Snap Kitchen (3600 Richmond, 713-526-5700) was my first experience with the fast-healthy concept that's mushroomed in Houston lately, which is predicated on the [not uncorrect] idea that most people do want to eat healthier these days, but don't have the time or skill level necessary to make healthy meals for themselves. The same concept that's kept personal chefs up to their elbows in business for the past decade has been transformed into a storefront kiosk, serving up a variety of gluten-free, low-sodium, South Beach or vegan meals to folks on the go.
I've never been into My Fit Foods, Tru Meals or any of the other fast-healthy stores in town. In fact, I might not have tried Snap Kitchen if I wasn't desperate for food that wasn't fried or from my freezer on a recent Sunday evening when I was too busy to even think straight. I dashed over to Snap Kitchen because I'd heard their meals were 25 percent off for the weekend and it seemed as quick an option as any.
Inside, I was surprised by the variety of dinner (and breakfast and lunch and snack and dessert) options available: vegetable lasagna, ginger-glazed Scottish salmon, chimichurri grilled chicken and a pretty tasty-looking cider-brined pork tenderloin were among the choices encased in plastic tubs lining the cooler shelves. Breakfast called to me, too, with items like chili and eggs and a mushroom and English pea scramble. This was not the boring, bland, sterile food I'd envisioned when thinking of places like this.
I love being pleasantly surprised.
In addition to tubs of pre-made food, Snap also offers a tiny grocery section with several different yogurts, fresh fruit and healthy beverages, as well as a salad bar during lunch. When I was checking out, a girl stacking containers near the register offered the food in them to me for free.
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"For free?" I responded, puzzled.
She explained that Snap takes food that has only two days left before its expiration date and gives it to local businesses, charities and hospitals. "It's getting harder to find places that will take the food each day," she said. "We have a lot of it." The stack of containers silently confirmed this claim. I expect that two things will happen in the future, though: One, charities or hospitals hearing about this free, delicious, nutritious food will snap it up (no pun intended) as quickly as Snap sets it aside. Two, as more customers discover Snap, they'll have less food to dispose of each evening.
Once again, I was pleasantly surprised at how not healthy the food tasted. The green beans that accompanied my cider-brined pork tenderloin ($7.75) were undercooked, but I have only wonderful things to say about the rest of the dish -- especially the juicy pork and tangy red cabbage -- as well as the veggie lasagna ($7.75) I took home for later. "Lasagna" in name only, the layers of squash, eggplant and portabello mushroom were excellent substitutions for noodles in an oven-roasted marinara sauce that was expertly seasoned, neither too sweet nor too heavy on the oregano and basil.
Prices -- even before the 25 percent discount -- were reasonable, especially considering the fact that all the food is made in-house with local, seasonal ingredients when available. My only quibble was with the deviled eggs: boiled egg white halves piped full of hummus. For $3.75, you should really get more than four egg halves.