As more people look for places to have a healthy, fast, affordable meal, there’s a growing new segment of the restaurant industry called “healthy casual” or “health casual” designed to meet that demand. In a nutshell, these are counter-service restaurants specializing in dishes made from nutrient-rich ingredients—think kale and quinoa, not iceberg lettuce and croutons. Sustainable, local and organic are words you will see on their menus and advertising, and there’s also a focus on what’s not in the food—in many cases no GMO, no preservatives, and no gluten.
Healthy casual menu mainstays are grain bowls and salads with mix-and-match proteins, but diners can also find a healthy twist on traditional fast food options—like burgers made from grass-fed beef, baked fries, and milkshakes with ice cream from local dairies.
North Hills has become a hub for healthy dining, with enough office workers and daily visitors to support a variety of heath casual options.
B.Good in the Park District was the first healthy casual restaurant to open at North Hills. The menu emphasizes seasonal ingredients and dishes change throughout the year. Although the chain has locations in 11 states and three countries outside of the U.S., it focuses on sourcing food from local farms and showcasing those relationships in their restaurants. The B.Good menu includes kale and grain bowls, seasonal salads, burgers and sandwiches, seasonal sides, smoothies, baked fries, milkshakes, and healthy kids’ meals.
“I go to B.Good at least once a week because it really is my favorite restaurant. I like it because it is healthy, but it’s also delicious, and it feels like a treat to eat there,” says Melissa Rich, owner of nearby Raleigh Tutoring. “It’s close to my office, and I love that you can order on the app and pick it up.”
Grabbagreen at the Lassiter has a menu built around super foods and ingredients that are preservative-free and GMO-free, and they use organic products as much as possible. The menu offers a selection of grain and green bowls with proteins—often sourced local farms—as well as salads, fresh pressed juices, handmade smoothies, açaí bowls, all-day breakfast wraps, and a healthy kids’ items like quinoa mac and cheese. There’s seating in the restaurant, but bowls and salads come in a cardboard box, so you can literally grab-and-go, just like the name implies.
Coming Soon! Happy+Hale is Raleigh’s homegrown healthy casual restaurant. Started by two friends who met at North Carolina State University, the restaurant’s Park District location—opening later this year—will be its fourth after downtown Raleigh, Durham, and Greenville, S.C. Like Grabbagreen, the menu focuses on bowls, salads, all-day breakfast, smoothies, and juice. Right now, Happy+Hale is offering a Bida Bowl, inspired by downtown Raleigh’s Laotian restaurant Bida Manda, with proceeds benefiting the Interfaith Food Shuttle. Happy + Hale is committed to composting to cut store waste to a minimum and supports a local urban farmer who supplies a portion of the restaurant’s produce.
Coming Soon! Viva Chicken opens later this year in the Main District and serves Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken. Viva Chicken describes itself as “not only hip and healthy,” but “quick and convenient”. The chicken is hormone-free and cooked every hour. The menu offers whole chickens—as well as smaller portions—along with bowls, salads, sandwiches, and fries. Although it specializes in bringing diners the flavors of Peru, Viva Chicken started in Charlotte and has a location in Utah. The Main District will be its first Triangle location.
For anyone looking for a healthy change from fast food—without giving up the fast part—North Hills serves many delicious options.