No dish will exceed 600 calories or 1,000 mg of sodium at LYFE Kitchen, a new fast casual concept opening Oct. 12 in Palo Alto, Calif.
After a year-long 'taste quest' to develop the menu for LYFE, an acronym for "Love Your Food Everyday," Chefs Art Smith and Tal Ronnen have designed a menu that offers natural, preservative- and additive-free foods that are enhanced with spices, herbs and other natural ingredients for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Each dish provides about one-third of the recommended daily caloric intake, based on an average 1,800 to 2,000 calorie diet. They are free of cream, butter and MSG.
About a year ago, the chefs and CEO Mike Roberts started working on the menu, sampling around 50 different fresh herbs, spices and sauces that could be used to build flavor into the menu. What they came up with, according to Roberts, the former global president and COO of McDonald's, was comfort food dishes and new favorites including great-tasting vegan and vegetarian options - with most meals ranging from $5-$15.
In addition, there will be customizable menu options for plant-based eaters and gluten-free guests, as well as children.
Wine, why not?
Beverages at LYFE will include a blend of artisan, fair trade coffee; fresh squeezed juices; "coolers" with fresh juices and water; smoothies; black, green and tropical iced teas; fresh squeezed lemonades and adult beverages of beers and biodynamic wines.
"We felt that it was important to have a forward-thinking wine program to match the menu and concept," said Scott Worsham, LYFE's wine director.
In addition to three local beers on the opening menu, six wines - free of chemicals in both the farming and winemaking process - will be featured from local winemakers. Additionally, all LYFE Kitchen wines will be served on tap, thereby utilizing a centuries' old methodology with no waste and the smallest carbon footprint possible.
"We're going beyond recycling to complete reusability in our wine program. Our guests will not only enjoy some fantastic, clean wines, but the keg wines ensure maximum freshness and a lower price point as well," Worsham said
LYFE's produce will be as natural as possible; the menu boasts high-quality organic produce including blueberries, strawberries, carrots, cucumbers, celery, mixed greens, arugula, romaine hearts, red bell peppers, potatoes, spinach, cherry tomatoes and tomatoes. It's also working with local California farmers such as Capay Organic, an organic grower of tomatoes, melons, beans and figs, as well as Jacobs Farms, which specializes in dozens of organic herbs.
"Going local whenever possible has benefits not only for the consumer but for our business as well," Roberts said. "Responsible ingredient sourcing ensures freshness and quickness of delivery to our restaurant, supports the local community and is the overall right thing to do."
Making the grade
To ensure LYFE Kitchen's commitment to not only great-tasting but good-for-you-food, Roberts said each menu item has passed a three-prong nutrition test. Screening measures include testing from an independent lab, nutritional analysis through an independent software system, and a comprehensive review from LYFE Kitchen's Registered Dietitian Karen Knoblaugh.
Measures included developing a new house-made version of ketchup with lower-sugar content and utilizing whole grains in dishes that feature carbohydrates.
"The team has done research analysis to ensure that quality ingredients meet nutrition screens for thoughtfully developed, great-tasting meals that are also balanced nutritionally," Knoblaugh said.
Menu items include:
Tal's Ancient Grains Bowl with stir-fried Gardein beef tips and vegetables over whole-grain faro and quinoa with sweet chile ginger sauce;
Art's Unfried Chicken with roasted kabocha squash, brussels sprouts, dried cranberries and dijon vinaigrette;
Farmer's Market Oven-Baked Frittata of whipped egg whites with a choice of three toppings including fresh vegetables, turkey sausage or Gardein breakfast sausage and cheese selections;
Art's Start (Chef Art Smith's daily morning breakfast) of steel-cut Irish oatmeal with dried cranberries, granola, Greek yogurt and 100 percent real maple syrup;
BBQ Chicken Flatbread with free-range grilled chicken, sweet yellow corn, roasted onion, cilantro, agave BBQ sauce and artisan cheese; and
Sweet Corn Chowder made with cashew cream and topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and chopped herbs.
Click here to see a slideshow of photos.
Read more stories on healthy menu options.