Bowl Control: Balancing Portions in a New Way

From sit-down dining to “create your own” fast food concepts, bowls are popping up everywhere. Chipotle has been featuring bowls for quite some time now as a lighter alternative to their burrito. Instead of getting everything wrapped up in a massive flour tortilla you get it in a bowl, saving you the mess and extra calories.

Whether you are eating a salad or sipping on a bowl of pho, eating from a bowl is somehow much more fun!

It’s your personal serving dish that is spill-free and allows you to mix all of your ingredients together to construct the perfect bite. Bowls have come a long way from simple greens with a protein to creating a reasonable entrée salad. Diners want more color, texture and flavor from their dishes, while still packing a nutritional punch. Instead of serving toppings on your salad, serve some greens with your toppings. Instead of serving pasta with vegetables, serve vegetables with pasta.

Here is what we are talking about and seeing at the restaurants:

  • Noodles and Company now has “Buff Bowls”. Instead of getting noodles, they swap in spinach while also doubling the amount of vegetables. You get all of that, plus a protein, all for less than 400 calories.
  • The Harvest Bowl is served at the east coast favorite, Sweetgreen. Considered a “grain bowl”, this dish is packed with brown rice, apples, goat cheese, almonds, sweet potato, and chicken and then tossed with a small amount of kale. Understandably, most people do not want to eat a whole bowl of kale anyways, so this is sure to fill you up and meet your kale quota.
  • Cava Grill has taken the “make your own” approach and offers Greens and Grains as an option on their menu. Guests can choose greens like their power mix (more kale!) or straight up romaine and add brown or white rice and then pick their toppings. Of course, they have its counterpart, a straight up bowl (no greens), for those wanting to take the heavier approach. They fill the bowl just about halfway with the greens and grains mix, leaving plenty of space for toppings like protein, pickled onions, feta and olives.

I recently had Vietnamese style noodle salad and it was a refreshing Asian-influenced option that didn’t kill me in the hot end-of-summer heat. The bottom of the bowl was full of julienne romaine leaves and then topped with lightly dressed vermicelli noodles, onions, sprouts, herbs and BBQ pork. I tossed it all together in my big bowl and dove in, light and perfect bites. I felt much better after eating that, than say, a steaming plate of veggie lo mein. We’ve seen what is going on this summer with bowls, I’ll be on the lookout for kale packed stews, warm pasta salads and unique broths this winter.

To be continued with what unique twist the food industry will deliver next…

Ray Camillo – Founder & CEO, Blue Orbit Restaurant Consulting

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