Two new restaurants in Chicago you can eat well and pay it forward at: Be Leaf Salad and Zoom Pizza Factory
I was recently treated to a meal at two new restaurants in Chicago; each of which has a plant-forward menu and fits in with the Ashley Gilday brand, “live well, eat well, pay it forward”. The first restaurant is a gourmet salad and grain bowl concept in the loop and the other a create-your-own pizza concept in Lincoln Park. Each restaurant does good by using sustainable and compostable serveware and offers plenty of plant-based ingredients for guests to build their own heart-healthy meal. They each partner with different charities to pay it forward. Let’s check them out below.
Restaurant 1: Be Leaf Salad
Address: 29 N Wacker Dr. Chicago, IL
Be Leaf , a clever play on the word “believe”, is a fast-casual spin on a gourmet salad bar. With over 49 ingredients (many of which are vegan) you can craft your own salad [$7.60 includes 4 “goods” + $1.25 for premium toppings], wrap or grain bowl with the option to select one of their seasonal creations. They also offer two seasonal soups that are each vegan and every meal is served with bread from La Farine bakery in Logan Square.
The great thing about Be Leaf, aside from the abundant ingredients to choose from, is their portions are substantially larger than typical fast-casual restaurants. I tried it out for myself and was quite impressed with the size! You can trust my judgment as I am notorious for mountain-sized salads whenever I visit a salad bar.
The founder, Rebecca Marks, is a young female entrepreneur with no restaurant experience. She had a dream and went for it. Her inspiration for Be Leaf came from visiting New York city and falling in love with like-concepts. Rebecca saw an opportunity to bring something similar to Chicago, so she created Be Leaf. Having concern for their carbon footprint, Rebecca chose to use 100% compostable serving utensils and has “green” elements in the design of her store. All of the ingredients at Be Leaf are sourced locally when possible and local farm partners are listed on the wall in the restaurant. Be Leaf is also a partner of No Kid Hungry. How’s that for paying it forward?
Today, Be Leaf has one location in Chicago’s loop. This is to serve the Monday-Friday working crowd as Be Leaf is currently open only for lunch. They are working on their catering menu and afternoon/early evening service. Selfishly, the only downfall I see is their location. It’s not ideal for the rest of us non 9-5 “loopers”, but it is worth a visit.
Be Leaf is sponsoring our Trio Animal Foundation benefit in December and Rebecca will be there as she is a big animal advocate. Grab your tickets, support a great cause and perhaps you can win a $30.00 gift card and become a “Be Leafer” yourself.
Restaurant 2: Zoom Pizza Factory
Address: 2156 N Clybourn Ave. Chicago, IL
Create your own artisanal pizza concepts are a hot trend, but what does it take to make one brand stand out from the others? At Zoom Pizza Factory there are a few things that set this “good doing” stand-alone fast-casual pizza spot apart from the rest. The owner, JR Werner, wanted to give back in addition to providing guests with a customizable experience catering to every diet. He uses compostable serveware and partners with various charities and has ingredients suited for vegans, gluten avoiders and meat-lovers alike.
JR suffers from a severe gluten intolerance, so being a pizza lover, he wanted to create a safe place for people who had similar struggles to go eat without worrying about cross-contamination or cardboard like pizza crust. There are two gluten-free crusts; one is Ancient Grain and not advertised as gluten-free on the menu (which is smart, because I wouldn’t have ordered it, but I did and I loved it!) and even Daiya vegan cheese amongst at least 4 other premium cheese offerings (blue, goat, feta and Parmesan). Guests start at one side of the line and choose either a pizza or “zalata” – a pizza salad on a base of your choice of shell (crust) olive oil and Parmesan cheese (genius – I’ve been making pizza salads for years and love them!).
There are unlimited traditional toppings [$7.75] and unlimited premium toppings such as squash, sweet potatoes, shaved Brussels sprouts and specialty cheeses and meats [$8.75]. Once you finished creating your masterpiece, 5 minutes later your meal will be served to you. To drink, I recommend sticking with water. Not because the other drinks are bad, but by purchasing “the water bar”; flat, sparkling or distilled water complete with fresh fruits and berries to boot [$1.25] at Zoom Pizza Factory, you give water to those in need through a collaboration with water.org. How’s that for paying it forward?
There is WiFi available as well as a separate room for business professionals to work in quite. JR has a technology background and helped create an application for carry out that enables GPS to pinpoint a guests location and allows them to pick up their order exactly when it comes out of the oven.
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All in all, it was a great experience and different from some of the other fast-casual pizza concepts in Chicago. I love the fact that Zoom gives back through the water program. The food was great, we really liked the pizza crusts (shells) and the zalata was quite tasty. We will definitely be going back.
Have you tried Be Leaf or Zoom Pizza Factory yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!