New Royal Palm restaurant lures fitness-minded, including celebrities

Here’s a place intent on spinning the fast-food concept on its head. You can go from ordering a satisfying meal to devouring it in minutes. But you won’t be asking for fries with that.

The concept at Bolay, the new fast-casual eatery serving the western communities, is bowls – bowls full of fresh, holistic foods. It’s not a vegan spot, although vegans will find a solid range of options. It’s not a diet spot, though dieters will find plenty from which to choose. And seekers of gluten-free foods will be happy to know every dish here is gluten-free.

The concept is already attracting fitness-minded folks to the new spot – not to mention fitness-minded celebs, like polo star Nic Roldan and champion equestrian show jumper Jessica Springsteen (Bruce’s daughter).

Bolay, which opened Feb. 26 in a new Royal Palm Beach plaza, is a spot that enshrines bowl cuisine, and it is doing this by filling oval bowls with fresh veggies, interesting grains and well-seasoned meats. The potential combos of these three – plus sauces and add-ons – are many.

Consider a base of nutty “forbidden” black rice, protein-packed Peruvian quinoa, aromatic basmati rice, cilantro noodles or simply marinated kale. Then, top that base with your choice of veggie (from maple-roasted butternut squash to smoky cauliflower) and protein (like Caribbean spiced steak, ponzu tuna, pork tenderloin, lemon chicken and sesame tofu). Add to that a sauce (spicy Thai, cilantro pesto, or carrot-ginger) and, perhaps, an add-on side, like minted tomatoes or goat cheese crumble.

The result could be a heap of healthy, tasty goodness, or simply a composition of judiciously selected elements. As in the best fast-casual spots, the choice is yours.

For the ingredient-boggled, Bolay’s corporate chef, Martin Oswald (a Wolfgang Puck protégé), has designed several harmonious bowls, priced from $9.95 to $13.95.

On a recent visit, we found the Aspen Bowl to be a winner with its black-rice and kale base, its generous layering of Brussels sprouts and minted tomatoes, and its sesame-scented raw ahi tuna and flavorful Caribbean steak.

I tried my hand at customizing a bowl, selecting a quinoa base with pork tenderloin, butternut squash, broccoli, cilantro pesto and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. My first miss was evident at first bite: The quinoa proved to be bland, unseasoned and, worst of all, cold. The maple-laced butternut squash was over-seasoned with fall spices. Just right, however, was the pork tenderloin. Tender and perfectly seasoned, it was delicious. It would have paired well with the black rice.

Of course, one can dream up ideal combos away from a quickly moving line. It’s not so easy in line. Our line moved so rapidly, I didn’t have a chance to realize there was self-serve tea available in the dining room. I bought a can of fizzy, flavored water instead. Bolay also offers a selection of cold-pressed juices, cold-brewed coffee and almond “mylk,” all made fresh and bottled daily in-house. (Beer and wine is served as well.)

The eatery is the brainchild of Jupiter resident Chris Gannon, who owns the place with his father, Tim Gannon, Outback Steakhouse co-founder and PDQ franchisee.

Unlike PDQ, which holds a high standard in service, Bolay is not yet up to par on service, I found on my recent visit. On the service line, staffers seemed harried on the night of my visit. And when I asked about drink choices, no one told me about that self-serve tea.

But given the senior Gannon’s success with local PDQ franchises (not to mention Outback, for which he dreamed up the iconic Bloomin’ Onion appetizer), it’s not hard to imagine the proliferation of the Bolay concept. The warm, minimalist interiors and well-focused menu already give the place a polished franchise feeling.

When it comes to expanding our options for healthy, affordable fast-food, this is a concept that can bowl us away anytime.

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