The more I work remotely around the city, the more important it is for me to know where I can find affordable, healthy vegan food in Chicago. So when I was invited to try out Square Roots Kitchen, a high-tech, fast-casual restaurant in the West Loop, I was excited to see what they offered. SRK specializes in salads, wraps, and bowls, with both vegan and non-vegan options. Their goal is to provide customers with fast and healthy meals without sacrificing quality of food.
When I first walked into the restaurant, I was greeted with a sleek, high-tech interior, like how I expect the offices of Google or Apple would look like inside. There were no cashiers, but instead, giant 32-inch touch-screen panels where I could choose my meal. Customers can either select pre-designed recipes or customize their own. I always choose customize.
Normally, I have ask an employee or scrutinize the menu like I’m studying for the GRE in order to determine what is vegan-friendly. The ordering kiosks at Square Roots Kitchen make it super easy to figure that out because you can sort by diet! They had a lot of different diet options. After clicking vegan, a green mark appeared next to everything that was plant-based, and a red mark next to the non-vegan items. All the salad items were pretty self-explanatory, but this was great when deciding what dressing I wanted. I loved this feature. It made ordering easy and worry-free.
The other innovative aspect of these touch-screen menus is the real-time nutrition information. As I began building my bowl, the macronutrient and calorie profile appeared below. I could see how many grams of protein, carbs and fat were in the meal, and the information automatically updated as I added ingredients. I chose tofu, quinoa, squash, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, asparagus and carrots, with some hummus and balsamic glaze on the side. The nutrition wheel read 575 calories, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 30 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fat. Pretty good balance for a moderate day of training (read more on nutrition guidelines for athletes here). After ordering, I received my bowl in a takeout container with the nutrition information and ingredients printed on top.
As I was eating, I chatted with the owner, Derin about the restaurant’s name. He said the meaning behind it was three-fold. First, “square root” give a nod to the mathematical and technologic aspect of the restaurant. From their sleek ordering screens to the nutritional information, there is definitely a techie vibe to the place. Secondly, “square” refers to the need for eating healthy, square meals. And finally, “roots” refers to healthy, clean ingredients that are not processed, the way food should be.
As I dug into my custom bowl, it was clear that Square Roots Kitchen lives up to all aspects of its name. The vegetables were perfectly seasoned, and the marinated tofu was flavorful. Overall the bowl was warm, earthy and savory, a wonderful winter lunch time meal. I’m excited to have a new vegan lunch option in downtown Chicago.
Have you been to Square Roots Kitchen yet? Do you order pre-made bowls or customize?