Is a sprawling fast casual chain the new three Michelin stars? Because we don’t hear about a lot of chefs vying for the latter anymore, but almost every time we pose the question “What are your goals?” to a restaurateur, we get the former as an answer.
And it would help explain why industry veterans are casting off their gastronomic temples to open quick-service joints. Take, for example, Franklin Becker, who grew up in and ran fine dining establishments for 30 years and has nursed a healthy TV career: The chef just opened the Little Beet (135 West 50th Street, 212-459-2338), a health-conscious (and gluten-free) fast casual spot in Midtown.
Becker is a type 2 diabetic, and his son is a celiac with autism, he explains; both factors motivated him to put together a quick-service spot that would offer healthy options in a space dominated by junk. The menu at the Little Beet employs his philosophy of simple food with quality ingredients; diners choose a protein (chicken, skirt steak, salmon, or tofu) and then add sides like Southwest-style millet salad, soba noodles with cabbage and ginger, quinoa with beets, or roasted broccoli. Or they can opt for a sandwich (on gluten-free bread), salad, or soup, and maybe a gluten-free baked good for dessert (we tried the vegan chocolate chip cookie; it’s crispy on the outside, soft within…and one of the best vegan cookies we’ve ever had).
Come in for breakfast, and you’ll find quinoa oatmeal and breakfast sandwiches stuffed with egg whites and kale or peanut butter, bananas, and jam. And if you’re a juice fiend, you’ll find a number of ways to get your fix here, from the cold-pressed pina coolata — made with cashew milk, pineapple, and coconut — to freshly squeezed orange juice to a green juice packed with kale, spinach, celery, green apple, parsley, mint, and agave.
Take your meal to go, or grab a table in the bi-level spot, which is bright and sleekly done in light woods, with chalkboard and butcher paper menus adorning the walls.
It’s a concept Becker hopes is scaleable: “I’d like to have 100 of these,” he says.
The Little Beet is open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Hit the next page for photos, and check back next week, when we’ll post our full interview with Becker.