First Look: Exki, the New Fast-Casual Belgian Chain in Gramercy
With over 75 locations sprinkled throughout Europe, this Brussels based chain has finally made the leap across the Atlantic, setting up their first American shop in the Flatiron District. Launched in 2001 by Belgian former classmates, the name EXKi is a play on the French word exquis, meaning exquisite or delightful. Chef Galen Zamarra of Mas (farmhouse) and Mas (la grillade) has played a key consulting role during the conception of the NYC menu. Focusing on fresh seasonal recipes with wholesome ingredients, EXKi prepares all their dishes, including the antipasti salads, organic wraps and sourdough tartines on premise. Their company wide mission promotes transparency, utilizing a green kitchen, recyclable packaging and an eco friendly mantra.
The space: The space is very welcoming, creating more of a cafe vibe than your average fast casual dining spot. The decor evokes the same French rustic flair of a Le Pain Quotidien, but the sky high ceilings give it a leg up. There is seating located in the rear of the restaurant and upstairs there is a cozy lounge with communal table.
The experience: Prepackaged goods make this a great grab-and-go spot for someone on the run. There is also coffeehouse-like seating available if you want to stay and surf the web on the complimentary Wi-Fi. The cafeteria style set up allows the customs to check out the selection before loading up their tray and paying at the counter in the front.
The food: There is an obvious European influence to the menu which includes baguette sandwiches, entree salads, cocottes (one pot dishes), jumpers (yogurt parfaits), raw salads, tartines and desserts. They offer a wide range of breakfast, lunch and dinner options everyday. For breakfast the an egg wrap with spinach, egg, roasted peppers and cheddar, is a great grab-and-go option and for lunch the fig tree sandwich with figs, prosciutto, caramelized onions and arugula on a home baked baguette, is a winner as well.
The drinks: EXKi serves locally roasted coffee made from fair trade coffee beans. The also stock bottled drinks like artisan juices from Red Jacket Orchards, a staple of the Union Square Market just a few blocks away. Additionally, for those who eat in-house, wine and beer will be available.
The cost: Prices are very reasonable, with nothing ringing in over $12. Baguettes, sandwiches and wraps are in the $6.50-$8.50 range, while breakfast fare like egg wraps, vegetable croissants and steel cut oatmeal are all under $5. The salads are offered in a variety of sizes; a small salad costs $4 while the entree salads are either $10 or $11.
The details: 257 Park Avenue South, at 20th Street, New York, NY 10010; 929.236.3954