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Friday, August 28, 2015

Fast-Casual, Quinoa-Based, Fully Automated Eatsa Opens Monday in the FiDi

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2015 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane

I must confess that I had low expectations when I heard about eatsa, the quinoa-centric, fully automated, fast-casual place that opens this coming Monday (August 31) in the Financial District. It sounded like a trend-chaser that caters to awkward Software-Americans’ hatred of interpersonal communication, and I've gotten to be very cynical about effusive claims of goodness and wellness (ahem, Proper Food.)

I’m still a little iffy on the automate-everybody-out-of-a-job trend that looks to engulf us all sooner or later, but after one burrito bowl, I was pretty impressed with how seamless and (frankly) cool eatsa's setup was. (To be fair, there are actual humans involved; they’re just completely out of sight.) But considering that the FiDi is a taqueria-free land of limp salads and pricey, sit-down lunches, this was a shrewd way to change up fast food. And everything is only $6.95!

click to enlarge Rows of cubbies, with the screen on which your name will appear when your food is ready. - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • Rows of cubbies, with the screen on which your name will appear when your food is ready.

Here’s how it works. You order at a tablet, paying by card, and your name appears on a screen overhead along with the number of the glass-door cubby in which your food will appear. (They look like a combination of bus station lockers and mini-ovens, but in a nice futuristic tough, the glass is also a screen.)

You have a several choices, among them a Mediterranean salad, a curry bowl, a burrito bowl, and a smokehouse salad. Typically, when I see a prompt marked “customize,” I assume that means “take the following stuff away, cause I’m allergic,” so I foolishly neglected to tool around and discover that I could have gotten a truffle egg added to my burrito bowl. (Next time!)

click to enlarge This bowl belongs to ME! - PETER LAWRENCE KANE
  • Peter Lawrence Kane
  • This bowl belongs to ME!

It took about three minutes to materialize, which isn’t that much slower than Star Trek’s replicator, and it arrives with your name on it. The portion size was surprisingly generous (again, $6.95?). The pico could have used more salt, and I would have preferred less corn and more cheese, but the chips were fresh and the guac was particularly great. Since I was visited by the hobgoblin of thirst, I sucked down a number of low-sugar drinks, like peach tea and ginger-lime, all of them good.

Overall, eatsa is quite excellent. Rather than “I want an Audi A4 and I don’t want to look a fellow human being in the eye” or “Somebody get my dog a date,” I feel like finally, tech is solving actual problems, and solving them well.

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.


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