If you live in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, or California and want to experience local agriculture, just walk into a Chop’t. The specialty salad company lists their local partners right on their home page. Chop’t is also committed to the environment through their use of recycled fiber napkins and paper bags, compostable packaging, and plastic bowls made from recycled water bottles.
Dig Inn is a unique concept in that they foster a very real relationship with their suppliers. The company works directly with farmers in order to procure an offering of seasonal ingredients, which are then crafted into dishes in house. Dig Inn is dedicated to serving mostly vegetables and believes diners should eat family-style, side by side.
LYFE Kitchen doesn’t follow any particular diet parameters; instead, the growing chain wants you to concentrate on feeding yourself delicious foods that are low in calories, fat, and sodium. LYFE Kitchen takes a different approach to fast food by offering well-thought-out meals that go beyond a burger and fries. For example, their plates of “Unfried Chicken,” include a side of roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and dried cranberries all in a cashew cream sauce. They also offer a selection of stellar desserts including a banana-coconut “budino,” with chia seeds and a date caramel.
Native Foods Café is evidence that the vegan fast food trend is not just a fad. Founded in 1994 in Palm Springs, the chain hopes to appeal to both vegans and meat-eaters. Native Foods Café goes above and beyond by making its own tempeh, seitan, sauces, dressings, and desserts in house. Their menu sounds over-the-top as well, with starters ranging from avocado kale cheese dip and Japanese sesame-crusted chicken bites to vegan adaptations of the Reuben and Baja tacos. Native Foods Cafés are mostly found out West, but they have a store in Chicago, so maybe there are expansion plans for the East Coast.
If you’re expecting huge guys armed with a gallon jug and a bad tan here, then you are in for a pleasant surprise. Protein Bar might sound like a gym rat’s paradise, but the chain actually specializes in feeding diners who are on the go. Speed and efficiency are the core principles at here. They serve all meals of the day, with egg scrambles for breakfast and a variety of burritos, salads, bowls and juices for lunch and dinner.
Roti Mediterranean Grill is found mostly in the Chicago and Washington, D.C. areas, but they are quickly expanding along the East Coast, and already have two units in New York City. Roti stands out from other fast-casual establishments because its menu offers an authentic Mediterranean dining experience. The more popular items are the fresh laffa wraps and their house-baked pita sandwiches, which pair well with their fresh tahini and raita sauces. They even have
Sweetgreen is the definition of a progressive company. They believe in solutions that benefit the company, customer, community, and environment. Their stores are all designed using repurposed woods and reclaimed materials. The Sweetgreen menu has a wide range of seasonal and signature options that are fresh and low in calories such as the peach and goat cheese salad and the “Shroomami,” containing organic wild rice, shredded kale, raw beets, and warm Portobello mushrooms, all topped with a miso-sesame-ginger dressing. The company recently received financing from investors to fuel its expansion, so hopefully Sweetgreen will be coming to a city near you, if it hasn’t already.
Tender Greens leverages their intimate relationships with their suppliers to offer a continuous stream of fresh and local produce. One of their farmers is even an investor in the company! All menu items are $12 and under. Tender Greens’ Sustainable Life Project helps transitioning teenagers aging out of foster care by offering them a six-month paid culinary internship. Right now it looks like the chain is only in California, but I have a feeling they will be expanding eastward quite soon.
Meat takes a back seat at Veggie Grill. In fact, all of their menu items are completely vegan. Even their tofu and tempeh is made with organic soybeans. Veggie Grill packs in the nutrients with their wide variety of ancient grains, soy, and pea-based proteins. Although on the pricier end of the fast food spectrum, their Santa Fe Crispy Chickin with spicy mayo, which can be blackened upon request, sounds like a real winner.
Zoe’s Kitchen is another growing fast food chain that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. Zoe’s menu is founded on the idea that diets grounded in healthy fats, fish, and grains can help lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and also prevent diabetes and some forms of cancer.