Budget Crunch / Core Life Eatery
The Mediterranean green bowl
Photos by kc kratt
What’s so appealing about a place like Core Life Eatery is the options it offers to diners with discerning tastes, special dietary restrictions, or a commitment to eating meals free of additives. There are plentiful menu items, and meals can be modified in many ways. The fast casual restaurant specializes in green bowls, grain bowls, broth bowls, and housemade beverages. Nearly everything is customizable and made to order.
The Mediterranean green bowl features shredded kale and chopped romaine lettuce, housemade hummus, housemade falafel, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and red onion. The menu suggests cucumber basil dressing as a pairing, so that’s what I went with, and it was a refreshing complement to the flavors. The only issue with this large salad is that the proteins are a bit skimpy compared to some of the other bowls. It comes with a small spoon of hummus and two small falafel, which are by no means plain as far as seasoning and spices go, but I prefer falafel with more varied herbs and a touch more garlic.
The Southwest Grilled Chicken and Wild Rice Blend grain bowl starts with chopped romaine and a warm wild rice blend, layered with antibiotic-free chicken, chunks of avocado, jalapeño peppers, tortilla strips, tomatoes, black beans, scallions, corn, and shredded white cheddar. Drizzled with the recommended lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette dressing, the salad’s flavors are robust and bright. The char-grilled chicken is a pleasant surprise; I worried it would be dry, but it had a freshly prepared flavor. This was my unexpected favorite of all the dishes I tried.
The Tuna Poke bowl
The Tuna Poke bowl has poke ahi tuna, cabbage, cucumber, quinoa, carrots, scallions, avocado, kale, almonds, sesame seeds, and edamame, topped with a miso sesame dressing. It was not the best poke bowl I have ever had, as it did not feel terribly authentic, but it was satisfying and tasty nonetheless. The ingredients are fresh, especially the crunchy cabbage and kale. The almonds and sesame seeds add a welcome layer of nuttiness and texture, and the dressing provides a necessary zing.
“Build Your Own Bowl” options start at $5.95. You select your base from greens (baby spinach, romaine, kale, arugula, mesclun, napa cabbage) or grains (tri-colored quinoa, organic brown rice, rice noodles), then add up to four ingredients, mostly vegetables and beans. You can upgrade to add premiums at different costs, including a variety of cheeses, avocado, and proteins—including bacon, egg, roasted tofu, falafel, antibiotic-free chicken, and grass-fed steak. Finally, you can turn it into a soup by adding broth—beef bone, chicken bone or vegetable—or make it a salad with dressing. Housemade offerings include standard options like balsamic vinaigrette, as well as unusual and intriguing ones, such as carrot chili vinaigrette and Thai cashew. Or keep it simple with toppings like sriracha, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh lemon or lime squeeze.
Conveniences include free WiFi, online ordering, and mobile app ordering. This restaurant is a quick and healthy option any time of the day or night, and the comfortable and plentiful outdoor seating makes it appealing in warmer months. The restaurant was bustling with patrons dining in and getting meals to go on two recent visits, and I expect the offerings will continue to attract crowds. Straightforward ingredients and custom-made options will endure while food fads and trends come and go. Core Life offers fresh, honest ingredients that aren’t always available elsewhere in this neighborhood; I’ll be back to try more.
Nina Barone is a frequent contributor to Spree.