Don't call it healthy, but LYFE Kitchen, the new fast-casual concept where everything on the menu is 600 calories or less, has landed in Dallas. The Chicago-based chain has opened two of its three Dallas-area locations: Plano opened in June at Park Boulevard and Preston Road, and the Dallas outpost opened in Preston Center on July 5.
An acronym for "Love Your Food Everyday," LYFE was launched in 2011 by a group of food industry veterans, including Oprah Winfrey personal chef Art Smith and former McDonald's executives Michael Donahue and Mike Roberts. It's the third "healthy" chain to enter Dallas, following Seasons 52 and True Food Kitchen, but is easily the best of the bunch, with food that is flavorful, filling and healthy.
The menu was developed over the course of a couple of years and includes contributions from Smith, as well as executive chef Jeremy Bringardner (a competitor on the TV cooking show Chopped) and vegan chef Tal Ronnen.
Ronnen's creations — including the chowder and a teriyaki bowl with Gardein "beef tips" — were among the best dishes sampled. The teriyaki bowl was similar to the one served at Pei Wei, but better, with sugar-snap peas, peppers, broccoli, scallions in a spicy jus. The beef tips were like filet medallions, tender and browned on the edge.
An appetizer-salad medley called the quinoa crunch bowl had tomatoes, arugula, cucumber sliced nice and thin, avocado with its slices fanned out prettily and broccoli florets in a chipotle vinaigrette. It came with a scoop of the signature edamame hummus and drizzled with hot sauce.
"Unfried" chicken was a flattened breast with a crunchy coating, served with butternut squash cut into chunks and roasted along with Brussels sprouts, on a golden sauce tangy with mustard. The dish had 519 calories.
To its credit, Seasons 52 also provides calorie counts, whereas True Food Kitchen does not. But it's difficult to get out of Seasons 52 on a single entree, whereas it's entirely doable at LYFE.
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a separate breakfast menu that runs until 11 am. The service model is fast-casual. You place your order with a cashier and it's delivered to you when ready.
Prices are lower than the competition, as well: A bowl of corn chowder was $3.99, while a cheeseburger was $9.25. But the burger is grass-fed, and the chowder is thickened with "cashew cream," taking it to a gourmet level that would otherwise command a higher price. But at $9.99, a glass of wine provoked sticker shock; the fact that it's on tap makes you think it will be less.
The water situation is very cool. There are three options, also on tap: cold, cold sparkling and room-temperature still.
All of the culinary tribes — vegetarians, vegans, gluten-phobes — get their needs met with custom menus for each group. LYFE has also nailed gluten-free flatbreads, one of the chronic GF requests. (LYFE's gluten-free crusts are made with rice and potato flours, and they are also dairy-, egg- and soy-free.)
Side dishes included French fries that were baked, not fried, in regular and sweet potato. There's also a selection of juices, smoothies and herbal waters.