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LYFE Kitchen
Veggie mix: Tal's Grain Bowl at LYFE Kitchen.

When a chef famous for his fried chicken loses 100 pounds and starts running marathons, you know he’s eating something amazingly healthy. 

At LYFE Kitchen, you can dig into the meals that transformed Art Smith. The new River North restaurant is the first of ten Chicago locations of the fast-casual chain that’s great for guilt-free workday lunches. (Smith oversees the menu alongside his pal acclaimed vegan chef Tal Ronnen.) 

Smith’s “unfried” chicken ($13)--as crispy as his traditional version thanks to the same buttermilk soak and flavorful breading--has already stirred the hearts of LYFE’s West Coast fans. We thought we’d even the score by trying a newer favorite, Tal’s Grain Bowl ($12), a veggie-laden stir-fry dotted with Gardein “beef tips.” 

It was our first taste of Gardein, the meatless protein that celebs like Ellen adore. We’re on board with its spot-on look and flavor, though its soft texture is not quite, well, meaty.

Since everything at LYFE has less than 600 calories and 1,000 milligrams of sodium, we felt virtuous enough to spring for dessert.

We picked a little treat called budino ($4), which proves chia seeds are way more appealing when soaked in pomegranate juice and topped with dark-chocolate mousse. Health food rules.

Lyfe Kitchen, 413 N. Clark St.;

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