Chicago really is a city of restaurants — you can find pretty much anything and everything (and for usually cheaper than on either coast). But if there’s one thing Chicago’s food scene desperately needs, it grab ‘n go options that fuel you in a healthy way.
Now you may be thinking healthy food is a hard sell here in Chicago. We’re hearty, carb-and-meat-loving Midwesterners who eat cheese like it’s our job. But the truth is, here in Chicago we love our healthy options too (we are home to the luxury juice mecca of Owen + Alchemy after all).So when California-based implant Lyfe Kitchen finally launched in the Chicago in 2013, it was like a breath of fresh, organic, energizing air just wafting over the Second City. After spending most of our summer eating out, exploring as many restaurants as we could, Starr and I were wanting to find something more cleansing than luxurious. Light but seriously satisfying. So one day we found ourselves at Lyfe Kitchen for the very first time, hungry to finally try all the delicious dishes we’d been hearing about.
The moment you walk in, you know this isn’t your average on-the-fly eatery. An enormous garden of fresh herbs greets you along with large spacious windows and plenty of chic decor accents. Starr and I perused the menus (the “everything” menu contains, well, everything Lyfe offers with separate Gluten-Free and Vegan/Vegetarian menus available too), getting hungrier and hungrier as we went. After we made our choices we ordered at the counter, got our number and found a cozy table to settle into. One of my favorite things about Lyfe is that they have sparkling water on tap and for FREE! You already know Perrier cured my sweet tooth so this innovation was a positive revelation for me and reason enough to have me coming back to Lyfe for another lunch in the near future. Lyfe believes that great meals come from great ingredients so they focus on utilizing organic and local produce as much as possible in their dishes. We started with chunky guac and fresh-made corn tortilla chips. Creamy, fresh and heart-healthy! We also sampled at least half of the drink menu since we couldn’t choose between them all! We tried cucumber mint water, ginger pomegranate lemonade, orange ginger chia water, a kale banana smoothie and two of Lyfe’s new skinny cocktails: the cucumber margarita and a summer shandy. Of the drinks we sampled my favorite was this simple Orange Ginger Chia Water: fresh-squeezed orange juice, filtered water, lime, ginger, mint and chia seeds. I love chia seeds in just about anything (especially my Matcha Power Smoothie Bowl) — they create a nice texture in liquids and give a serious boost of natural energy. But truth be told, Starr and I fought hardest over this positively delicious Kale Banana Smoothie: raw kale, fresh ginger, banana, cucumber, apple juice, and lemon juice. It may not look swoon-worthy but the smooth texture, bright freshness and pleasing, slightly sweet flavor were seriously addicting. I’m craving one right now just typing about it!
Then our true Lyfe feast began! First we started with a side of Garlic Parmesan Sweet Potato Fries.
As well as this colorful Buffalo Chicken Salad for Starr, and this insanely filling Quinoa Crunch Bowl for me. Quinoa tabbouleh doused in fresh crunchy vegetables, avocado, arugula, edamame hummus, chipotle vinaigrette, and fireman’s hot sauce? I was licking my fingers by the end of this bowl!
Next came this BBQ Chicken Flatbread: grilled chicken, sweet corn, caramelized onion, cilantro, smoky BBQ sauce, and mozzarella cheese. And one of Lyfe’s most famous dishes, Art’s Unfried Chicken: roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, dried cranberries, cashew cream sauce, and dijon vinaigrette. Starr and I lovingly dubbed this dish Thanksgiving on a plate. We finished our savory meal trying Lyfe’s Mahi Fish Tacos too: chayote slaw, avocado, cilantro, chipotle aioli on corn tortillas, and salsa fresca. My favorite after the quinoa salad, these tacos were satisfying without being heavy and pretty to shoot. I do love a creamy sauce on my fish tacos though and I was left wishing Lyfe had drizzled an avocado sauce on theirs just to tie the rest of the fresh flavors together. Luckily we still had some guac left and I found myself slathering it all over my tacos happily.Then these sexy little desserts came. This is Lyfe’s Banana Coconut Budino: chia seeds, nut crunch, and date caramel all topped with pecans and bananas.
Surprisingly sinful considering how healthy it is for dessert. And the small portion size was perfect — I mean, I ALWAYS want dessert but often find myself bringing home 80% of mine after. This was a perfect end-of-meal portion for those whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs!And last but certainly not least, we tried Lyfe’s Chocolate Budino: pomegranate-soaked chia seeds, and toasted almonds all mixed with a thick, coconut-milk-based chocolate budino.
Of everything I tried at Lyfe, this was my very favorite! I’d never had a chia-seed centered dessert before (besides the chia seed puddings I make myself) and loved how luxurious and addictive this was without inducing serious guilt. I’m planning on making Lyfe Kitchen Chef Jeremy Brin-Gardner’s recipe often at home too!
Starr and I left Lyfe with loads of energy, hungry to try more of their delicious but still healthy menu. I’m thinking my next order may end up being larger than our HUGE first order — what can I say… when I fall in love with a menu I feel the almost journalistic tendency to eat my way through the entire thing. For blogging research purposes of course…
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.