Matthew Corrin was fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's marketing manager, which meant a lot of long hours and a lot of hurried lunches. After his umpteenth greasy sandwich, Corrin began wondering why there weren't more convenient, waistline-friendly lunch alternatives. This rumination—and a resignation letter to de la Renta—begot Freshii, a fast, casual eatery that serves healthy meals and has graced the pages of various publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Inc.’s 30 Under 30 list. Environmental awareness also plays a big part in the business model as the food packaging is made from eco-friendly vegetable starches.
Every Freshii kitchen is stocked with the base ingredients of brown rice, romaine lettuce, field greens, spinach, and rice noodles; toppings such as carrots, broccoli, grilled tofu, and candied walnuts; and an array of dressings and sauces. Using these ingredients, the chefs create bowls, wraps, salads, soups, and burritos for lunch and dinner. During morning hours when the sun is still busy curling its rays, they scramble eggs, serve housemade oatmeal, and top fat-free frozen yogurt with a choice of fruit. Customers can bring their own bowls, and the staff will wash and fill them with fresh ingredients hailing from environmentally responsible farms that fairly compensate their workers.
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company?s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and California Flatbreads that pack only about 320?420 calories each.
Each morning as the sun blossoms in the sky, chilled containers of fresh seafood arrive at Bara Sushi and Grill, causing chefs to smile in anticipation of the day’s creations. Lobster tail, salmon, and shrimp share space with unique sidekicks such as potato crunch, goat cheese, and mango in sushi rolls with names including The Big Lebowksi, Red Dragon, and Crouching Tiger. During midday hours, diners can ditch peanut-butter sandwiches for customizable lunchboxes, which can be filled with selections such as teriyaki chicken, veggie tempura, hall passes that never expire, and spicy tuna rolls.
Min-J Asian Cuisine isn't content to focus on just one country's culinary traditions. The Greenwood Village restaurant instead draws upon Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai influences to create a menu of fusion cuisine that spans Southeast Asia. With so many flavors at their fingertips, it's hardly a surprise that this menu lists more than 200 dishes, many of which deliver a spicy kick and several of which can be prepared gluten-free.
Slam Bar tickles palates with a menu of pub eats and potables served up within a boisterous sports bar that moonlights as a vibrant nightclub. The sampler platter inspires taste buds to indulge or to compose a love letter to food with a hodgepodge of predinner noshes, from the Mexican egg rolls' border-bridging combo to the jalapeño poppers' fiery flavors ($11.99+). Diners can engineer their own sustenance tower atop an Angus burger's beefy foundation ($6.99 for half pound, $9.99 for whole pound), selecting only the sturdiest cheese and toppings (one topping included, $0.75/additional). Meanwhile, chefs sculpt customized pizza discs and edible renditions of David from freshly twirled dough and customer-culled accouterments ($5.99 for personal, $8.99 for 10", one topping included). Flood throat canals and wash down eats with foamy Guinness ($3+) or fruity Sycamore Lane wine ($3+/glass).
A grill roars at 725 degrees Fahrenheit, the all-natural mesquite wood charcoal igniting flames that tenderly kiss the fresh cuts of meat and seafood. This centuries-old practice remains preserved in Mesquite Grill Steak & Seafood, owned since 1988 by Robert and Wendy Zamani. The couple are now celebrating the restaurant's 25th anniversary, as well as its 2012 designation as a Top Rated Restaurant by Restaurant.com. Chefs flash grill entrees such as tenderloin until they are deemed worthy to join optional supplements of fried shrimp, lobster tail, or king-crab legs on diners' plates. At lunchtime, the chefs slip grilled specialties such as hand-patted burger meat, gyros, and calamari steak between two slices of bread.
As the smells of grilled salmon, grouper, and clam chowder waft into the dining space, an air of New England emanates from the walls, which are dotted with seaside paintings, ship nets and rigging, and a colossal stuffed marlin that offers menu suggestions to picky eaters. Mesquite Grill Steak & Seafood also showcases Wendy's own hand-painted glassware, which customers can purchase, including wineglasses, decanters, and candleholders, all adorned with nontoxic paints.