Eatsa: Where Ultramodern Vending Machines Serve You Healthy Quinoa Bowls

When I first read about eatsa, the associated headline said, “New San Francisco restaurant replaces humans with iPads.” Obviously, my interest was piqued. A fast food restaurant that’s healthy and completely nixes human interaction? Hmm. Not sure what this says about our future but thought I’d give it a go. I hadn’t even been to the restaurant yet and could barely handle the trendiness. Health! Technology! Robots! Quinoa! It’s in techcrunch! Read on for the full experience… (disclaimer: photos were all frenetically shot on iPhone)

B and I set out at 11:30am in hopes to beat the line. What proceeded to happen was probably the most stereotypical San Francisco experience I’ve had. Like what people make fun of San Franciscans for online, yep, that was me. AND THAT’S OK. We got there about 11:42am and the line was already wrapped around the restaurant. Of course. A bunch of people waiting in a long ass line for food served by robots.

Yeah. Past the “5 minute” sign and the “8 minutes” sign so that you couldn’t even see the end of the line. There was a camera crew. This is the crucial point. Do you continue waiting for the bus if you’ve already waited 20 minutes? Do you wait in line for the restaurant even though you’ve walked (kinda) far?

The answer is yes. We already committed. We had already told everyone in the office and we couldn’t go back empty-handed. To the end of the line we go. The signs are pretty accurate. We ended up waiting about 10 minutes. Upon entering, you order via iPad. Essentially the menu is based on a bunch of quinoa bowls that you can customize or choose restaurant-set combinations. There are eight different bowls, and they all start at $6.95. You can also customize your own bowl and choose different toppings. Those also start at $6.95 but can quickly increase as you further customize. I start off by building my own bowl but found that it easily went over $6.95.

The options were overwhelming. The pressure was building as I felt everyone in line staring at me while I drowned in indecision. “What do I get? Curry? Miso sauce? Chimichurri? Potatoes?? Cheese? What kind of cheese??” Halfway through, I change my mind (there’s that indecision again) and go with a pre-set bowl. But of course, I substitute out three ingredients, which I found was more economical than building a bowl from scratch. At the end, you’re presented with drinks. MORE CHOICES?? The sparkling mango guava water catches my eye and I quickly choose it before someone kills me.

Then, we move to the waiting area where your food will eventually be delivered. A modern “vending machine” as someone on Facebook described it. To me, it actually reminded me of a futuristic Ikea shelving unit. You know you’ve seen those. They’re great cause they’re stackable and modular, much like this fancy food deliverer machiney thing. A list of names scrolls on a large monitor, and when your food is ready, your cubby number will show.

Now I know everyone else’s name and THEY KNOW MINE. When your food pops up, cute little graphics flash on the screen and you double tap to open the cubby. Fun.

I feel like I’m in the Fifth Element.

Caught in the act of photo-documenting this experience. I pick up my food. It does come out eerily quick. Under five minutes. As someone who is a food and recipe blogger, this makes me slightly uncomfortable. It’s too fast.

No Worry Curry and Mango Guava Sparkling Water

After we both get our food, we scurry out and are on our way. Where are the utensils?? I think about that the whole way home. Were there utensils somewhere and I just missed them? If you plan to eat outside of the office, do you have to bring your own utensils so you can eat your quinoa bowl? I ask the hard hitting questions.

The verdict. The quinoa bowl was good. I liked the assortment of vegetables and the flavors fused well together. There were lots of different textures. The potatoes were a little iffy and it was very heavy on the starch and carbs. There was a LOT of quinoa. Overwhelmingly so. You make be thinking, “It’s a quinoa bowl, Nanette! Of course there’s a lot of quinoa.” True, but I felt like it was still too much for the average quinoa eating. Also, eatsa is vegetarian and I felt it was lacking in protein options. I didn’t see much besides tofu and eggs. I was already hungry a few hours later. However, the mango guava sparkling water was fantastic!! Didn’t see that one coming, but it was perfectly sweetened, bubbly, and very refreshing. To be honest, that was my favorite part of the whole meal.

While I thought it was quite a novel experience and the food was fine, I am not sure how often I will come. As B put it, “I would walk this far for Super Duper, but not for eatsa.” It’s great in that it’s convenient, quick and satisfies the tastebuds, but I’d rather wait ten minutes in line for other things. Granted, if I were in the area and looking for something quick and easy, I would for sure head to eatsa again.


Have you tried eatsa? What are your thoughts?

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