Girl #2: "I don't know. Like, kale? Do you like kale?"
Girl #1: "I have no idea."
One of the few drawbacks of eating at The Little Beet in the beating heart of midtown: You're in Midtown — just a few tourist-clogged blocks from TGI Fridays, Tad's Steakhouse, and the ghost of Cats.
But, the mere fact that this airy, two-story, well-meaning, gluten-free, non-GMO, fast-casual spot exists in this neighborhood is reason enough to have lunch there. It's earnest in all the right ways, from the highly detailed compost-recycling-trash bins, to the vegetable-inspired artwork on the walls.
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But, back to your lunch. There are fresh salads (beets! And, hey, look — kale!), including a seasonal number that combines arugula with roasted butternut squash, hazelnuts, apples and Parmesan cheese ($7). Their grilled chicken is an extra you'd actually want to order ($12.50); ours was juicy and obviously came right off the grill.
Platter upon platter of hot and cold side dishes ($4.50 each; $11.50 for three) beckon from a long serving case. Make a smorgasbord out of options, like said lentil salad with avocado, oranges, pecans, ginger, and kale; heads of grilled radicchio; and blistered green beans.
When we visited, the order-at-the-counter process was a little convoluted, but a free sample of brothy cauliflower soup while we waited, as well as the honest-to-goodness, "aw-shucks" smiles on all of the employees' faces, erased any misgivings.
Not to be outdone, even the living plant wall is a breath of fresh air.
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Tasting Table is a website and newsletter for culinary enthusiasts. The editors eat high and low to bring you the discerning dining advice, recipes you can trust and news you can use from the world of food and drink. They're an opinionated gang of always-curious, anchovy-loving, order-one-of-everything-for-the-table epicurean obsessives. Pull up a seat.