Arts & Entertainment

Less Than Bowled Over by Bowl’d in Clarendon

The Smokey Tomatillo bowl topped with chipotle aioli  and a little salt is pretty good. (Photo: News-Press)
The Smokey Tomatillo bowl topped with chipotle aioli and a little salt is pretty good. (Photo: News-Press)

Those looking at the menu of Bowl’d, a restaurant that opened in Clarendon earlier this year, might mutter to themselves “not another bowl restaurant.” But what sets apart the restaurant, which follows the mold of Chipotle-style fast casual eateries, is that it is, perhaps, a healthier alternative to a place like Chipotle.

Bowl’d is something like a combination of Sweetgreen and Chipotle, but with less flavor, something I’ll get to later. They offer five signature bowls – Mediterranean, Sweet Chili Pineapple, Teriyaki, Coconut Green Curry and Smokey Tomatillo – and they also give diners the option of building their own bowl.

The build your own bowl option, which starts at $6.50, gives diners a healthy variety of ingredients to choose from. It starts with a base, which can be made of short grain brown rice, jasmine white rice, greens, or organic quinoa (for an additional $.50).

Then diners can choose three vegetables to add to their bowl from a list of 11, which includes baby kale, garbanzo beans and snow peas. Next are the proteins, all of which comes with an additional charge – it costs $1.50 to add organic tofu or natural marinated chicken and $2.25 to add grass-fed marinated steak.

All of that is covered in one of Bowl’d’s five house-made sauces. They offer sun dried tomato-olive, sweet chili pineapple, teriyaki, coconut green curry and smokey tomatillo sauces. And diners can choose to garnish their bowl with fresh green onion, fresh cilantro, toasted almonds ($.25), feta cheese ($.25) or chipotle aioli ($.25).

But, you know how a lot of times people associate healthier food with a lack of flavor? Unfortunately, Bowl’d falls into that category. Many of the signature bowls are bland, but they do taste fresh and whole. That might have something to do with the fact that Bowl’d uses locally-sourced ingredients whenever they can.

Still, local sourcing of ingredients is something that many restaurants do nowadays. It’s noble, but it’s not necessarily unique. The combination of the ingredients in Bowl’d’s bowls promise delicious, flavorful meals, but they don’t make good. One thing that this diner appreciates about the Bowl’d is that all of the signature bowls can be modified for vegans and vegetarians. Even then, though, they serve tofu the old school way, succumbing to the difficulty to infuse the plant-based protein with flavor.

The naturally vegan/vegetarian Sweet Chili Pineapple ($7.75), for example, has an appetizing ingredient list – short grain brown rice, red bell pepper, red onion, green onions, baby kale and organic tofu topped with cilantro and sweet chili pineapple sauce. But the end product is just bland.

The Smokey Tomatillo ($8.75) with tofu substituted for the steak it usually comes with, is better when it comes to flavor. For the vegetarians out there, the chipotle aioli ($.25) really aids the dish.

To Bowl’d’s credit, they have salt and pepper shakers in their condiments/eating utensils section. The second time I went there, I added salt – or as we called it back in college, activator – to the Smokey Tomatillo and it was much tastier than when I initially tried it.

Another thing that sets Bowl’d apart is that it serves smoothies. They have four smoothie options, Strawberry-Banana, Peanut Butter-Cocoa-Banana, Mango-Pineapple and Dark Berry, all of which cost $5.50. Then they have The Whole Kitchen Sink Smoothie ($6.50).

Diners (or drinkers?) can choose almond or soy milk or juice as the base of their smoothie and can add a shot of organic flax seed, kale, or whey or rice protein. I got the Dark Berry, using almond milk as my base and added a shot of rice protein.

It was as bland as the bowls are, except I don’t think salt would have helped it, but I’ll take the weight for that. Berries and almond milk without any type of sweetener may have been a bad choice. I’m willing to try their smoothies again.

Bowl’d |1028 N. Garfield St. | Arlington | 571-257-5131 |