It’s a bustling time for new restaurant chains in Silicon Valley, as retail developments grow rapidly and diners begin to embrace mixed models of dining. LYFE Kitchen is not a newcomer—a highly regarded flagship restaurant opened in 2011 in Palo Alto. But while the brand has already spread to places like Denver and Chicago, it had yet to open a second location in the Bay Area until now.

The self-proclaimed “fine fast casual” establishment has a fitting location in Cupertino’s Main Street complex, which will be rife with activity now that many of its restaurants have opened and a bullseye-branded department store is soon to join. This month’s grand opening event treated guests to a Brussels sprouts ribbon cutting ceremony serenaded with an original LYFE Kitchen song by Stanford’s longest running a capella group, Mixed Company. The new location retains a live herb garden wall, just like the Palo Alto location, symbolizing the “Feed Your Self” healthy living concept.

The chef-inspired menu showcases tasty ways to enjoy healthy eating. The piping hot flatbreads were satisfying, especially the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes in the Margherita and the sweet and smoky BBQ Chicken Flatbreads. LYFE fans like myself have been loyal to the Art’s Unfried Chicken, a baked approach to fried chicken, and the Ancient Grain Stir-Fry, which is a filling dish with alternative carbs. The roasted Brussels sprouts and squash side with cranberries and Dijon vinaigrette are a sleeper hit that has grown into a crowd favorite. It is a must have with any meal and is under $5.

The self-service water bar is a great idea for our drought prone state, but it is a better idea not to miss out on any of the LYFE waters. From cucumber mint, Hibiscus beet and ginger mint chia, the infused waters are unsweetened options that are healthy and anything but boring. I had a chance to try the Kale Banana smoothie and Classic lemonades, both of which are refreshing alternatives to the standard fizzy soda sold at most fast casual restaurants. The rich and creamy chocolate budino is a can’t-pass-up pudding dessert that comes with pomegranate chia seeds and toasted almonds.

In an interview with LYFE’s CEO, Chance Carlisle, he cited several ways in which the brand has maintained its food and service quality at its price point. One way is limiting protein options on the menu to only chicken, salmon, and Mahi Mahi. There is a higher operating cost associated with stocking various types of meat. Second, the mostly vegetarian ingredients are prepared with simple cooking techniques and fewer seasonings, making it quick and easy to get on the plate. And last, the ingredients procured at the restaurants are fresh rather than processed to avoid any extra costs. While many of these aspects of the business model provide cost savings, it also benefits the consumer who is ensured fresh produce with few preservatives and additives.

Customers order and pay at the counter, then bring a number back to their table where waiters will bring the food as it is ready. This set up, along with the self-service water station that provides chilled, ambient and sparkling options, is another interpretation of the fresh and fast service Silicon Valley has come to expect.

LYFE Kitchen
American (New), $$
19399 Stevens Creek Blvd. #5, Cupertino.