Jose Andres to open veggie restaurant at Penn

jose-andres_600
Chef Jose Andres in the ThinkFoodGroup's test kitchen in Washington, D.C., in 2014.

Is every chef entering the fast-casual game?

José Andrés - the Spanish-born chef behind such trendsetting spots as minibar, Zaytinya, and Jaleo (and the guy credited with spreading the small-plates concept to American menus) - has inked a deal to locate a branch of his vegetable-focused concept Beefsteak at the University of Pennsylvania campus.

Beefsteak is expected to open in early 2016 at Houston Hall (3417 Spruce St.), replacing the long-closed Einstein Bros. Bagel shop. The deal marks Penn's second celeb-chef eatery on campus in two years, following the opening of Tortas Frontera, the Mexican fast-casual fronted by chef Rick Bayless.

Though located in Penn-owned buildings, both restaurants are open to the public.

Beefsteak, which opened its first location only last spring at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., specializes in create-your-own bowls focused on vegetables.

"This is what I love to do, and this is what America really needs," Andres said by phone, referring to sharing his passion for vegetables.

The idea for Beefsteak, he said, had been on a back burner for some time. He said he is tired of menus where "vegetables look like an afterthought. I love them."

Patrons can build cooked-to-order combinations of flash-prepared vegetables, grains (quinoa, rice, or bulgur), sauces (cilantro, spicy tomato or garlic yogurt), and toppings (such as radishes, romaine lettuce, crispy chickpeas, mozzarella, kimchi, and cherry tomatoes). Salt-cured salmon, roast chicken, and poached egg are also offered.

Right. There's no beefsteak on the menu. The name, says its website, is meant as a "playful take on the power of vegetables."

The menu also will include seasonal items such as sandwiches and salads and house-made juices and sodas.

Andres' D.C.-based ThinkFoodGroup is working with university food-services provider Bon Appétit Management Company on the Penn Beefsteak location.

Beefsteak also fits in with the movement toward more casual eating. "The fine dining we did 25 years ago has nothing to do with what you're doing today," Andres said. "We went from course after course and 32 utensils to what we have now. It's good to know [that now], you don't have to feel guilty of grabbing the wrong fork."