Love Your Food Everyday — simple concept, difficult in execution for most of us. Enter: newcomer to ‘concept restaurants,’ LYFE Kitchen. LYFE — or Love Your Food Everyday — proposes to help with the concept and the execution, thus the name. The 2011 restaurant chain started by ex-McDonald’s CEOs has 10 restaurants throughout the west and mid-west. The result of a cross-pollination between Tender Greens and The Veggie Grill, LYFE Kitchen takes from the casual, central ordering system of The Veggie Grill with decor and entrees styled by Tender Greens. LYFE has all the aesthetic pleasures of the restaurant chain that tried too hard but the conceptual value is on point.
The menus are categorized by ‘food policies,’ one of the platforms of their concept —Gluten Free, Vegan/Vegetarian, Wine & Beer and the Everything menu — making life easier for those with specific dietary needs. Their gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian menus are longer than a column and more extensive than most places. They serve breakfast until 11 a.m., offer desserts, coffee, smoothies and shakes and make interesting “Lyfe water” — drinks from zesty combinations like ginger mint chia and hibiscus beet.
The restaurant’s presentation is beautiful. The clean, crisp design is enhanced by large windows, the right amount of lighting and a great mix of open tables to tucked away booths and outdoor seating. In the middle of the restaurant is a large, diverse display of various herbs. There is a tri-spout water dispenser offering cold water, ‘ambient’ (or room temperature) water and sparkling water. The bathrooms show an able-conscious construct with lower, wide basin-like sinks for easy access by everyone. The physical environment is neutral enough and very enjoyable, although not entirely free from cliches. Painted on the walls are quotes about food from various authors and philosophers but the concept does shows unity in human’s love of food.
The main concept of LYFE Kitchen, however, is in the creation of the menus. Each dish prepared by the Kitchen is 600 calories or less, using 1000 mg of sodium or under and no added white sugars or trans fats. Their produce is locally sourced and organic when possible, the meat is all-natural, free of antibiotics and hormones. These all sound like great tactics for a restaurant, especially a concept-based restaurant to engage in, consequently the experience tangents from normalized, American casual dining. The portions are smaller and the food has been categorized by a few Yelp reviewers as bland. LYFE does not oil-fry any of their chicken or fries, and because of the no-added white sugar policy they do not serve sodas. One shouldn’t come to LYFE Kitchen looking for a Red-Robin burger, or The Veggie Grill proportions — this is a more thoroughly executed health-conscious kitchen. For the person who understands the basis of the Kitchen, the food is quite good.
The straight-forward named Fish Tacos are one of their most popular items served with a large portion of mahi, spicy chipotle aioli and a fresh take on slaw using chayote, a member of the cucumber family, instead of cabbage. The Thai Red Curry Bowl is a spicy, coconut curry bowl, chunky with vegetables and textured by peas and wheatberries. The curry bowl can be ordered with tofu or chicken, as with most items on the menu that aren’t centered around meat like the Grass-Fed Steak & Potatoes. LYFE offers creative combinations like their Pizzanini, a hot-pressed pizza sandwich and Quinoa Buttermilk Pancakes with berries, greek yogurt and pure maple syrup.
The price range is understandable but running consistent tabs at LYFE could get very pricey. The melange of drinks runs from $2-5, which is where the food comes in with almost all dishes priced between $5-17. The standard is high for all the food and drinks. The customer service is pleasant and amiable although there isn’t much interaction, and the workers reported enjoying their work environment which gives a friendly energy to an overall positive yet extraneous experience.