As a perpetually picky eater who prefers Cheetos and chocolate to anything remotely green, I never thought I’d be the person to write an article about grain bowls.
Yet, as I sit here, I find myself craving Cava’s Crazy Feta, YAFO’s hummus and Village Juice Company’s house-made balsamic fig dressing. Because as it turns out, you can eat well and actually enjoy the food — it’s just about finding the right spot.
So, if your new year started with a goal to eat healthier (or just to eat better and not choke on dry kale), I’ll get you started. Here are 18 of the best places for grain bowls. And, I promise, they’re great.
400 S. Tryon St., Unit: R1; 14825 Ballantyne Village Way; and 7926 Rea Road
Bowl: Spicy Avocado & Lime Bowl
What’s in it: Avocado, black bean corn salsa, sautéed veggies, quinoa, kale, tomatoes, cilantro, lime, chipotle puree, chipotle vinaigrette
What sets it apart: This, chef-inspired, best-selling bowl is something you can feel good about — the ingredients are healthy, and it’s grown on farms that prioritize sustainability.
4267 Park Road. and 6307 Providence Farm Lane.
Bowl: Build Your Own
What’s in it: Your combination of a base, dips/spreads, protein, toppings and dressings
What sets it apart: Each bowl is customizable to your tastes, but the unique spreads and sauces give each bowl a distinct flavor. I highly recommend the Crazy Feta — it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted in a grain bowl.
4125 Park Road; 8022 Providence Road; and 9844 Rea Road
Bowl: Mexiketo Carnitas Bowl
What’s in it: Warm grains or cauliflower rice, Mexican Goddess dressing, spicy braised pork, cotija cheese, pickled red onion, jalapeno peppers, cabbage and cilantro blend, toasted pumpkin seeds
What sets it apart: These bowls are a hearty, yet healthy option. Chopt just began serving cauliflower rice, which offers a low-carb substitute for other grains.
401 N. Tryon St.
Bowl: Baked Salmon Quinoa Bowl
What’s in it: Warm quinoa, baked salmon, grape tomatoes, spinach, fresh avocado, lemon juice, olive oil
What sets it apart: This locally owned and operated small business always uses fresh produce in its menu items when possible.
1609 Elizabeth Ave.
Bowl: Carpe Diem
What’s in it: Warm quinoa, maple-roasted butternut squash, baked apples, toasted almonds, celery, carrots, onion, arugula, tahini-maple dressing
1419 East Blvd. A
Bowl: Buddha Bowl
What’s in it: Beluga lentils, chickpeas, mixed vegetables, herbed red wine broth, seared apples, house-made pickle
Price: $14 (optional $2 add-on for white balsamic marinated tofu)
What sets it apart: This bowl is entirely vegan.
6311 Providence Farm Lane, #100; 2373 Len Patterson Road, #100, Fort Mill, SC
Bowl: Pesto Chicken Quinoa Bowl
What’s in it: Quinoa, kale, carrots, house-roasted tomatoes, all-natural grilled chicken breast, basil pesto sauce, feta crumbles, fresh herbs
What sets it apart: This gluten-free bowl won a MenuMaster award for “Best Healthful Innovation.” Shortly after it was introduced as a seasonal menu item, but its popularity landed it a permanent spot on the menu.
1537 Camden Road
Bowl: Mother Earth
What’s in it: Ancient grains, sweet potato, Portobello mushroom, avocado, cucumber, pistachio pesto, charred onion, leafy greens, red pepper miso vinaigrette, hemp seed
What sets it apart: Each ingredient in this dish brings something unique to the palate. The dish gets heartiness from the mixture of grains (which incorporates barley, farro and red quinoa) and sweet potato, acidity from the cucumber relish, umami from the mushroom and richness from the avocado.
210 E. Trade St. Ste. B-124; and 3429 Toringdon Way, #104
Bowl: The Southwest
What’s in it: Chicken, avocado, black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheddar-jack cheese, cilantro, yogurt-agave barbecue sauce, quinoa or spinach
Price: $9.95 (vegetarian option without chicken is $6.95)
What sets it apart: This is a nutrient rich bowl made exclusively from whole foods and is less than 500 calories.
2000 South Blvd., Suite 100
Bowl: Yellow Curry
What’s in it: curried lentils, quinoa, kale, roasted cauliflower, pickled cabbage, cherry tomatoes, chimichurri sauce
What sets it apart: Each bowl is prepared from scratch using organic ingredients.
Bowl: Baja Grain Bowl with Chicken
What’s in it: Feta, Greek yogurt, bean corn salsa, avocado, salsa verde, red grape tomatoes
What sets it apart: You can get it as part of the “You Pick Two” menu and pair it with a sandwich or salad.
205 S. Kings Drive; and 7107 Waverly Walk Ave., A5
Bowl: Quinoa Bowl
What’s in it: Quinoa, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, capers, feta, taziki sauce, baked pita chip
What sets it apart: There’s a ton of fresh protein choices including grilled chicken (available as kebobs), grilled lamb, grilled shrimp, grilled beef (available as kebobs), grilled salmon, grilled turkey, grilled veggies or herb-roasted pork loin.
16631 Lancaster Hwy., Ste. 107
Bowl: Eternal Sunshine
What’s in it: Wild quinoa, roasted sweet potato, hummus, market greens, sunflower seeds, creamy cashew curry
What sets it apart: The greens are locally sourced from Tega Hills farms, the sweet potato comes from Tuton Farms and the quinoa is wild and organic.
2135 Southend Drive, #109
Bowl: Roasted Roots Bowl
What it is: Fresh greens, roasted sweet potatoes, bell peppers, caramelized onion, chili-braised black beans, red onions, roasted red pepper, vinaigrette, cream, crispy corn tortilla (can add chicken, bacon, or pastrami)
What sets it apart: You can add chicken, bacon or pastrami to give this flavorful dish extra flair and texture.
15105-F, John J. Delaney Drive
Bowl: The Bowled Buddha
What’s in it: Roasted broccoli, chickpeas, pickled onion, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, kimchi, power seeds, house-made turmeric vinaigrette, brown rice, quinoa
What sets it apart: This bowl is a powerhouse of nutrients, from probiotics in the fermented kimchi to the disease-fighting sulforaphane in the broccoli.
1115 N. Brevard St., Unit 9
Bowl: Brussels and Bacon Bowl
What’s in it: Choice of quinoa or brown rice and spinach, roasted brussels sprouts, charred cherry tomatoes, bacon, parmesan crisp with house-made fig balsamic dressing
What sets it apart: This bowl is the perfect balance of savory flavors and comes in a vegan option, as well. All bowls can be modified, and there’s a “Build-A-Bowl” option to customize your own.
1331 Central Ave #101; 1231A East Blvd.; 720 Gov Morrison St., #120
Bowl: Build Your Own
What’s in it: Anything you want. Recommended combination: rice and tabbouleh, tomato-cucumber salad, cabbage slaw, kalamata olives, feta, shawarma chicken and toum on top.
Price: $8.99 + protein
What sets it apart: This bowl is customizable. The team performed a calculation (with some help) and found out you could eat at YAFO 4.5 trillion times and not get the exact same bowl twice.
Bowl: Power Grain Bowl
What’s in it: Lentils, quinoa, farro and rice with house-made tzatziki, Moroccan harissa, Mediterranean relish, cucumbers and fresh dill
Price: $8.99 + protein
What sets it apart: You can add a variety of proteins to this dish including baked falafel, harissa salmon, lamb kafta or grilled chicken.