LYFE Kitchen – “Love (Half) Your Food Everyday”

12 Mar

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LYFE Kitchen is the penance of two former McDonald’s execs. Having made their fortunes pushing 2,000 calorie, deep-fried meals, they’ve set up LYFE Kitchen with a unique, healthy concept: everything is under 600 calories. How do they manage such an incredible feat?

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The answer is they make a delicious meal, cut it in half, give you one half, and charge you for the full meal.

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In the former Gyenari/MoKo space, LYFE Kitchen takes one of Culver City’s most beautiful spaces and ruins the outside. Gyenari used to have a nice brick facade. Unfortunately, when Debbie Lee’s menu failed at Gyenari, the owners retooled the Korean concept into MoKo (“Modern Korean”, get it?) by whitewashing the brick. It was a shame, but at least the brick was still there.

These new guys decided to take a historic(-looking?) facade and make it look bland and corporate, covering up the brick with blandness.

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Anyways. The interior is well-designed. Light and airy, lots of wood and space. The space has always been gigantic, so there are lots of different seating areas inside and out.

Hey, look at the edible wall!

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We were there during one of their grand opening days. There must have been at least 30 people working, with people constantly coming to us to ask if we were OK.

Like McD’s, you order at the counter, but they bring the food to you with real silverware. Similar to all these healthy eating places — Tender Greens, Native Foods Cafe, Veggie Grill. LYFE strives to hit the Chipotle niche of just between table service and fast food. They also want to mimic Chipotle’s growth, with aggressive plans to expand all over California.

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How’s the food? Delicious, actually. Above is the chopped napa cabbage salad. It’s simple, but quite nice with shelled edamame and a zesty vinaigrette. If this was three times as large, it would be a heck of $9 salad. Unfortunately, you’re going to feel like this was a great side salad. (“And what will that be on the side of?”) It’s less than 350 calories and feels like exactly that many calories.

Below is the quinoa crunch wrap — quinoa, avocado, adzuki beans, edamame hummus on whole wheat tortilla. Served with hot sauce, again pretty tasty but makes you wonder when you’re done where the other half is.

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The menu is sprawling, with wraps, salads, a burger, flatbreads, fresh juice, baked goods, grilled proteins. There’s something for every mood, as long as that mood is not too hungry. The menu, developed by a couple of celebrity chefs, could probably use some focusing, but seems packaged to appeal to their core audience and the spouses and kids dragged there by this core audience.

As for me, now that Tender Greens is open again, I doubt I’d go back to LYFE. But who knows? Maybe the mood to spend $20 on $10 worth of food will strike.

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Chicago Tribune article

Wired’s longform profile

LYFE Kitchen
9540 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA

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