Convenience is often a bad word when associated with food. Still, it’s challenging and not always practical, or even possible, for busy Austinites to make every meal at home from scratch—especially for those of us with certain dietary needs or restrictions. Enter Snap Kitchen, a new restaurant concept dedicated to giving convenience a better rap. The idea is simple, though not new: custom-prepared, packaged and ready-to-roll meals line a display case awaiting a trip home or a quick heat-and-eat on the spot. But this is only part of the story.
“The thing that really sets Snap Kitchen apart is transparency of concept,” explains founder Martin Berson. “Our customers should be able to see everything that’s going on. You can watch our deliveries come in the morning; you can watch us butcher seafood, prep, cook, measure, package and weigh the food. I don’t want anyone to ever wonder what we’re really putting into the food.”
For Berson, knowing what really goes into the food is personal. He developed the concept for Snap Kitchen when his wife, who has type 1 diabetes, was pregnant with their daughter. “It became that much more important for her to monitor what she ate,” Berson says. It was nearly impossible to find any place they could eat that disclosed all of the ingredients used in the food. Berson, who had experience managing high-end restaurants in Houston, became aware of a new type of consumer—one who needs to know exactly what they’re eating.
Snap Kitchen’s menu was developed by Chef Ethan Holmes, with regular input from the restaurant’s on-site registered dietitian, Andrea Loera Hinsdale. In addition to labeling every item with ingredients and nutritional information, the staff has developed dietary designations including vegetarian, non-dairy, gluten-free, lower-sodium and Paleo-style*. The store’s core menu consists of 65 items; Berson says his favorite dish is probably the Thunder Heart Bison Quinoa “Hash,” but he also likes anything made with the fresh, sustainably sourced salmon they serve.
Snap Kitchen sources many of their ingredients from local farms. Holmes and Hinsdale shop regularly at the Wednesday Austin Farmers’ Market, located just steps away from their flagship store in the Triangle. They buy meat from Thunder Heart Bison, and make a point to purchase produce from Urban Roots. Snap Kitchen’s Triangle location features a well-stocked salad bar with toss-to-order toppings like new potatoes, roasted roma tomatoes and sushi-grade ahi tuna.
So far, Snap Kitchen has been well-received. Many customers have signed up for Snap Commit, a three-week program designed to fit individual lifestyles and caloric intake levels. Participants, who pay only for the cost of food, meet with a nutritionist and work out a plan that takes personal preferences into account. One daily customer, who is not a big fan of breakfast foods, eschews more traditional morning offerings such as banana-nut pancakes and cinnamon-apple oatmeal for Paleo-style chicken or beef.
Who says convenience can’t be tailor-made, delicious and good for you?