More Events:

February 05, 2016

Inside Snap Kitchen, Philly's healthy new fast food option

Grab-and-go stores open this weekend

Restaurants Food
02-020416_SnapKitchen_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Chicken butternut squash macaroni: Brown rice macaroni, roasted butternut squash, ground chicken, walnuts, roasted garlic and goat cheese.

Update: The Midtown East location at 1109 Walnut St. is now open. It joins locations open in Villanova (775 Lancaster Ave.), Rittenhouse, Fairmount, Old City and Malvern. Still to open this year is a location in Cherry Hill. Look for the latter to open soon.

For all the detail that goes into the preparation of Snap Kitchen's finest foods, you'd never know it's fast food.

But it is, and it's no McDonald's.

Snap Kitchen is a healthy food brand created in Austin in 2010 by Martin Berson and now led by CEO David Kirchhoff, who held positions at Weight Watchers for 13 years. The latter, of note, speaks to the nature of the brand: It's not a sit-down restaurant (the most you'll find is a high-top counter to munch by). Instead, it's a grab-and-go, one-stop shop of pre-packaged meals that consist of everything from Snap-made organic juices to vegan-friendly Spanish rice to 100-percent-grass-fed bison hash. 

Philadelphia is the first East Coast city to launch Snap locations; two stores will open at 11 a.m. on Saturday, one at 1901 Callowhill Street and another at 243 Market Street. Five more locations, in Midtown Village, Rittenhouse Square (Update: Now open at 1901 Chestnut St.), Villanova, Cherry Hill and Malvern will open within the calendar year. There are 37 total stores, between Austin, Houston, Dallas and Chicago.

Meals, which are typically microwaved or briefly heated in an oven, are developed in Austin by Executive Chef Matt Reinhart. Locally, those meals are prepared daily at an 8,500-square-foot commissary in Fishtown before being packaged and shipped to store locations.

Reinhart told PhillyVoice the brand generally tries to adhere to three basic rules when developing dishes.

“No. 1, the food has to be delicious," Reinhart said. "No. 2, is it has to fit whatever nutritional goal we’re trying to achieve with that dish -- our chief dietician, who is in Austin with me, she's kind of my wingman. People joke we’re yin and yang of what Snap does ... And then third is the convenience."

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Bison quinoa hash: grass-fed ground bison, organic red quinoa, organic brown rice, organic kidney beans, red onion, reduced fat grated cheddar cheese.

Because Reinhart was previously a French fine-dining chef, a lot of work goes into the "delicious" portion of that equation -- but it's also remarkable just how much attention gets paid to the ingredient lists. Reinhart said he spent the bulk of the past year cleaning up a "naughty list" of ingredients in anticipation of the Philadelphia launch.

"We spent time getting rid of sulfite, and [making sure there are] no additives. The label should be really clean," he explained. "It should just be whatever food is in there -- no words you can’t pronounce."

And they generally are. The ingredient list for their almond-butter maple pancakes, for example, boils down to gluten-free, non-GMO steel cut oats, almond butter, egg, maple syrup, vanilla extract and cinnamon. It's especially true of their juices, like the carrot-ginger "elixir," which is made up of carrot, apple, lime and ginger. 

The brand further claims that 99 percent of their products are gluten-free, with many other dishes designed to be as low-carb as possible. Ingredients, Reinhart clarified, citing eggs in particular, are sourced locally when possible.

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Hundreds of prepared food portions and fresh juices line a cooler along one wall of Snap Kitchen.

There is no consistent flavor theme, though you'll find dishes with French, Asian and Italian inspirations -- deviled-style eggs stuffed with hummus, a Thai chicken salad and lamb lasagna, to name a few. Fans of Weight Watchers-style diets will be pleased to notice most meals are offered in at least two portion sizes: small and medium. And those on vegetarian or paleo diets, too, will be pleased to see that the refrigerated shelves are organized by intuitive colors: blue labels are for fish, red is for red meats, yellow is for poultry and green is for foods that are vegetarian-friendly.

Prices for meals range from about $7 to $14. Juices, meanwhile, will run you around $8. 

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

In addition to entrees, Snap Kitchen also has snacks, desserts and freshly prepared juices.

Snap Kitchen also bakes their own desserts, like brownies made with coconut shreds (the dessert to try), chocolate-chip cookies and macaroons, with vegan parfaits (made using coconut-based yogurt) in the works. The menu, Reinart said, adds new items four times per year. Nine new items will be added to the menu in March.

Snap Kitchen's Old City location will host a public preview event from 4-9 p.m. before its Saturday grand opening.