Fast, casual, healthy, affordable--all buzzwords used to try to break into a market that has become "the thing" over the last few years. Even some of the long running fast food folks have tried to healthy up their menus, not always with success. Into this fray comes Eatsa, billing themselves as better fast food and a place where new technology meets a new kind of healthy food delivery. It sounded intriguing enough for me to at least give up meat for one meal to try them out. Hopefully my stomach won't be overwhelmed with all the vegetable-ness.
Evidently, since it opened, lines have formed literally down the block to eat here. Fortunately I was able to get here before the lunch rush and didn't have deal with being on my phone while waiting for some food I may or may not like. Kind of why I don't do brunch lines, but that's another story. Walking in you are greeted by an employee who can show you how to order and explain the menu if necessary. Basically you don't do any ordering with an actual person. You use iPads to place your order and pay (that's right, this is a NO CASH place). Your order is then whisked off to a kitchen that you cannot see. What they have are a wall of cubby holes with glass doors that your food will appear in. You have to put your name, or some name, when ordering. This name then appears on a large screen above the cubbies with a corresponding number as to which one your food is in.
It all looks very clean and sleek (while it is still new) kind of reminds me of those automats from way back when where you just reach into a small glass door box and pull out the food you want. Kind of like a vending machine meets cafeteria. From the time I placed my order till my name came up was quick, like within 2 minutes or so. They have 8 bowls you can choose from and also some options where you can pay an upcharge and customize the bowls if you aren't a fan of one of the ingredients or something. I ordered bowls without changing anything, thus I'm guessing they have these made up and ready to go, explaining the quickness. Customized bowls probably take a bit longer. Though while I was there, folks didn't wait long to get their food. All their bowls use quinoa as the base ingredient and then they build themes around it. Like burrito, Mediterranean, curry, bento, etc. Of course the big kicker is that all the basic bowls are $6.95. That's right, a big bowl of veggies and stuff for under $8 with tax. The money conscious in me was especially intrigued by this to see if quality and quantity matched the price. Let's see.....
This is the smokehouse salad--like I'm not gonna try something bbq like! Toasted red quinoa, white cheddar, mixed greens, crispy onion strings, tomato, grilled corn, cucumber, pickled onions, bbq portobello mushroom topped with a bbq ranch dressing. That's a lot of words and ingredients. Everything is placed like an Asian noodle bowl and check number one: you do get a fair amount of food in the bowl. More than enough to fill you up and feel like you got value for your money, at least for me. After mixing things up with the dressing, I will say I did like it, more than I expected. You know, vegetables and all. The bbq sauce fortunately wasn't really sweet, it was more smokey and added a nice flavoring to the bowl. Vegetables were all fresh and crisp and of course I'm a sucker for fried onion things. My one wish with the bowl would be if the mushrooms were warm. But it's a minor quibble in the overall taste of what you get.
The Mediterranean--pita chips, arugula, feta cheese, tomato, cucumber, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, marinated chickpeas, Greek-style quinoa and a dill yogurt sauce. Honestly, this would not have been my first choice, or a choice at all, but I was with a friend who really wanted to try it, thus I was game. Again, you get a lot and the ingredients all look nice and fresh. Mixing it all in and throwing on the sauce, it does king of remind you of a gyro wrap, just without the gyro meet. Chips give it a nice crunch and outside of the olives (ugh, just not a fan of olives of any kind) it feels like you are eating something healthy and tasty which, I guess, you are. Since my friend really liked it, we will chalk this one up as a winner too.
What can I say, I survived a no meat lunch and still felt full shocking! I guess in order to get people to eat healthy you have to sort of gimmick it up, but also provide tasty food alternatives to the usual. Granted, these are ultimately salads, but they are different enough that Eatsa is able to pull off the fast and healthy thing. Throw in the affordable bit, all that new tech stuff and the place is a winner. I'm guessing this is just the first in what the owners are hoping will be a chain across the country, or big cities at the least. You can add it to the list of San Francisco grown fast foody types like The Melt, Chipotle, Super Duper Burger, etc. While I personally wouldn't be able to have this everyday for lunch, I need to have something hot and meaty once in awhile (that's right, I said it!), I can see this as an alternative for folks out there who want something tasty, healthy and affordable. A triumvirate that can be hard to come by in San Francisco for sure.