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Ready, Set, Start

Nutritious and delicious at Dallas' Start
Written by June Naylor. Photographs by Kevin Stillman.

Start Dallas26Running errands in Dallas, Mom and I realize we’re both thirsty and famished. Our busy day, with its lengthy to-do list, doesn’t allow for the leisurely lunch we typically enjoy.

Start is in Dallas, at 4814 Greenville Ave. (214/265-1411) and 4023 Lemmon Ave. (214/599-7873).

Neither of us, it bears noting, ever settles for junk food in place of an honest meal. And then a light bulb pops on in my head.

“Mom, we’re going to Start,” I tell her, remembering a place friends have raved about.

“Start what?” she asks.

“It’s healthy food. You’ll love it,” I tell her.

“I’ve always loved healthy food. I taught you to love it, too,” she responds, looking at me with curiosity. “Am I missing something?”

Rather than play a round of “who’s on first?” I tell her that Start is the fast-casual concept with a menu filled with organic, all-natural choices, which delights her.

We’re closer to Start’s Oak Lawn-area location, situated between dozens of eateries on Lemmon Avenue’s restaurant row, home to everything from Mexican-food chains and tiny noodle shops to a 24-hour breakfast joint and a couple of high-dollar steakhouses. Start brings in a crowd ranging from mothers with tots in tow to hipsters with laptops, along with all manner of workers from nearby banks and other businesses.

It’s the newer of the pair of Start stores, with the other on Greenville Avenue close to the SMU campus and University Park, where the crowd consists mostly of college students and still more families. The two shops bear similar design; both restaurants welcome a flood of natural light through large, picture windows and employ liberal use of light-hued wood and a mix of metals in furnishings and light fixtures.

Arriving just before noon, we take our place in the ordering line, which over the next 10 minutes quickly grows long behind us. But Start’s system of taking and filling orders is speedy for those who know what they want. Stalling for time to give Mom a chance to review the menu, I order a couple of the freshly squeezed juices. Just the notion of slaking my thirst with pure nutrients boosts my lagging energy level.

I’m hankering for salad, and Mom’s all about the burger, once she learns they’re made with grass-fed beef from Burgundy Pasture Beef in nearby Grandview. Until lunch appears, we sip our refreshing juices. My pick is the Go Go, a blend of spinach, carrot, apple, and ginger juice, which has just the right balance of sweet and spicy. Mom’s glass of carrot, pineapple, and green apple juice is a little sweeter, but not assertively so.

Our appetizer plate arrives, and we seize the raw strips of carrot, celery, and bell peppers to dip into creamy hummus, which we decorate with feta chunks. Next, I tackle my chicken-bacon-avocado wrap, rolled with lettuce and tomato within a gluten-free tortilla. Mom’s lunch is the big winner at our table: Impressive in stature, the burger features a toasted whole-grain bun from Dallas’ Village Baking Co. spread with a Dijon-mayonnaise blend, with a hefty beef patty topped with romaine leaves, tomato slices, red onion, avocado slices, white cheddar cheese, and applewood-smoked bacon.

Before we depart, Mom wishes aloud that Start had been around when she was a busy parent running three daughters to piano lessons, gymnastics class, and volleyball games, while trying to feed her kids healthfully on the fly.

Indeed, Mom’s desires mirror those of Start founder Erin McKool, a Dallas attorney and mother who realized a dream of creating a restaurant that offers nourishing food for kids and adults alike. Always a consumer of natural foods, she found herself frustrated that there were no quickly procured meals, nor a drive-through service for such, catering to moms toting around kids with strollers or car seats. Rather than complain, she created Start.

She opened the Greenville Avenue Start in 2012 and the Lemmon Avenue store in 2015, both with drive-through and dine-in options. She has attracted plenty of like-minded parents who want good-for-you food that’s enjoyable to eat.

“The word ‘healthy’ has never been our official byline, because people define that word in so many different ways,” she says. “Healthy for some means low-calorie or low-fat. For others, it means balance and controlled portions. I wanted to strive for clean ingredients as Start’s first priority, and I wanted to support local businesses as much as possible, so we source our buns, bread, beef, honey, coffee, and many other items locally.”

Perhaps the beauty of Start lies in its ability to please grownups and little ones alike. Kids can opt for grilled or breaded-and-baked chicken bites or a burger with sweet-potato tater tots, for example. Parents can chill out with organic beer and wine selections, too.

I’ve already plotted my next Dallas trip to include a brunch stop at Start. The Cobb Frittata, made with organic eggs, chicken, smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles, avocado, baby spinach, mushrooms, and cilantro cream sauce, is calling my name. The Go Go Juice will make a perfect chaser, too.

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