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Arts & Entertainment

Lunch, Anyone? Dig Inn

New York farm-to-counter chain comes to Boston

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Finding healthy, fresh food fast (and not fast food) that’s also inexpensive can be a challenge in Boston, especially for college students on a tight budget. Fortunately Dig Inn, the New York–based restaurant chain specializing in farm-to-counter fare made from scratch has just opened a restaurant in the Back Bay, its first outside New York. Since it opened in July, students and professionals have been flocking to the hotspot, drawn by its fresh, seasonal, customizable breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu seven days a week. Food can be eaten in or ordered to go, making it a go-to spot for a lunch with friends or a quick and healthy take-home option for those too tired to cook.

Dig Inn, with catchphrases like “Buy food from farms,” “Roll with the seasons,” and “Serve mostly vegetables” offers mindfully sourced produce, meat, and seafood that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Because the ingredients used are available locally, the menu changes with the seasons. Allergens are clearly listed on the menu, and there are plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores.

avocado toast topped with lemon zest, ricotta, and kale salt

The Back Bay location of New York chain Dig Inn is the first to serve breakfast: the popular avocado toast topped with lemon zest, ricotta, and kale salt.

Like the New York locations, the Boston eatery revolves around build-your-own Marketbowls ($8.41 to just under $13). Diners select a base—either farm greens with chevril and mint, toasted farro with butternut squash and celery, or classic brown rice, then market sides, two from a list of a dozen, among them roasted carrots with kale and pumpkin seed pesto, cauliflower with tahini and dates, and brussels sprouts with maple and sriracha. Add to that a protein, like charred chicken, marinated with lemon, fennel seeds, and mustard seeds ($9.81), grilled wild-caught Alaskan salmon with a pesto vinaigrette ($11.68), and flank steak with garlic and spices ($12.38), and top it off with one of several dressings. You can also purchase an extra market side for $2 and avocado with salt and extra-virgin olive oil for $1.50. Creating your own concoctions from scratch may seem overwhelming to first-time visitors (which we were), but the flavors in each dish are complementary and helpful servers are on hand to offer suggestions.

During a recent visit, we created two Marketbowls: one vegan and one with meat. The vegan bowl ($9.81) had a brown rice base topped with winter squash with black lentils, roasted sweet potatoes, grilled organic tofu, and a garlic tofu aioli. The tofu, served gaucho-style with charred red onion, fresno pepper, and chimichurri, was bursting with smoky, peppery flavor and was expertly grilled. The rice, infused with herbs, lime juice, and olive oil, was tender and filling, and the rosemary-roasted sweet potatoes—generous, meaty chunks—were crispy on the outside and soft inside. The star of the dish, though, was the chilled winter squash with black lentils, prepared with pickled fresno chilis and allspice. The tart flavors balanced the sweetness of the squash and the lentils added just the right texture and bite.

The meat bowl ($8.88) was both filling and comforting. The brown rice base was topped with mac and cheese, roasted sweet potatoes, Happy Valley meatballs, and garlic tofu aioli. The meatballs, made from local beef and chicken, were succulent and well-seasoned, coated in a chutney of dried apricots and tomatoes. The tartness of the chutney complemented the creamy mac and cheese, made from whole-wheat pasta, three cheeses, and roasted butternut squash and topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs. The garlic tofu aioli added a subtle, garlicky kick and pulled the bowl together.

Bowl of grain, vegetables, and protein

Customers can select from a variety of grain, vegetable, and protein options to create their own customized Marketbowl.

In addition to Marketbowls, Dig Inn serves a variety of specialty beverages: several iced teas ($2.80), kombucha ($4.44), and assorted cold-pressed juices ($9.35), and has a full espresso bar, with traditional coffee beverages, like cappuccinos ($3.27), lattes ($3.74), matcha lattes ($4.68), and more, and inventive drinks like an autumn rosemary cappuccino ($3.27). Wine can be had (glasses start at $7.94, carafes at $10.75) and beer is on tap ($7.94 for a carafe).

Unlike its Manhattan counterparts, the Back Bay spot offers breakfast (7 to 10 a.m. weekdays, 9 to 11 a.m. weekends). Breakfast items include a seasonal frittata of the day ($4.21), avocado toast (starting at $4.68), and gluten-free quinoa waffles with lemon zest ricotta and maple syrup ($4.21).

Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line for a table or for takeout during peak meal times. Dig Inn’s foray into the Boston market has been successful, and plans are in place to add two more—at the Prudential Center and on Washington Street at Downtown Crossing—by next spring.

The restaurant is easily accessible by T and well worth the trip. The ingredients are fresh, the menu inventive, and everything is reasonably priced. The open kitchen offers a view of chefs chopping, seasoning, and grilling, and during warm-weather months the outdoor patio is a pleasant spot to dine.

wood and marble table tops and benches

Stylish wood and marble tabletops and the restaurant’s open layout complement its inventive menu.

Dig Inn, 577 Boylston St., Boston, is open for breakfast Monday through Friday, 7 to 10 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 to 11 a.m., and for lunch and dinner daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; phone: 617-904-3711; all major credit cards accepted. Find the menu here. Takeout is available; delivery is not. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley and walk.

This is part of an ongoing series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Liz Vanderau can be reached at vanderau@bu.edu.

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