When it comes to fast-casual food in South Florida, it's not all tacos, burritos, pizza, and sliders. Last month, locally based Green Bar & Kitchen owner Elena Pezzo decided to bring a new movement of eating clean and green with the launch of a new menu at Green Bar Express, a customer-driven eatery that now offers a new approach to dining out on plant-based fare.
The 1,000-square-foot fast-casual location — which opened January 25 off Galt Ocean Drive in Fort Lauderdale — offers an easy way to grab healthy fare on the move and will also serve as a “test kitchen” for the brand's flagship 17th Street restaurant.
At the Galt Ocean Mile location, a chef's bar serves up to 15 people, a spot where customers can dine and watch as the kitchen staff prepares orders. The revamped menu currently has 15 items to choose from, including fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, baked goods, and meat-free rice bowls, wraps, and panini's. Patrons can also choose the make-your-own salad bowl option, made mix-and-matchable with a variety of homemade soups.
As with Green Bar & Kitchen, the offerings will follow the plant-based model, says Pezzo, but with a new and exciting twist. Here, customers are encouraged to speak their mind about the rotating menu options, as they will dictate what the culinary team decides to add to the flagship restaurant's menu.
"We want to show our customers how versatile veggies can be," explains Pezzo. "As new items are tested at Green Bar Express, we will lean heavily on our customers to decide if these meals will be added to the menu at Green Bar on 17th Street."
If customer response to a specific dish — both in-store and online — is positive, expect to see it added to the menu at the main Green Bar restaurant, adds Pezzo. Menu items currently in testing include a "pulled pork" sandwich made with jackfruit and served with sweet potato fries.
In addition to the test kitchen, a new bakery area will allow the express location (and main restaurant) to offer baked vegan pastries, made fresh each day, as well as chef-inspired special desserts. That means gluten-free versions of nostalgic snacks like Devil Dawgs, Twinkies, and ball-park-style soft pretzels as well as donuts, cinnamon buns, and pies.
Breakfast items will be served from 9 to 11 a.m. (subject to change), including gluten-free chia seed pancakes, coconut yogurt parfaits, green tea matcha breakfast bowls. Moving forward, expect late-night eating to go down when Green Bar Express hosts pop-up dinners and plant-based cooking classes conducted by guest chefs.
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You'll have to go to the main restaurant for a taste of the GBK veggie burger, however, which took the win at the 2015 Miami Seed Wine & Food Festival vegan burger battle. But maybe another award-winning dish is only a taste (and commentary) away if you stop by and give your two cents.
"I can't wait to test out some amazing dishes that we have contemplated doing for years but were never able to put on the menu full-time," says Green Bar head chef Charles Grippo. "Our main goal is to create delicious, organic, and affordable food for the people of South Florida, and we're excited to be able to expand our offerings using Green Bar Express as our model."
Green Bar Express is located at 3429 Galt Ocean Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-533-7507, or visit greenbarkitchen.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.