With Daily Juice, LYFE and Modmarket, Dallas Is Determined to Off-Set All That Meat

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It will be healthy, they said. It will nurture your body, they said.

"I've got donuts," a coworker said. Those are the last words you want to hear when you are engaged in the kind of nutritionally dense, smacks-of-moss undertaking that is drinking cold-pressed vegetables. So when this coworker went around the newsroom with a dozen chocolate glazeds, wafting that deep-fried perfume throughout, I held onto whatever sanctimony I could in order to reconcile the fact that I was drinking a liquefied, rusted railroad spike.

The drink in question -- a "Barton Springs" -- was from Daily Juice, an Austin-based chain. Their menu items -- namely cold-pressed juices and smoothies -- are as pricey as many meals that come with a knife and fork. But if you are of a certain crunchy granola disposition then you may be able to justify paying $10 for a potable meal, given your ability to absorb nutrients all while sparing yourself the archaic, mammalian act of mastication.

I'm not saying it was bad, exactly, just that the amount of enjoyment one can glean from the Barton Springs is dependent on two factors:

- Pastry availability within a 10 square-foot radius.

- The level of self-righteousness one gets from making the "healthy" choice.

Daily Juice is just one of several health-minded companies that have recently adopted Dallas as they attempt to put a dent in the $683 billion dollar restaurant industry. These leaner, greener competitors to fast food and fast casual staples tout everything from their use of locally sourced ingredients to menus that cater to all manner of dietary caveats.

Another company jockeying for position in the bellies of health-conscious Dallasites is LYFE (Love Your Food Everyday) Kitchen. LYFE's website proclaims that they "will be more than just another place to grab a bite. That it will be a place that reflects your values toward health, community and sustainability." It is ironic, then, that LYFE was founded by Mike Donahue and Mike Roberts, two former clown-masters at McDonalds. In 2006, they swapped out Big Macs for burgers made from grass-fed beef and disposable packaging for plates that have to be washed. Their socially and agriculturally responsible about-face began in California, but has since expanded to Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and Texas.

Then there is Modmarket, a Colorado chain that is slated to have three stores open in the DFW area by the end of summer. Modmarket's niche is all about alleviating diner guilt. Their online menu allows perusers to not only see what's for dinner but to see where that dinner came from. If you click on the "salmon" in the Salmon Club, for instance, your fears of consuming non-sustainably harvested fish will instantly be quelled: "Every aspect of Alaska's wild salmon fisheries is closely monitored and rigidly enforced, from fishing areas & licenses to the specific fishing gear used," Modmarket assures us.

For now, places like Modmarket and LYFE Kitchen are the exceptions rather than the rule. The majority of meat is still mysterious and the only things most fast food places are rigidly enforcing are their employees' break times. Yet when we see places like Daily Juice spring up, it does seem to support a kind of wheatgrass-roots movement toward more conscious dining. While Dallas, ever entangled in a ménage à trois with grilled and fried foods, may at first seem an unlikely candidate to hop on this healthwagon, the larger, nationwide shift toward healthier eating -- both in and out of the home -- has likely helped push a normally trend-slow city toward adopting this particular one.

Plus, you know: Dallasites want to justify their yoga pants.

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