasted beets just a touch. Oh, and the orange wedges were a bit sad; dry and stringy oranges are never good, but as there were only a few slices in the salad, it didn’t bother me too much. Overall, I liked it but I do think it could be bulked up – avocado would be another great addition! (But I know how expensive they are right now, especially the good ones.)

My side dish of roasted squash and Brussels sprouts was amazing – but I REALLY love squash and sprouts so maybe I’d like it no matter what. Both ingredients were perfectly roasted, and the sweet squash was a nice counter balance to the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts. They also had dried can berries on this so maybe that’s why I was a bit sick of them. One of my pet peeves is when they don’t  fully describe dishes on the menu, and this included a tangy, lemony dressing that   wasn’t on the menu – but thankfully it was delicious. I think I could have actually added this right into my salad and it would have been great. But as I’m a bit neurotic and have to eat one dish at a time, I didn’t do that.

$11.15 might seem a bit pricey for a salad and a side, but the portion size and their sustainable sourcing merited the price – and to me, was worth it.

I hope the chain becomes successful nationwide because I think the more healthy, delicious options that are widely available, the more people will choose them. I do have to say that this doesn’t directly compete with places like McDonalds or Taco Bell or Burger King. It’s not nearly that fast, but it’s not as slow as a full service sit down restaurant either. You order and pay at the counter and they bring out your food – so there is a bit of lag time. Again, worth it to me, but might not reach some people that are looking for healthy options on-the-go.



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