Over the past few months, one of the more interesting developments in Midtown lunching has been the opening of Eatsa, a San Francisco-based chain selling $6.95 quinoa salad bowls, currently with two locations in Midtown East. Eatsa is unique in part because of its reliance on technology and automation. You order at a kiosk (or on your phone), and then when the food is ready, it lets you know which cubby to pick it up in, just like an automat. The second location of Eatsa opened up last week and we both stopped by to finally try them out. (In the interests of full disclosure, we signed up early online to get codes for free bowls, but we both agreed that our opinions of the bowls and the experience would have been the same even if we had paid.) In the time it has taken us to finish up this post, M already returned a second time to Eatsa to try out a different bowl. We considered waiting until we tried them all before posting, but figured then it might take us forever to write this.
On my first visit, I got the Smokehouse bowl (toasted red quinoa, mixed greens, BBQ ranch dressing, cucumber, tomato, grilled corn, pickled onions, white cheddar, crispy onion strings, BBQ portobello), and from the extra free garnishes, added green onions and cilantro. (The other free add-ons were parsley and sesame seeds, but I didn't think they made sense here.) I went at an off time, so it was not very crowded while there, and therefore, I didn't feel that bad about taking my time at the kiosk checking out all the ordering options.
This bowl was so tasty. At first, I thought maybe they forgot the extra garnishes because I couldn't see them, but they were there, hiding in the greens below the quinoa. The order was 100% accurate. Everything mixed together was really good, very fresh, very healthy-tasting, and a good combination. I liked it so much that I thought it would be difficult to pick a different bowl the next time, because I might keep getting drawn back to this one. Compared to the other salad chains, there were a lot more ingredients in the bowl and for a lower price, so I think Eatsa is going to provide some good competition, at least for my lunch spending. I liked everything about the experience - easy electronic ordering from a kiosk (especially after a horrific customer service experience on the phone with someone else earlier that afternoon), nice staff members, good healthy food, and prompt customer service in the form of instant surveys and follow-up emails. Overall, I left very impressed with plans to return.
On my second visit, I got the Aloha bowl (sesame seeds, edamame, orange miso dressing, portobello poke, macaroni salad, taro root chips, cucumber, island style quinoa, lomi lomi tomato, wakame, pickled ginger, and napa cabbage), to which I once again added green onions and cilantro. Although I prefer the Smokehouse if I had to choose between the two, this bowl was really good. Very healthy, very light, so many different ingredients, and very filling. I'm not usually a fan of pickled ginger, but this one was pretty mild and didn't make me wince, so that was good. The whole bowl just worked well together other than the mac salad, which wasn't bad as part of it and tasted fine on its own, but whose flavor got a little lost when mixed together. Overall, it tasted more like an Asian salad bowl to me than a Hawaiian bowl, but I was pretty happy with it. Can't wait to try more bowls!
For my free bowl I opted to get the Bento bowl (stir fried quinoa with egg, edamame, crispy wonton strips, teriyaki sauce, miso portabello, apple-cabbage slaw). I didn't know you could add free items so I left it as is. It was a little on the crowded side when I went since it was right in the middle of the lunch rush, but I didn't have to wait that long. It's a neat system where you order on iPads and then wait to pick up your food in a little drawer/kiosk on the wall. It's a cool POS, and I can't wait to go back to play around with it.
The bowl tasted really great. The majority of the flavor came from the portabello mushrooms and teriyaki sauce, but every component definitely had its place and was well thought out. I'm usually not a fan of food with wonton strips, but these were so light and crisp and didn't feel oily or heavy at all. The egg, unfortunately, was something of an afterthought. That little white rectangle near the edamame was the majority of the egg that was in the bowl. The apple-cabbage slaw was interesting but far less sweet than I was expecting. Overall this was a delicious bowl, but it's also the least caloric bowl they offer. I was hungry about an hour and a half later, but it was at least delicious. I'm definitely looking forward to going back.