“Eat your vegetables,” as a phrase, is nearly synonymous with “Do your homework.” It’s meaning is clear: You’re about to do something that’s no fun, simply because it’s good for you.
Well, maybe it’s time to retire the phrase, because eating your vegetables has become a lot more fun in the past, oh, five years or so. The watershed moment came in the fall of 2015 with the opening of NYC’s Superiority Burger, an all-vegetarian spot where nothing cost more than $9, and the burger itself was so good people lined up around the block to get one. Eating your vegetables was suddenly fun, delicious and affordable. It was, dare I say, cool.
Which brings us to 2018. There are a slew of restaurants opening around the country that we fully expect to be delicious, cool, and … healthy. (Or at least healthy-ish.) Better yet, many of them are striving to be as affordable as possible, bringing delicious, vegetable-forward food to … well, maybe not the masses, but at least those in-the-know. To be clear: They’re not all vegan. But each stresses healthy food, grown locally when possible. Oh, and a lot of them are in food halls because that’s the trend that just won’t die. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that …)
Here are the 6 we’re most excited about:
1. KAYA, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Two great tastes that taste great together: Chef Daniel Patterson, who has opened a bevy of SF hotspots over the years; and Nigel Jones, whose Oakland spot Kingston 11 has earned plaudits for serving legit Jamaican food. With Patterson’s help, Jones is taking his talents across the Bay with the Caribbean spot Kaya (named for a Bob Marley song, and a slang term for pot), a collaboration that Jones compares to “Jay-Z working with Mozart.” Expect traditional fare, including healthy beans, fish and jerked meats (a meal kept low-cal by using spices, rather than oils and fats, for flavor). Bonus points for the weekly live reggae shows.
2. HENBIT, AUSTIN, TEXAS
Opening early 2018
Chef Kevin Fink quickly earned accolades with Emmer & Rye, his ATX restaurant serving local vegetables and whole-animal meats dim sum style. Now he’s bringing that same mindful approach to quick-and-casual dining with Henbit, opening early in the year in the city’s new Fareground market. Expect roasted sweet potatoes, inventive salads and, OK, some cheat day-worthy kolaches, all made with the most local ingredients possible.
3. THE MARKET HALL AT ZEPPELIN STATION, DENVER, COLORADO
Opening early 2018
This long-awaited food hall in Denver’s trendy RiNO district will host a bevy of healthy casual spots (plus the first Denver outpost of popular Boulder dessertery Fior Gelato). This includes a local branch of Aloha Poke Co. (speaking of trends that are staying strong in 2018) and Vinh Xuong Bakery, a third-generation banh mi shop with an emphasis on making nearly everything in-house, from the delicious baguettes to pickled herbs.
4. KAI POKE AT THE STREET SOCIAL HOUSE, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Opening early 2018
Inside this new, yes, food hall — from famed restaurateur Michael Mina — this poke spot promises to stand out from the crowd thanks to chef Gerald Chin, who spent time in Hawaii training on how to make the traditional dish. (Indeed, he opened the first Kai Poke in Honolulu.) Once he learned the rules, he went about breaking them, serving non-traditional fare like a poke taco and Japanese “guacamole” made with edamame and tangy yuzu kosho.
5. THE ART OF DOSA, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Opening spring/summer 2018
You already know how we feel about dosa — the veggie-forward, crepe-style dish from India, made with the healthy fats we all should be getting more of. This place is the first dosa spot in Chicago, and comes with some serious cred: The owner learned his craft from his mom, who is helping with the menu — and whose dosa has already inspired long lines at various food fests around town.
6. UNTITLED SPANISH CASUAL RESTAURANTS, NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Opening October 2018; no website
“Affordable” is relative. A meal at El Bulli, the legendary Spanish restaurant, would’ve set you back many, many large bills. A meal at Jose Andres’ upcoming food hall/temple of Spanish food, featuring a trio of casual spots from the brothers behind El Bulli? Those will likely be cheaper. We’re most excited about the spot devoted to coca, which is basically Spanish pizza. (Flatbread topped with an array of fresh meats and/or veggies.) Which reminds us: Healthy can be relative, too.