Like lots of healthy restaurants on the Los Angeles food scene, Kye’s, which opened November 5 in Santa Monica, makes a killer superfood smoothie and kale salad.
But it’s the signature KyeRitos, tidy handheld foods that are a healthy riff on the burrito, that make it a genre-breaker among LA’s fast-healthy-casual spots.
Here, the menu (about $9 to $12) focuses on all manner of foods—rolled up. There’s a section that draws from comfort food classics like a grass-fed burger or a turkey dinner reimagined into a nori wrap. Another devoted to Asian dishes like a vegan Nahm Jim and a salmon macro bowl transformed in a handheld meal, no chopsticks necessary. And there’s even a deli-style Niman Ranch pastrami Reuben (sans the rye bread). Yes, there are raw, vegan options, too.
“The vegan wife can come with the junk food husband, and everyone’s happy,” says owner and holistic health expert Jeanne Cheng, who got the idea—and the name—from her son, Kye (now 8), who’s long had gluten and dairy sensitivities.
Cheng explains how she found herself cooking the same foods that Kye’s kindergarten peers were eating “but with a more conscious approach.” Think nutrient-dense veggies, clean proteins, superfoods, and collards or nori, which, of course, have a killer nutritional profile compared to a tortilla, and are all staples at Kye’s.
“It really evolved out of how I feed my son and feed my family,” says Cheng, who holds degrees in molecular biology and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The combination, along with studying Ayurveda and consulting with “some great chefs,” helped her take it the next level, she explains.
The hallmark of her cool new restaurant is the way she showcases these great ingredients. While a KyeRito could pass for a burrito in trendy packaging, it proves to be a functionally intelligent design for anyone who wants healthy food on the go. (After all, driving while eating a kale salad is up there with texting as a safety hazard.)
We could explain how the packaging works, but it’s better to just watch the cute instructional video on how to unwrap the KyeRito, which plays by the cash register (or on the website, check out See how to eat your KyeRito). There’s an inner cellophane wrapper marked with a yellow tab that you gently “shake and pull” to remove from the wrapper before you bite into one.
It’s pretty genius for preserving crisp veggies and freshness. (Because who wants to eat a soggy nori wrap?) An outer wrapper remains, keeping your ingredients off your lap and favorite white jeans.
Cheng has big dreams for the future of the KyeRito. Besides adding delivery and more locations, she envisions her handheld nutrient-wonder on college campuses, carried by doctors working long shifts, and as a grab-n-go staple at gyms like Equinox. “The possibilities are endless with this food,” Cheng says. —Kara Griffin
Kye’s, 1518 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, 90403, www.kyesmontana.com