Options for Vegetarians Abound at LYFE Kitchen
Art's unfried chicken at Lyfe Kitchen | Tara Mahadevan
After a few LYFE Kitchens opened in Northern and Southern California, the fresh-casual restaurant group expanded and began establishing more locations across the U.S. The first LYFE Kitchen (248 West 55th Street, 212-265-5933) here in New York is location number 14.
Executive Chef Jeremy Bringardner was a vegetarian for four years before attending culinary school, where he decided to quit vegetarianism so that he could explore and experiment more. Though he never returned to being a full-time herbivore, Bringardner maintains a strong affinity for vegetables and plant-based cuisine.
"I love to eat less meat," says the chef. "I enjoy meat sometimes, but there are days of the week where I just like to balance it out by not eating meat. I'm not a vegetarian or vegan per se, but what I do represent...those who are eating vegan and vegetarian but aren't totally devoted to being vegan or vegetarian, or being defined by that."
Bringardner has developed a majority of LYFE Kitchen's menu, which also includes options for meat-eaters, as well as desserts, smoothies, and juices. The restaurant's purpose, he explains, is to help people live a healthier lifestyle at an affordable price, while also having less of a negative impact on the environment.
He's a firm believer that food -- especially vegetarian food -- is all about flavor and great-tasting ingredients that also are good for you. Bringardner earned his degree in both the culinary arts and nutrition, a rare crossover for a chef.
"I spent a lot of years being obsessed with flavor and taste," he says. "One thing that kind of made me different from all the other chefs is that I also was very passionate about health and wellness. I viewed food as not just a source of entertainment for your mouth, but for what it is: the fuel for our bodies; the fuel for our lives. The quality of the fuel you put in your body has a direct impact on your quality of life."
One of the best aspects of LYFE Kitchen's menu is that there is a lot of versatility in the recipes; almost every dish -- save one or two that use milk -- forgoes dairy as a base, and none use cream or butter.
Art's unfried chicken ($14.99), for example, is one of the restaurant's signature dishes, and it can be made vegan. A baked patty sits on top of roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and dried cranberries, which are tossed in a dijon vinaigrette and paired with a cashew cream sauce.
The patty is made out of gardein, a plant-based protein that is intended to have a meat-like texture. Indeed, the patty does taste somewhat like meat, with a crispy, breaded crust. The dijon vinaigrette is pungent, the overarching flavor in this dish, and pairs nicely with the sweetness of the cranberries. The texture of the squash is similar to sweet potato, and the brussels sprouts are crunchy from the grill. The cashew cream sauce is a curious addition; though not cream-based, it does indeed have a milky taste. Overall, the dish is light, so you might want to order a starter if you're really hungry. And luckily, you'll have plenty of options.
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