Without the neutral colors, sleek design and healthy food, Start could be a Raising Cane's, or (gasp!) even an Arby's. Diners order and pay at a register, grab drinks, and sit to wait for their names to be called. The open kitchen delivers food in a fast food-style, with labeled stainless steel chutes for hamburgers, salads and other menu items. There's even a drive through. But that's where the similarities to all other fast food restaurants end.
The concept is simple: wholesome food served in fast food-style. What that means to owners Mike and Erin McKool, is a lot of lists. Like lists of DOs and lists of DON'Ts. They hold the "bad" stuff, like hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, and upon request, gluten. And on the DOs list: whole-wheat flour, organic, fair-trade, shade-grown, local and all those other "good" things.
So what does all-good, no-bad food taste like? Like homemade, if you had the time, the energy, the desire and the quality ingredients. On opening night we tried the Sweet Potato Tots (more like baked sweet potato bites, just so you're not surprised by the texture), the chicken empanada (small, but flaky and flavorful), the Better Burger (grain fed and free range, of course), a Caesar salad (complete with freshly grated parmesan), and a frozen yogurt cookie sandwich (by far my favorite).
Starters and sides are all under $4, most entrées are around $7 and desserts are around $3. And unlike every other quick service spot, you won't find Diet Coke, Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper at Start. But look for freshly brewed teas with packets of Stevia sweetener on hand, coconut water, Izze sparkling fruit sodas and juice pressed while you wait.
Okay, I lied. There's one more echo from the fast food world at Start. Breakfast is served every day until a hard stop at 11:00 a.m. The menu looks intriguing, with options that are all around $4. I'll be back to try an Organic Turkey Bacon Egg n' Cheddar Sandwich on a Wheat English Muffin. Oh, and most likely ALL of the baked items like Banana Bread Mini Loaves and some Carrot Cake Mini Muffins. All are $2.50. I wonder if they would consider a cookie sandwich breakfast...
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White hot restaurant interior design company Plan B Group created the recycled and sustainable materials-focused space at Start. Clean with a sort of "soft organic" vibe, bird and tree wall decals wind their way above diners all the way up to the ceiling. Four geometric wooden light fixtures bisect the dining room, which is filled with wooden and recycled furniture and accents. The crowd was a mix of friends, couples and a lot of families, especially really young kids.
Speaking of which, Start has options like Chicken Bites, PB & Banana and Grilled Cheese for the little ones. There's no happy meal, but it should make you feel better about what you're feeding your kids. Will you crave the food at Start like you crave an evil Chick-fil-A chicken nugget? Maybe not. But it's a start, and a big step in the right direction.
Start is located at 4814 Greenville between University and Lovers Lane.