Philly’s culinary specialties—roast pork sandwiches, soft pretzels, cheesesteaks—aren’t entirely unearned. But lunch in the city isn’t just blue-collar belly fillers. Like every other major metropolis in the country, grain bowls—customizable meals of vegetables, proteins and sauces piled over wholesome grains—have swept the city by storm. Here’s where to get your fix.
This fast-casual restaurant just off Rittenhouse Square shares ownership with another popular healthy lunch spot, Pure Fare. But of the two, the Mediterranean-accented Agno is tastier.
Grain bowl devotees opt for the chewy pearls of black rice flecked with fresh herbs, piled with protein—chicken, steak, salmon, lamb meatballs—falafel or roasted veggies. Three toppings of your choice include sweet-and-sour purple cabbage, roasted carrots, pickled beets and quinoa tabbouleh—if you want to double up the grain quotient. Then it’s time to sauce: harissa, hummus, spicy cumin, tzatziki, balsamic, lemon oregano or lemon tahini. 2104 Chestnut St., 267.858.4590
“Real food fast” is the motto of this chain with local outposts in King of Prussia and the Main Line town of Wynnewood.
Burgers starring beef from Maine’s excellent Pineland Farm co-op are the menu’s core, but for something lighter, they do a nice job with five grain bowls, each available with straight-up organic quinoa or a super-grain mix that includes short-grain brown rice, lentils, millet, hard red wheat berries and kamut, an ancient wheat variety. The best of the bunch is the Mediterranean chicken bowl with grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber, green beans, radishes, mint, sunflower seeds, red pepper hummus, romaine and feta—all tossed with a Middle Eastern-inspired za’atar vinaigrette. 280 E. Lancaster Ave., 484.417.6345
Front Street Café
A sprawling, light-filled eatery in Fishtown, Front Street Café is open all day serving health-conscious, of-the-moment food. The menu checks all the on-trend categories: green juice, acai bowls, avocado toast and, of course, grain bowls.
Served at lunch, FSC’s "Tostada Grain Bowl" put a Mexican spin on the California import, with smoked black beans, chopped avocado and tomato, pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro and salad greens arranged over a cushion of quinoa and rice. Chipotle salsa adds heat; a zigzag of cilantro-lime crema cools things down. Add a poached egg for extra protein. 1253 N. Front St., 215.515.3073
Breakfast, soups and sandwiches anchor the menu at this casual spot catering to Arch Street office workers. But they also have quite a few grains bowls, ranging from Chilean salmon—lemon-and-dill- marinated fish, roasted cauliflower, spinach and hemp-Dijon dressing—to “Beetin’ Heart”—roasted beets, sauteed carrots, feta crumbles and balsamic vinaigrette. The delicious grain base is a signature mix of long-grain brown rice, lentils and red quinoa. 1717 Arch St., 267.639.9949