The restaurant features a grab-and-go dining style, with refrigerated shelves along the walls holding delicious and healthy food options. There’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken served with rice, beans, yucca and plantains, a Kale Chicken Caesar Salad with fresh veggies and whole-wheat croutons, and a spaghetti squash bowl complete with turkey quinoa meatballs. Diners may easily pick up food to go, or warm food in several microwaves onsite and stick around.
The gourmet menu is prepared daily by chef Craig Hopson, formerly of New York’s esteemed Le Cirque, along with Johnny Yoo, culinary director of Roy Choi’s beloved Hawaiian soul food joint, A-Frame. Each tasty bowl at the South LA location is sold at under $4 a pop, a price that was determined by evaluating median income data from the surrounding community. A second location forthcoming downtown, will sell the same food to a mainly more affluent community, at an elevated price of $8.
‘Stores in food deserts are self-sustaining, while stores in more affluent areas help us grow,’ co-founder Sam Polk told Tech Insider. The elevated cost at the downtown location will help the for-profit shore up funds to open several more locations in Boyle Heights, Inglewood, Compton, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and other neighborhoods. Plus, the $8 price tag is still affordable compared to similar healthy fast-food restaurants, like Simply Salad and Tender Greens, where meals run between $7-$13.
Polk and co-founder David Foster keep each store’s overhead low by eliminating the need for a wait staff or a built-out kitchen space (the food is prepared fresh every morning at an off-site kitchen). Situated in the agricultural epicenter of California, local ingredients are easily and affordably sourced.
The seed for Everytable was planted while Polk and Foster were running Groceryships, a nonprofit nutrition education program that was headquartered in the space that Everytable’s flagship store now inhabits (Polk is the founder and Foster served as the organization’s Director of Operations). The two wanted to take the direction a step futher with Everytable, filling a gap in the local foodscape and impacting the food system – it’s leveling the unequal playing field with a clever business model.
With an attention to meaningful details and an ear to the ground, the restaurant makes good on its mission to serve low-income communities. The menu itself was designed collaboratively with families in the Groceryships program to cater to the community in mind. There is a pozole with baked tortilla chips, chicken tinga in chipotle sauce with black beans and grains, and a Vietnamese chicken salad with mung bean noodles and lemongrass. Furthermore, Everytable employs members of the community and donates all unsold meals to a homeless shelter at the end of the day.
The restaurant’s opening is part of a wave of social entrepreneurship that addresses food insecurity in Los Angeles. Earlier this year, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened healthy fast food joint Locol in neighboring Watts, increasing access to affordable meals and employing the immediate community. Actor Danny Trejo’s new food venture, Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea, also proudly donates its daily leftovers to local homeless shelters. Robert Egger of L.A. Kitchen told the LA Times that he expects Everytable to make waves: ‘The Everytable model is one of the most exciting experiments of food democracy in LA and in America.’
Access to healthy food options is literally a matter of life or death. 70% of American adults are overweight, and obesity exacerbates risk of heart disease and diabetes, leading causes of death nationwide. With socially conscious models like Everytable bringing their A-game to the food scene, there’s potential for meaningful change to the health of Angelenos. Onward!