LYFE (Love Your Food Everyday) Kitchen is a new restaurant in Palo Alto, CA and the first of what an ambitious, Chicago-based group hopes are many restaurants across the country as well as a line of prepared soups and meals being sold at Costco. The executive chefs are Art Smith and Tal Ronnen, who used to cook for Oprah Winfrey. They serve, breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week.
There are starters, soups, sides, sandwiches, flatbreads, salads, and main courses on the dinner and lunch menu. Many have gluten-free or vegan options. The peas and carrots risotto was really delicious – fresh, rich, and packed with vegetables and flavor with a reasonable serving size that ended up being quite filling. The risotto is actually made from farro and steel cut oats which was really unique and quite good. The napa cabbage salad featured broccolini, red cabbage, edamame, cranberries, cashes and sesame dressing and was crunchy and had lots of texture and flavor. There were so many delicious-sounding salads on the menu, and one suggestion would be to offer a combination salad plate where one could pick any three. There is meat on the menu, including hamburgers, unfried chicken, and some seafood dishes. The grilled mahi fish tacos were fresh, but pretty standard. There were a couple of “coolers” on the menu: a pomegranate-cranberry, and pinapple-coconut lime, both of which were really refreshing, especially the pomegranate-cranberry. Smoothies, juices, beer on tap, and wine are also available.
The best dessert was the lemon poundcake with Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries – very lemony and not too rich. The volcano chocolate cake was moist with lots of chocolate.
The restaurant has a warm, modern design featuring an indoor herb garden. There is outdoor seating and plenty of tables inside, and it was pretty packed on a Thursday night. Calories and sodium content are posted prominently on the menus, and everything comes in under 600 calories. This is not a full service restaurant. Orders are taken and paid for at the register in front, and then a runner brings food out to the table. Water and utensils are self-serve. They could have done a better job clearing dishes from the table.
Disclaimer: the vice president of marketing saw me taking pictures for this blog and stopped by our table. He explained that their philosophy was that it all starts with taste. He also told us that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, dines there weekly at the booth where we were sitting. He sent us some complimentary corn chowder as well as three dessert to try. The corn chowder was really good and was made with cashew cream instead of heavy cream, which really worked. I did not miss the heavy cream. Among the additional desserts that were sent, I think the carrot cake was off the menu. It had good carrot flavor but was a little bit dry. A coconut ice cream or cream cheese frosting would have gone well with the carrot cake. The banana-rum cheesecake (non-dairy) had a strange texture and flavor, with a little too much rum. The vegan chocolate chip cookie was good for a vegan cookie, but lacked the richness of a real chocolate chip cookie made with butter.
Overall, I really liked LYFE Kitchen and how they successfully delivered the concept of flavorful, fresh, fast food in an inviting setting. Definitely recommended.