Seeing nutritional information in more and more places has been a real eye-opener, hasn’t it? Who knew the salads at fast food restaurants aren’t exactly healthy for you? Well, maybe you had your suspicions…
Now that nutritional information is more out in the open, pulling one over on health-conscious diners has gotten tougher, and that’s a good thing! The people behind Homegrown Kitchen know this and the new fast-casual restaurants are probably some of the best places to get food that won’t blow a massive hole in your diet.
Owner Sean Lane told us a healthy-eating lifestyle and experiences outside of Western New York were twin inspirations for launching Homegrown Kitchen.
“I’ve always been a healthy eater since I was a kid, and I was also a lightweight rower for Canisius high school and as an undergrad, so I really had to pay attention to that stuff,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I lived in Boston for a couple years and would also visit my buddy in Detroit and family in Los Angeles; and I would see restaurants kind like (Homegrown Kitchen) that would pop up in those cities. But, I hadn’t seen a lot of good healthy, fresh options in Buffalo. I felt like it was something that Buffalo could really use.”
To develop Homegrown Kitchen’s menu, Lane said he worked with Independent Health’s Healthy Options program, a foundation that helps restaurants develop heart-healthy menu items. The results are dishes made with healthy-alternative ingredients. For instance, Homegrown Kitchen uses honey or agave as a sweetener, not sugar. Instead of relying on cream for, well, creaminess, Homegrown Kitchen uses milk or nut milk.
“We take the nutrition side of our mission really seriously,” Lane said. “More than anything, that what got me into this, a desire to eat healthy. We don’t want to steer anybody wrong.
“We’re transparent with the ingredients that are on the menu. So, if there’s agave nectar in it, it’s on there. We’re not loading it up with agave nectar or honey either.”
So how does the food taste? The Pad Thai salad we had included all the familiar Thai flavors, as well as shrimp, which provided pop of sea-flavored protein. It was delicious, filling, light and basically guilt-free. All the salads we tried were massive, and didn’t have a lot of dressing, which is a good thing if you know that the dressings equal calories.
Homegrown Kitchen also has grain bowls that are basically salads with a few small scoops of grain tossed in. The Cuban cashew bowl we tried featured a lemon-cashew dressing that was totally crave-able. With avocado, cashews, roasted chicken, sweet potato, cilantro and jalapeños, it was cyclone of flavors and the perfect getaway on a rainy workday afternoon.
There are also a number of smoothies available. Although they are based on almond milk, coconut milk and coconut water, two of the Homegrown smoothies are probably the least healthy items on the menu: the ones that feature chocolate and Nutella. That being said, these smoothies are a hell of a lot healthier than the average milkshake, we were told.
Like the food, the décor at Homegrown Kitchen feels cleansing. The location on Main Street in Buffalo was filled with natural light and featured plants everywhere. It’s the ideal place to stop for a lunch break and forget about all the TPS reports piling up on your desk.
We’ve seen a number of these health-conscious, California-style restaurants pop up across Western New York recently, and places like Homegrown Kitchen are the place to go if you’re looking for tons of flavor and you’re not on a ‘cheat day’.
If you are on a cheat day, you can probably meet us at the bar for a burger and a freakshake.
916 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
650 Main Street, East Aurora, NY 14052
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. — 8 p.m., Saturday & Sunday, 11 a.m. — 6 p.m.