Dayton Eats: The best new destination for casual, healthy — and yummy

6:00 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, 2018
CoreLife Eatery has everything you need to meet your New Year’s resolution goals. The spicy ginger steak and rice noodles broth bowl with some added edamame with a spicy chicken bowl and a poke tuna salad bowl in the background. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ALEXIS LARSEN

As society continues to amp up, so does our food.

Diners want speed, choice, price, quality and convenience when it comes to what they eat, which has helped fuel the fast-casual movement in dining that we increasingly see coming to the market.

According to marketing research from Euromonitor International, fast-casual concepts (think Chipotle) have seen sales grow 10 to 11 percent annually over the last five years, with Americans spending more than $21 billion at fast casual restaurants last year. In the same time, full-service restaurants saw 1.5 to 2 percent growth while the fast-food industry increased 3 to 4 percent.

Although part of me laments the shift and change as a diner who loves and celebrates fine dining and wishes there were more of it in town, I totally understand why it is happening. And for some establishments that are done right, I embrace it — especially when it taps into healthier dining and better-quality ingredients.

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One of my latest obsessions, and probably my favorite fast casual concept in the region right now, is CoreLife Eatery. It opened in Centerville late last year.

This is the perfect destination to help with goals in the new year with green, grain and broth-based, GMO-free heart-healthy creations that are free of artificial sweeteners, colors, additives and trans fats.

It’s clear when you walk into this bright, colorful modern cafeteria-like setting that health and wellness is going to be the focal point of the meal. After all, you are what you eat, and the signage reminds you of that when you walk in.

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The first location, which opened in Syracuse, N.Y., in 2015, has resulted in additional locations that have popped up in rapid-fire succession with 26 now open and 27 set to open in 2018, including a location in Miamisburg.

There is an attention to detail that you can taste and is really wonderful considering the price you pay (about $9-$12 on average). From the broth bowls featuring slow-simmered vegetable and bone broths that are made fresh every day to the rainbow of fresh veggies and greens that greets you at the order counter, this is a destination that prides itself on healthy, power-packed ingredients.

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On first visit, it feels like one of the more complicated concepts — but relax, go with it and it will start to make sense really quickly.

Here’s how it works …

1) Start with a base. Choose from greens like baby spinach, romaine, kale, arugula, mesclun or napa cabbage or grains like tri-colored quinoa, organic brown rice or rice noodles.

2) Add up to four ingredients choosing from jalapeños, corn, broccoli, beets, sprouts, peppers, red onions, cucumber, tomato, scallions, carrots, celery, chickpeas, peas, mandarin oranges, cauliflower, black beans, dried cranberries, edamame, sprouts, shiitake mushrooms and ginger.

3) Accessorize with premium ingredients like feta cheese, gorgonzola cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, avocados, bacon, parmesan crisps, egg, roasted tofu, falafel, antibiotic-free chicken or grass-fed steak.

4) Choose a broth or a dressing. Broths: Beef bone broth, chicken bone broth, vegetable broth. Dressings: Balsamic vinaigrette, carrot chili vinaigrette, citrus poppyseed, cranberry vinaigrette, cucumber basil, Thai cashew, Greek yogurt Caesar, Greek yogurt bleu cheese, lime cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette, miso sesame ginger, sriracha, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon squeeze or fresh lime squeeze.

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It sounds more complicated than it is. Basically, choose from meals that the fine folks at CoreLife Eatery’s corporate kitchen have designed, like the wonderful spicy ginger steak and rice noodles broth bowl, kale Caesar chicken salad or the spicy Thai chicken and rice noodle bowl. Or, make it up as you go along. It’s that easy. All items are gluten-free, it’s a very vegan friendly restaurant and if you are on any kind of a diet there is something that will work for you here.

There’s a reason the fast-casual dining category now accounts for 5 percent of all restaurant traffic, up from just 1 percent in 2000. As more options pop up that are as smart, bright and delicious as CoreLife Eatery, expect to see these incredible gains to continue.

Several weeks ago in an online review, Wayne Norton wrote: “So good! So good! and good for you too! Delicious food, great selection, really friendly, really nice people. Go here, you will love it!”

My feeling exactly.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.