UPDATE: This restaurant has closed.
Tucked away on S Halsted Street, in an area burgeoning with stores and restaurants in the heart of West Loop, lies a new dining spot that has got Chicagoans talking. The name of the place is Square Roots Kitchen, the style is fast casual, and the food is wholesome. The restaurant sells salads, wraps and bowls that can be customized to suit one’s lifestyle and dietary needs, bringing health-conscious consumers face-to-face with cutting-edge technology in an ambiance which is both comfortable and minimalist. Did the West Loop need yet another restaurant? Having visited Square Roots Kitchen (SRK), having sampled their food and understood their unique approach, my answer is a resounding “yes” 🙂
I went to SRK one cold winter evening. It was one of those evenings when I would have gladly stayed home, tucked into bed and indulging in a cup of hot cocoa – as you know, frigid weather has never been my friend. As I walked on Halsted at a fast pace, shivering and not wearing any gloves (I can be so forgetful sometimes!), I was weak and at the mercy of the elements. Thankfully, as soon as I got inside the restaurant, I felt at home. The light brown color of the high-tech décor oozed warmth, and the place was packed yet still comfortable enough to make for an enjoyable experience.
SRK was launched in 2015 by Derin Alemli as a quick delivery and catering service designed to meet the dining needs of the on-the-go consumer. Two years later, Alemli decided to open up a brick&mortar location with fellow entrepreneur Jason White, with whom he shared a passion for food and technology. Indeed, when it comes to technology, SRK is hard to beat: the restaurant features multiple 32-inch vertical touch-screen panels that allow for complete meal customization, and provides a custom-built application aiming at improving efficiency when ordering take-out.
Meal customization is one of SRK’s biggest advantages over its competitors. Want more protein or sauce? Need to filter by diet or allergy? SRK is the place to go to get your very specific, customized lunch or dinner:
SRK aims to offer healthy alternatives to traditional quick serve food, and its menu features options for everyone, be they vegan, vegetarian or carnivorous. As the meat-eater that I am (lol), I was very pleased with the SRK bowls, whose meat & veggie combinations proved to be very satisfying. Such was the Comfort Food Bowl, which featured pulled pork marinated in barbecue sauce, house-made spicy corn, black beans and cheddar cheese over warm quinoa:
The pulled pork was tender and its intricate flavor was complemented by the veggies perfectly, which made this my favorite dish of the night. I noticed a lot of quinoa options on the menu, which can only be a good thing: a wonder food full of vitamins and minerals, quinoa is an excellent alternative to meat-based protein and the least allergenic of all the grains. Customized or not, if you want to eat well and do good to your body, this bowl is the way to go!
Next on my “most liked” list was the Chicken BLT Wrap, which featured grilled chicken breast, bacon, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, house-made agave dijon, and leafy greens inside a spinach tortilla. This too is a dish which can be customized to your heart’s content: online, via the app or via the touch-screen in-store panels you can add various meats, veggies, cheese and even sauces, or you can leave it as it is and as I tried it at the SRK launch party. As a big fan of wraps, I couldn’t have been happier with this dish, and with the spinach tortilla in particular. Moist and tender, this tortilla was still sturdy enough to sink your teeth into it and to keep eating without the ingredients inside falling apart, as it happens with wraps sometimes:
Tofu or not tofu – that is the question 😉 I would definitely say yes to SRK’s Mediterranean Tofu Bowl, which featured grilled tofu, asparagus, tomatoes, hummus and goat cheese yogurt dressing over warm quinoa. Here’s a great lunch/dinner option if you’re a vegetarian, or if you just want a less calorific meal:
Boasting a health-conscious menu and some impressive technology, SRK represents a welcome addition to the Chicago dining scene. At the SRK launch party I was particularly impressed with the meal customization feature, which capitalizes on consumers’ appetite for healthful meal choices and overall control over the food they eat. Who knows? A few years from now, touch-screen panels like the ones I saw at SRK might be in every restaurant. For now, let’s just savor the moment, enjoy a nutritious wrap or bowl, and look at the culinary world through geeky eyes 🙂
*Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary tasting to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.