In cities like Boston, the once iconic American fast-food culture has been replaced by a new flow of healthy, fast-casual restaurants. Instead of burgers and fries, many establishments serve up meals made with organic and locally sourced ingredients, whole vegetables, clean proteins and nourishing spices — not as afterthoughts a la a McDonald’s salad (the Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad at 520 calories isn’t even that healthy), but as the main focus of their business.
Plus, you don’t have to wait more than 10 minutes to eat.
From the prominent Sweetgreen chain to the one-of-a-kind Spyce robotic restaurant, we’ve gathered eight healthy fast-casual places where you can quickly grab a healthy meal.
Where to Eat: By CHLOE
By CHLOE is the vegan alternative to your fast-food cravings. One among a few plant-based restaurants around town, By Chloe features locally sourced ingredients, menu items redefine classic fast food options.
For example, hamburgers are made with tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patties and potato buns. The Mac n’ Cheese is made with a sweet potato and cashew cheese sauce, shiitake bacon and almond parmesan. French fries are air-baked, containing less oil and fat than regular fries.
Grab a quick brunch with healthy oats or scrambled tofu toasts or a dessert like non-dairy ice cream and fresh pastries.
Seaport, Fenway and Back Bay.
Where to Eat: B. Good
Inspired by each of the four seasons B.Good offers burgers, salads, grain bowls and smoothies made with nutrient-rich ingredients that align with the local harvests.
Each B.Good location partners with area farmers who uphold high animal welfare standards. Its upcoming fall menu features items like butternut squash salad and green chili burgers. For winter, expect Brussels sprouts and burgers with cabbage.
Downtown Crossing, Back Bay, Seaport, Fenway-Kenmore and more.
Where to Eat: Honeygrow
A restaurant concept based out of Philadelphia, Honeygrow specializes in customized stir-fry and salads made with local ingredients. At the grill, standouts include rice noodles, egg-white noodles and Spanish rice, with favorite proteins such as roasted shrimp or spicy tofu, vegetables and house-made sauces.
Diners can also indulge guilt-free in something sweet at the Honeybar, where you can create your own dessert with fresh fruit, local yogurt, house-made whipped cream and other garnishes.
Fenway, Seaport and Financial District.
Where to Eat: Dig Inn
Dig Inn is another customizable salad and bowl establishment with seasonal and vegetable-rich foods. It sources its ingredients from small-scale farms, as close to each restaurant as possible.
Diners won’t get bored. The menu rotates six times per year. You choose your base grain or salad, pick from proteins like herb-roasted chicken or wild Alaskan salmon. Then add sides like sweet potatoes and fruit.
Back Bay, Downtown Crossing, Prudential Center and Seaport.
Where to Eat: Spyce
A first of its kind, Spyce features a robotic kitchen that cooks globally inspired cuisine bowls and serves it up in just three minutes. Invented by four MIT students and led by culinary director Chef Daniel Boulud, diners can enjoy consistently made and flavorful dishes at an affordable price ($7.50 per bowl).
Bowls can be customized according to taste and dietary restrictions whether you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free or vegan. The Spyce team made the intentional decision to not include any beef in their dishes, as they believe beef production is not sustainable.
Choose a bowl with worldly flavors like Korean, Lebanese, Indian, Latin and Thai. The Lebanese bowl for example features chicken, lentils, fresh dill, tahini, feta and cucumber salad.
241 Washington St., Boston
Where to Eat: Grainmaker
Created in Boston, Grainmaker is inspired by Southeast Asian-style street food and made with locally sourced produce, sustainably-raised proteins and is 100 percent dairy-free and gluten-free.
One of its hits is the organic volcano rice, grown in Southeast Asia in actual volcanic soil. Handmade kale and pork meatballs are delicious, too.
Seasonal menu items include the citrus salmon poke bowl and chef signature dishes like the Ginger Vibes, made with volcano brown rice, kale and bok choy, green beans, onions, mango salsa and your choice of protein.
If you want a side dish or snack, try the street tacos or plantain chips with Thai guac.
Downtown Crossing and Somerville
Where to Eat: Tender Greens
Each Tender Greens’ location boasts a kitchen led by an actual chef, which makes it unique for fast-casual restaurants.
The first Tender Greens opened in 2006 in Culver City, where its staff seasonally and responsibly sourced ingredients.
Although a chain, each location has its own distinct flavor with daily specials created uniquely by each chef. If you have a hankering for classic homestyle food, Tender Greens has plenty of it with customizable dishes like mashed potatoes, buttermilk fried chicken, chipotle barbecue chicken and caesar salad.
Copley Place and Chestnut Hill
Where to Eat: Sweetgreen
Founded in 2007, still-wildly popular Sweetgreen is one of the original salad bar restaurants. It has since proliferated, and there’s one on just about every corner in Boston.
Offering seasonal salads and grain bowls, customers can customize to their liking by choosing each base, protein, toppings and dressing.
Diners can also choose from pre-curated signature salads, which rotate each season. In fall, ingredients reflect the autumnal harvest produce sourced from nearby farms.
Downtown Crossing, Seaport, Back Bay, Fenway-Kenmore and more