by Andrew Chalk
LYFE (Love Your Food Everyday) is a concept in a growing segment: healthy, tasty food with a conscious nod towards localism, environmentalism and some notion of social responsibility. After establishing 10 locations in California, Nevada, Colorado and Illinois they have finally arrived in Texas, and are hitting the Dallas area first. There will initially be locations in Plano (at Preston and Park), Preston Center and Uptown (West Village). Last night they held the grand opening of the Uptown location to a packed crowd of foodies, friends, family, media and local dignitaries. Poor Mi Cocina next door looked rather lonely by comparison.
Although we sampled only a small subset of the menu, the boisterous event gave me an idea of what makes LYFE tick. Think of True Food Kitchen and Seasons 52 as similar in concept and also in menu construction. LYFE is more casual and at a lower price point than Seasons and stresses that it is open breakfast (unlike the others), lunch and dinner. In Uptown’s densely populated area the breakfast option is likely to prove popular.
We sampled what must have been every variety of flatbread ever conceived by man. The menu just lists these as “seasonal flatbread” and advises patrons to ask about the offerings. The examples we were served (by a kitchen that appeared to already have its act fully together) were delicious, and included corn, chicken, basil and mushrooms in endless variety. Seasons 52 regulars will want to do a taste test.
Also popular with attendees were the salads. Tthe Farmer’s Market salad appeared to be the one on offer. It’s a blend of ingredients that takes salad seriously, the way a Houston’s would. There is arugula, frisée, blackberries, spiced pecans, goat cheese with balsamic vinaigrette (all this can be somewhat customized with, for example, chicken or tofu).
The Quinoa Crunch Bowl may sound like a new-age response to chicken fried steak but it was actually my favorite item. For the event, it was served in a prosaic plastic cup but the ingredients of quinoa, tabbouleh, vegetables (“fresh crunchy vegetables” in florid menuspeak), avocado, arugula, edamame hummus, chipotle vinaigrette and fireman’s hot sauce were addicting.
The other popular items were a couple of permutations of penne pasta (I did not try these).
Since this was a walkaround event it wasn’t practical for us to be served some of the menu items that are likely to prove popular. For example, the Grass-Fed (or vegetarian) Burger, or the ‘Pizzadillawich’ (not a revived dinosaur escaped from the Perot Museum, but a stromboli). CraveDFW will return to try these.
The magician behind the culinary side is Art Smith, Corporate Executive Chef, who used to be the personal chef of Oprah Winfrey. Consulting on vegetarian/vegan dishes is Tal Ronnen, a practicing vegan who lays out the rationale for the vegan diet with gentleness and sensibility. It is a choice he made, he says, for health reasons, and it really isn’t so unusual since meat has only been the defining ingredient in dishes in the last century or so of man’s existence on the planet. At the Uptown location, Jeremy Bringardner is execuchef.
LYFE makes a commitment to source locally and this is clear in the choice of beers. The four beers on tap come from Franconia Brewing, Grapevine Craft Brewery, Lakewood Brewing Co. and Rahr brewing.
Localism ends at the wine list — and without good reason. All of the six wines on the list are sourced in kegs. That is good from an efficiency and environmental standpoint. Director of Business development, Jerry Gilomen, explained to me that it reduced the price of a glass of Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir from $13 to $9.50. However, all of these wines are trucked in from California when there is a perfectly acceptable Texas alternative. Duchman Family Winery sells good Vermentino and Montepulciano in kegs. You can buy it at LUCK restaurant in Trinity Groves today.
LYFE maintains that they strive to source food ingredients locally. They may be making heroic efforts but nobody would know as no suppliers are listed. They may want to take a leaf out of Chop House Burger’s book and post the (ever changing) list right by the entrance.
The Uptown facility is LEED certified, uses low-voltage lighting and 100% recycled material for table and countertops. Regulars at True Food Kitchen will do a doubletake at the similarity in wood patterns in the table tops (likewise, did the same dude do the web sites? They have the same look-and-feel). The walls are all matt pastels and white, rather like the decoration in Elevation Burger before that LEED certified establishment closed. In fact, Elevation Burger is a reminder that environmental awareness and excellent food are not sufficient to survive. However, LYFE could not ask for better tutelage, being the child of Mike Roberts, a former Global President and COO of McDonald’s Corporation who is also CEO of the company.
LYFE is open now in all three locations. CraveDFW says it’s promising and recommends that you check it out.