The locally-grown concept has found lots of success- and has already expanded to other cities, like Washington D.C.
There are burritos, smoothies and plenty of salads mounded into plastic bowls. But The Protein Bar isn't your ordinary fast food operation. With a handful of locations downtown, and gaining speed, the company was homegrown by a guy who was overweight and professionally stagnating.
"Fast forward a few years, there was no place that had the kind of food I wanted to eat. So, I liquidated all my life savings, got some loans and started it up myself," said Matt Matros, the founder of The Protein Bar.
There are juices and smoothies featuring raw ingredients and supplemental powders; the Bucktown Green Tea features the namesake, plus skim milk and bananas, while the HI-5 includes kale, cilantro and pineapple.
As for food, don't be surprised if one of your dishes ends up having quinoa in it.
"Quinoa is a big deal for us. It's the highest non-meat protein on the planet. A way for us to have some sort of consistency of a rice or pasta," Matros said.
They use it in black bean bowls, jammed with cheese and fresh avocado, but it can be used in a number of different preparations.
"It's amazingly versatile. It takes on the flavor of whatever it's mixed with. So, we use it in a ton of items," he said.
Grilled chicken and mixed greens join avocado and a cilantro-lime dressing for a burrito that's quite a bit healthier than the industry standard, thanks to the tortilla.
"We have a low-cal, high-fiber flaxseed wrap that's great. Helps us bring our burritos down in calories," said Matros.
Salads are equally health-conscious: imagine kale and marinated tofu together with chickpeas; that kind of salad didn't exist in or near The Loop until recently.
"I just knew that the foundation of protein is part of healthy nutrition, healthy balance in your diet is what people were looking for. And especially in a on the go, fast way for urban professionals," he said.
The Protein Bar is also open for breakfast, offering a lot of healthier options in the morning.
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235 S. Franklin St.
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10 S. Clinton St.