Now Open in Clayton: Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh

Since 2009, Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh has been serving fast-casual, healthful Mediterranean-inspired food to the people of Denver. Now, the growing brand is branching out of the Mile High City, and St. Louis is one of its first stops.

Garbanzo follows the customizable model of dining, popularized by Chipotle, wherein diners choose a style of entree, protein, and accoutrements. It’s speedy, affordable and personalized, but Handler is quick to point out that the restaurant does not take any shortcuts. “We call ourselves restaurants and not stores for a reason,” he explains. “We make everything in-house — we knead, we bake, we sauté — and every ingredient we use is something your grandmother would recognize.”

Guests can also choose to have their meal served as a salad, a plate, a “Med burrito” or a flatbread. Entrees can be dressed with everything from tabouleh to hummus to cilantro sauce, and diners are encouraged to add as many things as they’d like. And if they get carried away and end up creating a concoction that doesn’t work, guests are welcome to return their items and give it another go. “It’s the Garbanzo Guarantee,” says Handler. “We want this to be accessible adventure and allow our diners to take risks and try new things without having to worry about ruining their lunch.”

Handler sees the sky as the limit for Garbanzo, and if the positive response and lines out the door during lunchtime in its first few days are any indication, this will be the first of many Garbanzo outlets in the region. “Our goal is for our guests to have a truly remarkable experience,” Handler says. “We want you to taste how delicious nutritious can be.”

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh (8143 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-224-5222) is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 9 .m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.