Midtown office workers who wander into The Little Beet for lunch may be surprised to recognize Top Chef Masters star Franklin Becker plating their salmon and Brussels sprouts.
But that’s how involved Becker is in his latest project, a super healthy fast casual joint that feels like a chef-driven, upscale version of Dig Inn. The Little Beet opened at the end of December and is now serving 850 to 1,000 customers a day, with a line out the door during peak lunch hours. (Go before you’re hungry.)
The vegetable-focused, gluten-free, carefully-sourced menu comes with a fine-dining taste profile inspired by Becker’s long career in New York establishment kitchens like Abe and Arthur’s and Brasserie, and a nutrition profile inspired by his own health issues. “It was a scary realization that, ‘Okay, I’m 27 years old, I have diabetes, what do I do here?'” he says. “So I just started to look at what I was eating and changing the way I did things.”
Becker says The Little Beet is already scouting additional locations, so he can reach more people. “We’re a society that has so many ailments, from obesity and diabetes to Celiac. Why wouldn’t you want to make a difference, and impact society in a positive way?” (And have a nice career while you’re at it.)
We stopped in to test drive some of the Top Chef’s most popular creations. Here’s our First Taste Report, plus a recipe you can whip up at home.
The Space: The Little Beet was built to invoke a farm-fresh vibe, with lots of light wood and a “living wall” of plants. There are a few tables near the entry and a larger seating area upstairs (similar to Hu Kitchen’s set-up), and all of the to-go packaging is biodegradable. If you eat in, you’ll get a plate.
The Food: You choose a protein—chicken, steak, salmon, or tofu—and then add on veggie and grain salad sides. We tried the tofu, marinated in gluten-free soy sauce, daikon radish, and scallions, and the salmon, made with gluten-free soy sauce and lemon, and both were beyond delicious. And every side dish we tried we’d order a second time, from charred broccoli and cauliflower to southwest-style millet, lentils, and buckwheat soba noodles.
You can also can order pre-set salads and sandwiches or grab some liquid greens from a cooler of cold-pressed juices. The “Wake Me Up,” made with spinach, pineapple, mango, and creamy avocado is a must-try. Breakfast and seasonal specials are served daily, too.
Prices: While the food’s totally worth it in terms of quality, flavor, and knowing there’s a Top Chef at the helm, the prices are very steep for a “just grabbing lunch” kind of day. A protein with two sides is $13, a plate of three sides is $11.50. Sandwiches are $9.50, salads $12.50 with protein. But we can totally justify it after a few budget-friendly days of brown-bagging it. —Lisa Elaine Held
Get The Little Beet’s recipe for Lentil salad with avocado and pecans here!
The Little Beet, 135 W. 50th St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves., Midtown West, New York City, www.thelittlebeet.com