CoreLife's concept mirrors quick-service establishments like Chipotle or Bibibop Asian Grill. Here's one family's take.

The Mom Says:

My family is used to health food. Kale is not foreign. Quinoa is served at our table. And rich broths are commonplace. The kids may not always love them, but such ingredients are familiar. So I was excited to see if CoreLife Eatery could be added to our family's list of dining-out options, since it offers these types of foods and more.

The first question we should have asked ourselves before showing up is, “How should we order?”

The concept mirrors quick-service establishments like Chipotle or Bibibop Asian Grill, with a basic meal starting at $5.95. Diners choose two items off the base menu: a grain, including quinoa, a wild rice blend or rice noodles; and/or a green, such as raw kale, baby spinach or romaine lettuce.

Next, choose up to four vegetarian ingredients, such as beans, corn, mushrooms and carrots; extra items are 45 cents each. Customers have the option of adding premium ingredients at an additional cost, starting at $1.25 (choices include chicken, beef, tofu, hard-boiled egg, avocado and cheese).

Finally, top it off with either the bone broth (chicken, beef or vegetarian) or one of many dressings, including Thai cashew, carrot chili vinaigrette or Greek yogurt blue cheese. And voila, you've made your dish.

Or do what we did: Stand a bit confused in line because we didn't ask the ordering question before we left. So, we decided to choose some of the premade combinations (ranging from $8.50 to $9) to get a feel for the flavors CoreLife offers.

Being a fan of soups, I ordered a broth dish, the Spicy Ginger Steak and Rice Noodle. It includes grilled steak, rice noodles, raw kale softened slightly by the hot broth, broccoli, carrots, scallions, sliced almonds, freshly grated ginger (they literally grated a knob over my bowl), cilantro and sriracha. The broth had a deep beef flavor. It felt healthful and warm going down. It lacked complexity that you might get with a pho broth, but it was solid in flavor.

I also tried the Chicken Cobb Salad. I love a Cobb salad and have no preconceived notion that it's healthy just because it says “salad.” I wanted to see how a more healthful version compares. With most of the same ingredients, including the bacon and blue cheese dressing, it offered hints of its calorie-laden counterpart. The dressing was not as strong as one would expect from a “normal” blue cheese dressing, but it provided enough flavor to satisfy. There were no croutons because the restaurant is gluten-free, but the romaine kept it crunchy.

A few lessons learned from our first visit to CoreLife Eatery will shape how we order when we go back. The food was underseasoned across the board—understandable since they cater to a crowd that wants less sodium. The available sea salt grinders helped us season the food to our liking and bring out the natural flavors. We will definitely reach for those earlier on our next visit.

Also, the freshly grated ginger is healthful and a nice touch, and we liked it in our meals. But stir it well, so you don't get a big mouthful all at once as Adam did.

Overall, what they are doing they are doing well. The aroma and the clean, sleek atmosphere reinforce the messaging. But ordering definitely takes some thought to ensure you and your kids get something you will enjoy the first time around.

—Tricia Keels

The Kid (Age 12) Says:

This restaurant reminded me of a Piada because I could tell we would have to go through a line to order our food. I liked that they had long tables where we could sit together but not feel crowded.

I got the Ginger Steak and Rice Noodles. I like pad thai and thought this might be close. But I was disappointed to find out that the whole dish was drowned in raw kale. This just might be because I'm a kid, but I didn't like that there was more kale than noodles, which I knew would be my favorite part. I ate some of the kale, but it was pretty rough so I scraped it to the side to get to the noodles and steak. I liked that part of the meal. But as I continued to eat, I felt my tongue burning because the raw ginger was not mixed in and I ate a big mouthful.

Then I tried my mom's dish that was almost the same but with broth. It had the rice noodles and steak but less kale—maybe because she already ate it. It was bland, and the only flavor I could taste was spice.

I did like the juice bar ($2.95 with refills), and it made the drinks my favorite part of the restaurant. They had eight to 10 different choices. And since it was self-serve, I could go up and try as many as I wanted. I tried cranberry lemonade with cayenne, the tropical green tea and the beet lemonade, which was nothing like lemonade, but it was sweet and I liked it.

My mom said we could choose better knowing what we know now. If she takes me back, I think I'll get something without kale.

—Adam Keels

How'd They Like It?

The Food

Mom: Normal Smile

Kid: Frown

The Service:

Mom: Normal Smile

Kid: Normal Smile

The Bathroom:

Mom: Normal Smile (There is a changing table.)

Kid: Normal Smile

Favorite Bite:

Mom: The beef broth in the Spicy Ginger Steak and Rice Noodle dish

Kid: Cranberry lemonade with cayenne