REVIEW: Daily Chew’s smart, healthy fare feels just right for the times

The rotisserie cauliflower and fried eggplant bowl, with a side of fries, at the Daily Chew.
Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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The rotisserie cauliflower and fried eggplant bowl, with a side of fries, at the Daily Chew. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“And would you like crudités or pita chips with your hummus?” the cashier asked.

In a moment of obvious virtue signaling, as if my doctor were eavesdropping, I chose the veggies.

Soon enough, I would return to Daily Chew for loaded fries and chocolate-tahini cookies. But, on this morning, we would marvel over tomato toast and a transcendent vegetarian bowl packed with quinoa, avocado, leafy greens and a jammy, beet-tinted egg. We’d sip coffee, and leave for work feeling good, rather than in a food coma.

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Tomato toast — with hummus, pickled onions and herbs — was a recent special at Daily Chew. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Henri Hollis / for the AJC

Tomato toast — with hummus, pickled onions and herbs — was a recent special at Daily Chew. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Henri Hollis / for the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Tomato toast — with hummus, pickled onions and herbs — was a recent special at Daily Chew. Henri Hollis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Henri Hollis / for the AJC

Credit: Henri Hollis / for the AJC

Welcome to the healthy, “farmer-forward” universe of Julia Kesler Imerman. A South Africa native who moved to Atlanta when she was 3, Imerman opened Daily Chew last fall in the Liddell Drive space formerly occupied by Yumbii and the Queso Shop. Her plan was to sell her clean, Mediterranean-inspired breakfast and lunch fare from the walk-up window, while operating Stop Think Chew, her 5-year-old catering and prepared meals company, next door.

Her customers had other plans.

“It got cold, and people wanted to come inside,” Imerman said, explaining how the to-go window morphed into a bright, inviting cafe and coffee bar with patio seating and an appealing neighborhood vibe.

While the menu so far mostly has showcased pita pockets and bowls — built with the likes of rotisserie chicken; rotisserie cauliflower and fried eggplant; and smoked salmon and preserved lemon labneh — the chef will roll out a far more ambitious menu this week. To coincide with a Saturday block party, the additions — including toasts, salads, shakshuka, hotcakes and a latke salmon stack — should go live by the weekend.

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The Daily Chew’s loaded fries — with hummus, labneh, pickled veggies, house sauces, sumac and za'atar — are delicious and a great plate to share. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

The Daily Chew’s loaded fries — with hummus, labneh, pickled veggies, house sauces, sumac and za'atar — are delicious and a great plate to share.
Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Combined ShapeCaption
The Daily Chew’s loaded fries — with hummus, labneh, pickled veggies, house sauces, sumac and za'atar — are delicious and a great plate to share. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

After three visits, I’m awfully smitten with Daily Chew — the sweetly caring staff; the chill morning-culture vibe (the perfect time to sip coffee, answer emails or read); and the exquisitely fresh, thoughtfully designed plates.

To start, consider the hummus. Imerman drizzles hers with olive oil and tops it with crispy chickpeas for crunch. Scoop it up with fresh crudités — spears of colorful carrots and radishes on the day we sampled it. If you aren’t in the mood for such skinny food, go with the loaded fries — crispy potatoes with hummus, green tahini, Calabrian aioli, pickled veggies and a dusting of Middle Eastern spice.

As for the pitas and bowls with interchangeable fillings, we loved both the smoked salmon and rotisserie chicken versions. The chicken got its crunch from tangy pickled veggies, its creaminess from hummus and its chew from pita. The salmon was a glorious dance of lemony labneh, greens, capers, dill and sumac onions. I liked the rotisserie cauliflower and fried egg plant bowl very much, but the All-Day Brekkie bowl, with a beet-dyed egg imbued with the earthiness of the root veggie, was in another league. Imerman knows how to perk up plain foods with flair, making the flavors and textures sing.

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You can get a rotisserie chicken pita at Daily Chew. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

You can get a rotisserie chicken pita at Daily Chew. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

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You can get a rotisserie chicken pita at Daily Chew. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Imerman said she studied urban food systems and marketing at New York University, expecting she’d have a career in food policy. After college, her nonprofit work wasn’t so remunerative, so she started a side hustle — doing chef demos at community markets and preparing meals for clients. The hobby grew into a business, and, when restaurants suspended service during the pandemic, Stop Think Chew took off. I can see why.

While the city has no shortage of breakfast and brunch options, at most of them you’re more likely to find chicken and waffles than hummus with crudités.

Daily Chew proves that noshing and self-nurturing don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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This spread from Daily Chew includes an all-day breakfast bowl (top left), hummus plate and smoked salmon pita. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

This spread from Daily Chew includes an all-day breakfast bowl (top left), hummus plate and smoked salmon pita. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Combined ShapeCaption
This spread from Daily Chew includes an all-day breakfast bowl (top left), hummus plate and smoked salmon pita. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

DAILY CHEW

Food: healthy breakfast and lunch, inspired by the Mediterranean and South Africa

Service: warm and caring

Best dishes: All-Day Brekkie bowl, smoked salmon pita, loaded fries, hummus, tahini-chocolate chip cookie, house lemonade

Vegetarian selections: innumerable options

Alcohol: no

Price range: $$

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Children: yes

Parking: free on street and in lot

MARTA station: Lindbergh

Reservations: no

Wheelchair access: yes

Noise level: low

Takeout: yes

Address, phone: 2127 Liddell Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-600-4155

Website: dailychewatl.com

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