Three Healthy Fast-Casual Restaurants Add New Locations around Boston This Week
The Back Bay gets a Life Alive, Grainmaker takes root in Somerville, and Dig Inn lands in the Seaport.
With our strong student population, productive workforce, and plenty of real estate development going on, the Boston area is a prime market for growing restaurant groups—especially those proffering healthy choices. Here are three fast-casual favorites adding new locations this week in Boston and Somerville, all with local ties.
Seaport location opening Wednesday, June 12
“Farm-to-counter” fast-casual chain Dig Inn is about to open its fourth Boston-area location, in Fort Point. The restaurant is a New York import, but founder Adam Eskin is a South Shore native who takes great pride in bringing the brand “home.” “We have a comfort level with the area, and with the consumer who lives in Boston,” Eskin told Boston ahead of opening his third local Dig Inn at the Pru in 2017. For its build-your-own menu of salads, seasonal sides, and grain-based “marketbowls,” Dig Inn’s NYC-based supply team sources produce and proteins from sustainable producers and farmers, including its own plot in upstate New York. The menu features awesome add-ons like organic Maine farro with colorful summer vegetables and herbs, Jasper Hill Farm mac and cheese, roasted sweet potatoes dressed in fresh rosemary and EVOO, and wild Alaskan salmon. On opening day, the first 100 customers will be treated to vegetables from Dig Inn’s farm. The café will be open in the Seaport District every day from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
25 Thompson Pl., Fort Point (Seaport), 617-904-4009; 277 Washington St., Downtown Crossing, 617-276-1000, 557 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-904-3711, and other locations, diginn.com.
Back Bay location opening Wednesday, June 12
Organic grain bowls, grilled wraps, frozen fruit smoothies, CBD drinks, and more creative vegetarian fare is on the menu at the newest Life Alive, which has taken over a former Au Bon Pain restaurant near the Arlington MBTA stop. It’s the fifth location for the Lowell-born organic café, and it’s the second to debut under the guidance of industry leader Ron Shaich. A Brookline resident, Shaich founded Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain, and more recently has invested in Tatte, Cava, and Clover. While Life Alive locations in Lowell, Salem, and Central Square have a crunchier vibe, the technicolor Back Bay location—designed by Studio Phenomena and built by Cornerstone—is more chic and trendy, like the year-old outpost on the Boston University campus. Shaich purchased Life Alive in 2015, and has plans to continue to scale his “2.0” version of the brand. The Boylston Street café has the full, vegetarian menu of salads, noodle bowls, soups, and more, plus a juice and smoothie bar, and a non-alcoholic “free spirited cocktail bar.” The space is eclectically decorated with lounge areas for studying, snacking, and sipping. It will be open weekdays from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., and weekends from 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
431 Boylston St., Back Bay, 857-239-8239; 888 Commonwealth Ave., Brookline, 617-903-3256; 765 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-5433, and other locations, lifealive.com.
Davis Square location opening Friday, June 14
The second location of Boston-born Grainmaker will bring its 100% gluten- and dairy-free, Asian street food-inspired menu to Somerville. It’s the latest from longtime fast food operations executive Chris Freeman, who debuted the concept near South Station in 2017. The flavor-forward menu is centered on rice and noodle bowls, but also includes salads, topped with a choice of proteins like seven-spice chicken, lemongrass steak, kale and pork meatballs, crispy tofu, or sweet chili shrimp; plus curries and soups, tacos, and poke bowls. The shop also sells local products like Evy Tea, Beacon Blend juices, and treats from Westborough’s Yummy Mummy Bakery. The Davis Square location also secured a license to serve beer, wine, and sake; look for that menu to launch in July. Freeman, who started his food service career with Burger King and also helped Boston-based B.Good get established overseas, lead ample market research to develop the Grainmaker menu with consultant Doris Choi, he previously told Boston. “Customers really appreciate a build-your-own concept, but not entirely. They want a chef-driven menu,” he said. He has always intended to expand the brand around Greater Boston, and is thrilled to enter Davis Square. “Somerville is very aligned with our values and brand and we are extremely excited to be in this amazing neighborhood,” he says. The new location (formerly Amsterdam Falafel Shop) has been built out by McMahon Architects, and local artist Mark Grundig hand-painted the walls. The newest Grainmaker will be open seven days a week, later than its sister location; stay tuned for exact opening hours.
248 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville; 91 Summer Street, Boston, eatgrainmaker.com.