An overachieving chain eatery with boldly flavored food, healthful ingredients and affordable prices
My first impression of CoreLife Eatery: It's another fast-casual establishment that features healthy-minded, customizable bowls and salads.
My second impression of CoreLife Eatery: This restaurant chain sounds like a spin-off from a line of fitness equipment. (It isn't.)
My lasting impression of the CoreLife Eatery in the Lennox Town Center (I didn't visit the CoreLife in the Polaris area): When factoring in flavor, price and dishes packed with nutritious ingredients, this overachieving eatery is hard to beat.
Occupying a sprawling space with patio seating in a strip-mall parking lot (some of it beneath a trellis) and a capacious, open interior with simple tables, padded booths and pictures of folks flaunting an active lifestyle (biking, doing yoga, etc.), CoreLife looks what is: a slick, spotlessly maintained corporate operation.
It's only after ordering from a potentially confusing menu with seemingly endless combinations, and moving through the cafeteria-style line, paying and waiting for helpful servers to quickly prepare meals, that diners find out how flavorful, texturally appealing and genre-eclipsing the dishes are here.
Kudos to whoever developed CoreLife's impressive corporate recipes, which typically enhance good base ingredients with judiciously applied herbs, bright acidic components and various hot sauces. The culture-hopping results outclass most competitors, and often at lower prices.
Take, for example, the sizable Grass-Fed Steak Bowl, starring lean-but-flavor-packed and far-from-cheap meat. The pre-sliced beef arrives nicely seared and with a spice-crusted exterior and pink interior. Add on quinoa, plus a rewarding root-veggie medley scented with herbs, and the tab is only $10.95.
The Tuna Poke grain bowl ($10.45), with a lively miso-sesame-ginger dressing, is another highlight. A generous collection of fresh-tasting fish cubes coated in black and white sesame seeds is accompanied by a nifty, texturally dynamic salad made with napa cabbage, edamame, cucumbers, quinoa, toasted almond slivers, avocado, kale that doesn't give your jaws a workout, and more. It's filling, refreshing, super-healthful, delicious and inexpensive. What more could you want?
How about something without animal protein, you ask? No problem. Try the Sriracha Ginger Roasted Tofu “green bowl” ($7.95). Soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and plenty of well-integrated hot sauces make this bold jumble of firm bean curd, slivered broccoli, spicy sprouts, baby spinach, tender kale and other veggies as flavorful as it is nutritious.
Grilled, tender, antibiotic-free chicken breast cubes grace a few dishes, too. And both the Southwest Grilled Chicken Purple Rice Blend ($8.95), which is like a decked-out burrito-bowl salad with romaine lettuce and tortilla strips, and the Spicy Chicken Rice Bowl ($9.95) — sauteed squashes, spinach, pickled onions and extra-zippy, but not crispy, green falafel are among its many accompaniments — are good picks.
Frankly, though, I didn't suffer a single stinker during multiple visits. This includes the Spicy Ginger Steak Rice Noodle soup ($8.95), made with nutrient-rich beef bone broth and a few cubes of good-tasting stew meat. Beef bone broth has been having a culinary moment lately, and CoreLife's version hits the right note — it's oily enough to make your lips slick.
Prefer soups that are less rich? The cheese-kissed, alluring Tomato and Basil bisque ($5.45) receives thickness from pureed cauliflower rather than cream, and the Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle ($6.95) has a pleasant, Thai-style sour quality offset by coconut milk.
Like practically everything else here, CoreLife's selection of house soft drinks, such as the lemonade-based Watermelon Agua Fresca ($3) and the refreshingly tart Tropical Punch ($3), is cuts above what you'll get from most of its competitors.