14 casual and healthy places to eat

Cuisine Dining guide

January 1, 2023

Fast, fresh meals 

by Sharon Smith

After all the extra holiday helpings of this and that, it’s time to refocus on what’s good to eat — and what’s good for you. Save our list for the next time you’re wondering where to get takeout or grab a flavorful, protein-packed bowl or smoothie. Some spots are grab-and-go, others are dine-in restaurants. Either way, satisfying and healthy options abound. 

Left: Clean Juice, photo by Peter Taylor Right: Green Brothers Juice & Smoothie Co., Salata


This no-frills eatery with several Charlotte locations is easy to pop in, order and sit down — or grab and go. Cava is known for satisfying salad and grain bowls and pita wraps with ingredients that lend a touch of heat. The harissa avocado bowl (harissa honey chicken, hot harissa vinaigrette, feta, hummus, corn, avocado, rice and super greens) is a favorite. cava.com


When Chopt arrived at Park Road Shopping Center several years ago, it was an instant hit and a newish concept for Charlotte — salad for the whole meal. Since then, Chopt has added locations in Blakeney, the Arboretum and uptown. Pick your base of greens and ingredients, or choose a warm bowl and go. The classic Sante Fe salad with smoky chipotle vinaigrette is always a good choice. choptsalad.com

Clean Juice 

You may feel better before even walking inside — the name just sounds healthy. This certified organic juice bar has tried-and-true fresh juices and smoothies, plus savory toasts, açai bowls, cold-pressed shots and seasonal bites. There’s even a comprehensive cleanse program. Clean Juice first opened shop in Charlotte in 2015 and has grown into a national success. cleanjuice.com


A longtime oasis for vegans and veggie lovers on East Boulevard in Dilworth, Fern’s menu is built around what grows in the garden. Expect an array of salads and creative twists like cashew mac and cheese with garlic and herbs, a mushroom patty burger topped with shiitake bacon, and tofu banh mi. fernflavors.com

Flower Child

The menu at this happy, bright South End eatery boasts vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, along with meat-based meals. Choose from bowls, whole grain wraps and lighter fare like hummus plates and avocado toast. Meat eaters can easily find something healthy and satisfying here, too, like the flying avocado wrap with smoked turkey, gouda, romaine, tomato and avocado hummus. iamaflowerchild.com

Gréco Fresh Grille

This family-owned Greek and Mediterranean restaurant is going 10-plus years strong. Expect fast, fresh menu items like made-to-order salads, hummus plates, gyros and pitas. Treat yourself to some homemade baklava. Locations are spread across south Charlotte and beyond, including Sharon Corners. grecofreshgrille.com

Green Brothers Juice & Smoothie Co.

The juice and smoothie bar also offers acai bowls, gluten-free and vegan baked goods, and wellness shots. The winter menu offers a seasonal sweet fix on the healthier side — a Peppermint Bark smoothie with grass-fed chocolate, whey protein, cacao nibs, cacao powder, Nutella, peppermint, broccoli, banana, peanut butter and almond milk. Several locations across Charlotte, including Foxcroft East. greenbrothersjuice.com

Just Salad

The New York-based designer salad chain opened in Apex SouthPark last year. Expect a variety of salads, warm bowls, wraps and smoothies with seasonal ingredients. The reusable bowl program was crafted with sustainability in mind — buy a bowl for $1, bring it back to use in-store and receive a free topping. justsalad.com

Left: Just Salad Right: Southern Pressed Juicery, photograph by GetzCreative Photography

Living Kitchen

No apologies for healthy eating here — that’s the main attraction. Vegans and carnivores choose this plant-based restaurant for cold-pressed juices and organic, mostly-raw fare for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. The menu ranges from overnight oats to a yellow curry bowl with a base of lentils, quinoa and kale. Order ahead, grab and go, or sit awhile in this South End hot spot that’s been a local favorite for more than 10 years. livingkitchen.com

Mezeh Mediterranean Grill

With two locations in Charlotte (Strawberry Hill and Optimist Hall), Mezeh is a go-to spot for a quick grab-and-go lunch or takeout dinner. Fill your bowl with fresh greens and bold flavors. The taste of Mezeh bowl is just that: mixed greens, rice, falafel, turkish salad, Lebanese tabbouleh, Israeli couscous, cilantro hummus, spicy feta dip, sundried tomato salad, chickpea salad, spicy carrots with cauliflower, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinaigrette. Protein options include chicken, shredded lamb and veggie kefta.mezeh.com 


Build your salad or wrap with a little of this or a lot of that! The options almost seem limitless with 50 toppings on the menu, plus soups and organic teas and lemonades. Two locations, at Rea Farms and uptown. salata.com

Southern Pressed Juicery

A newcomer last year to Park Road Shopping Center, cold-pressed juices are the star here, but there are plenty of filling options on the menu. Look for a range of superfood smoothies, acai bowls, granolas — even superfood lattes. Pad Thai zoodles (zucchini noodles, carrots, red cabbage, bell peppers, sprouts, cilantro, lime, cashew pieces) with a citrus-tahini-ginger dressing is packed with zesty flavor. SPJ also offers 1-, 3- and 5-day juice cleanses. southernpressedjuicery.com

Viva Chicken 

This homegrown fast-casual spot features pollo a la brasa (Peruvian chicken) with locations across the area. Look for menu items packed with greens, protein and high-fiber carbs, like the limena chopped salad with romaine, solterito (Peruvian corn, edamame and queso fresco), chickpeas and added chicken; and the Naked Peruvian Wrap with quinoa, kale, cucumber, avocado and chicken. Known for an easy takeout experience with generous portions. vivachicken.com

YAFO Kitchen

Yafo’s fast-casual fare blends healthier Mediterranean foods and bold Middle Eastern flavors. Build a bowl, pita or a rotisserie chicken plate with your choice of sides. Pro tip: Order the family meal pack ($40) for a healthy mid-week dinner for 3-4 people. Three locations in Charlotte, including Shops at Morrison. yafokitchen.com  SP

Featured image: Viva Chicken

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