When looking for fast food, proximity is often important, leading students to settle for Chipotle or Five Guys. Another important aspect is price. Healthier food usually comes at a greater cost than a $1 burger from McDonalds.
Luckily, LYFE Kitchen (1603 Orrington Ave.) offers food with no artificial ingredients, quick service and unique flavors, all without a large price tag.
After getting off at the Purple Line’s Davis stop, my friend and I were able to find LYFE Kitchen located right in the heart of downtown Evanston. As we approached the restaurant on a Sunday, we had the option to order at a cash register or sit down at a table.
We then could decide among an array of menus including ones specifically designed for vegans and vegetarians, gluten-free and seasonal items. Grabbing each menu, we looked for a seat near the window. Out of the numerous choices, we decided to get some plates from each menu, including one breakfast item (served until 11 a.m. daily).
Although I do not believe restaurants should focus on calorie counts, each item is listed with the amount of sodium and calories for those who want to be more aware. But rather than focusing on the calories, I chose my dishes based on the ingredients.
One of the first items we received was the morning tofu wrap ($6.99), which had scrambled tofu, Gardein sausage, Daiya cheddar cheese, avocado and cherry tomatoes all stuffed in a whole wheat wrap. The dish came with a side of fresh salsa, which had a light texture and fresh taste, making it my favorite part of the dish. The manager informed us the salsa is made with fresh tomatoes in-house daily.
Split into two portions, the wrap can easily feed two. I would have liked to see only one vegan meat or cheese in the wrap rather than three because it contained a few too many processed ingredients for my taste. It was more of a vegan fast-food meal rather than a super healthy meal.
Our soon-to-be favorite dishes arrived next: vegan grilled artichokes with caper aioli ($7.99), a side of roasted brussel sprouts and squash ($3.50) and the quinoa crunch bowl with added salmon ($8.99).
Because the grilled artichokes were an appetizer, we received a small plate of three large artichokes. They were grilled to perfection, and I had a hard time letting the last one go.
The quinoa crunch bowl came with an amazing edamame hummus, broccoli, arugula and quinoa smothered in hot sauce. Thankfully, we had salmon added in the dish to balance out the heat. If you’re a fan of spicy dishes, you will most likely love it, but otherwise, you might have to drink a few cups of water.
My favorite part of the meal was the side of brussel sprouts and butternut squash. Although it was a side order, the veggies came in a large mound that I was able to take home for leftovers. Covered in cranberries and a dijon vinaigrette, they weren’t too oily, which is always a plus for me.
Thanks to the manager’s recommendations, we received two drinks to go along with the entrees we shared. Something on LYFE Kitchen’s menu that sets it apart from your average healthy restaurant is its list of LYFE waters. These waters are lightly sweetened with agave, infused with chia seeds and contain fresh fruits such as apples and oranges.
I ordered the orange ginger chia ($1.99) that was infused with lime, ginger, fresh-squeezed orange juice and chia seeds. Chia seeds are a great superfood containing omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, which makes you feel full for longer and gives you energy. Once soaked in water, the chia seeds puff up to a gel-like consistency, giving the water a slightly thick texture.
My friend decided to go for the seasonal LYFE water: spiced apple chia water ($2.99). She loved it so much that she ordered a second one as we left. Since I am not a huge apple cider or juice fan, I found the drink a bit too sweet. However, the addition of chia seeds is an interesting way to include protein in a beverage.
Despite wanting to try more menu items such as the kale banana smoothie and squash lemongrass soup, we ended up picking the vegan chocolate chip cookie ($1.49) and one of LYFE’s new items, the banana budino ($3.99) for dessert.
The cookie had a harder texture on the outside, but was soft on the inside as the chocolate chips oozed everywhere. The banana budino was a mixture of coconut milk and chia seeds that formed a creamy, pudding-like texture topped with bananas, nuts and a caramel drizzle. It was delivered in a small shot glass, the perfect portion for those not looking to heavily indulge.
With a little bit of everything on its menu, LYFE knows how to attract consumers by using substitutes from tofu and Gardein meat to grilled salmon and Buffalo chicken. Sure, some of the dishes might seem like your basic healthy entree (such as mahi mahi fish tacos), but when was the last time you found a restaurant serving a pizzadillawich (a folded eggplant and mozzarella pizza) or quinoa buttermilk pancakes?
LYFE Kitchen wants to spread the word that eating healthy not only makes you feel good, but also impacts the environment in a sustainable way. In the future, I hope to see LYFE add more fully plant-based options on its vegetarian menus to keep the menu as wholesome as possible, but as of now it’s doing a pretty awesome job.
LYFE Kitchen’s Evanston location is open Monday – Friday 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. There is also a River North location (413 N. Clark St.) open at the same hours.