When you hear the name Chef Art Smith, you probably do not correlate it with healthy cooking. After all, his restaurant, Table 52, epitomizes the richness of southern cooking and all of the cream, butter and breading that comes with it. However, when LYFE Kitchen, the Palo Alto, California-based healthy restaurant chain from the former president of McDonald’s, expanded to Chicago, Chef Art Smith, along with vegan chef Tal Ronnen, were tapped to create the menu.
All menu items at LYFE Kitchen are under 600 calories and 1000 mg of sodium. Ingredients are organic whenever possible, and local fruits and vegetables and fresh herbs and spices are all featured, in addition to vitamin-rich whole grains and responsibly raised meats. LYFE Kitchen accommodates all manners of food preferences and dietary restrictions, and a book of ingredients, nutrition information, and allergens is available for anyone who wishes to see it. Great for someone like me who has a food allergy.
Ordering is done at the counter located near the entrance, and diners have the option of ordering to-go, as well. Recently, I visited the LYFE Kitchen location in the River North neighborhood of Chicago with Amanda of The Ghost Guest, and we were able to sample a wide variety of the menu items.
After placing our order, we chose to sit at the counter overlooking the open, bright, and clean kitchen, so we could have a front row seat to all of the action. LYFE Kitchen aims to design each restaurant so that it feels as warm and inviting as their meals. All of their restaurants are LEED-Accredited, they use low-voltage lights, their paint is chemical-free, and their tabletops and chairs are all made from 100% recycled material.
Fresh flat or sparkling water is served from a filtration system at a water station, and Amanda and I were both in awe of its novelty!
We started our dinner by trying each of the four LYFE waters that are available, including Orange Ginger Chia, with fresh-squeezed orange juice, filtered water, lime, ginger, mint, and chia seeds; Cucumber Mint, with fresh cucumber juice, mint, lime, and agave; Ginger Mint Chia, with filtered water that had been infused with ginger, lime, mint, and chia seeds; and Hibiscus Beet, with hibiscus tea infused with beet, apple, lemon, and ginger. My favorite was the Ginger Mint Chia, and Amanda’s was the Orange Ginger Chia. We both found the Hibiscus Beet to be a bit too sweet for our tastes, and the Cucumber Mint a bit too bland, though extremely refreshing. The Orange Ginger Chia is perfect for breakfast!
We then sampled the Chunky Guac N’ Chips. I love anything avocado, so I enjoyed not only the guacamole, but also that it is served with tortilla chips that are baked in-house. I also liked the guacamole with the vegetables that were served with the Edamame Hummus & Veggie dish, and I wonder whether LYFE Kitchen would consider serving the guacamole with vegetables rather than chips to make it even healthier.
Next came the Quinoa Crunch Bowl which I really enjoyed. It featured quinoa tabbouleh, fresh crunchy vegetables, avocado, arugula, edamame hummus, chipotle vinaigrette, and a fireman’s hot sauce that gave it a little kick. Due to my soy allergy, they were kind enough to put the hummus on the side so that Amanda could try it. I would definitely order it again.
Another favorite – and a steal at $9.99 – were the Fish Tacos, made with grilled mahi, chayote slaw, avocado, cilantro, green onion, and chipotle aioli. The tacos were made with warm corn tortillas, and served with salsa fresca on the side, in addition to a nice kale salad. The corn tortillas were not strong enough to hold all of the ingredients so the taco fell apart a bit, but I thought it still tasted great, although Amanda did not enjoy them as much as I did.
My top pick from dinner was the Roasted Salmon, Tomato & Fennel. Sustainably raised salmon was served with pan-steamed fennel, red onion, broccoli, and a zesty tomato sauce. The salmon was nicely cooked and the flavors from this dish were wonderful. I even enjoyed the leftovers for dinner the next night!
Also good was the Thai Curry Bowl, with broccoli, eggplant, peppers, peas, whole grain wheatberries, and thai basil. Marinated tofu or grilled chicken can be added as well, but we did not add any additional protein. I really enjoyed this curry. It had great depth of flavor and, unlike many curries, was not heavy, oily, or buttery.
Amanda gives a good run-down of the Edamame Hummus & Veggies, BBQ Chicken Flatbread, and Sweet Potato Fries on The Ghost Guest, so be sure to check out her review.
She also sampled LYFE Kitchen’s famous dish – Art’s Unfried Chicken, with roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, dried cranberries, cashew cream, and dijon vinaigrette. The presentation was beautiful and epitomized fall, and Amanda absolutely loved it!
She was also the official dessert taste-tester, and gave two thumbs up to the Chocolate Budino, with pomegranate chia seeds and toasted almonds, the Banana Chia Budino, made with coconut milk, chia seeds and nutmeg crunch, and especially the Chocolate Chip Cookie which was freshly baked and clocked in at only 156 calories!
Overall, we really enjoyed our meal and experience at LYFE Kitchen. Not only was the service terrific, but the food was fresh, flavorful, and delicious, as well. Prices are extremely reasonable, especially considering that organic, local, and seasonal ingredients are used, and that everything is made fresh to order. LYFE Kitchen is perfect for a casual dinner with family, friends, or by oneself, and also makes for a great healthy take-out option. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. Wine and beer is also offered.
LYFE Kitchen currently has two locations in the Chicago-land area, one in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, and the other in Evanston. Other locations are planned throughout Chicago, as well.
Chicago: 413 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60654
Evanston: 1603 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, Illinois 60201
While my dinner was complimentary, all opinions expressed herein are my own.