“You didn’t tell me this place is vegan!” exclaims the young woman, throwing her friend a pouty look across the patio table. “Just kidding!” she says brightly, after a dramatic pause. Her gal pal rolls her eyes. Giggles ensue. Here at the latest location of by CHLOE, a stone’s throw from Fenway Park, it seems like everyone is in high spirits.
Samantha Wasser, cofounder and creative director of the New York-based group of restaurants, is delighted that folks are flocking to these order-at-the-counter eateries. “People are being more conscious of eating plant-based foods,” she explains. “By CHLOE checks a lot of boxes.” Fast casual? Check. Kosher certified? Check. Vegan with a super posi attitude? Check and check.
The chain made its Boston debut in Seaport. Back in March, pink-cheeked patrons, fresh from a workout at the SoulCycle next door, tossed Canada Goose parkas on chairs and tucked into root vegetable chowder and apricot-glazed tempeh. Now, denizens of Fenway — in shorts and frocks — are dropping by a location of their own. They lounge on the sunny patio or in swing chairs by open windows, poring over a juice menu that reassures, a la Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, “We’re golden sunflowers inside.”
A kale Caesar ($10.95) captures that affirmative vibe. Shreds of raw kale, tossed with romaine and grape tomatoes, come drizzled with a creamy nut-based dressing. The generous serving is adorned with crunchy maple syrup-sweetened croutons (also available gluten free) plus a scattering of “bacon” made from shiitake mushrooms. Fans of fatback won’t mistake these fungi for pork, but the vegetarian-leaning will appreciate their umami flavor and crispy texture.
The filling inside a classic “burger” ($9.95) bills itself as a “tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty.” It doesn’t provide the heft and chew of beef, but it’s savory and satisfying in a legumes-and-seeds sort of way. A pillowy potato bun, layered with pickles, red onion, and leaf lettuce round out the sandwich. But the fuchsia-hued beet ketchup doesn’t appeal. Tablemates miss the traditional tomato-based condiment. Much better (and kickier) is the chipotle aioli, which you pump from a self-serve dispenser near the plastic cutlery.
If you’re a dairy lover, don’t reject out of hand the mac ’n’ cheese ($5.95, $8.95). It’s true that the sauce is made from sweet potatoes and cashews, but it’s pretty convincing as a stand-in for Velveeta, smooth and rich enough to coat soft-cooked pasta shells. Plus it gets a cheesy boost from a shake of almond “parm.”
Sweet treats are delicious. A green tea-blueberry muffin ($3.50) made with matcha powder, is springy and cake-like, sprinkled with perky cinnamon streusel. There are two versions of a smoothie bowl ($9.95). One is made from mostly berries, and another is a blend of leafy greens and fruit. You taste more fruit than veg in the latter, even though spinach and kale color the slurry a vivid emerald green. Each chilled bowl is topped with goji berries, coconut flakes, and a dollop of raw almond butter for good measure.
Some dishes need retooling. Quinoa hash browns ($4.95) arrive as gummy pucks of milled potato. Their topping — a sour cream-like sauce, made from silken tofu — is the right texture but too salty. Air-baked French fries ($4.25) start out crispy enough, but quickly turn flabby. For a menu so full of virtue, it seems like a little vice — dunking the spuds in a deep fat fryer — would be a forgivable offense.
On a Saturday afternoon, families and tourists are tucking happily into lunch. And our young friends on the patio? Both are too busy noshing on burgers to comment.
100 Van Ness St., Fenway, Boston, www.eatbychloe.com
All credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Prices Brunch $4.95-$9.95. Salads, burgers, sandwiches $8.95-$11.95. Pasta $5.95-$8.95. Juices and sides, $3.95-$9.95. Desserts $2.50-$9.95.
Hours Mon-Thurs 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri 11 a.m.-midnight. Sat 10 a.m.-midnight. Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Liquor Wine and beer.
What to order Kale Caesar salad, mac ’n’ cheese, green smoothie bowl, green tea-blueberry muffin.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.