The Chicken Caesar Wrap at Start. (Photo by Rich Vana)

The Chicken Caesar Wrap at Start. (Photo by Rich Vana)


It’s not about dieting, or diet food, if that’s what you’re wondering. Nor is it a bit designed to appeal to some current culinary trend. Yes, you’ll see the words posted and thrown around, words like pure and whole and organic, but it’s not really about those words alone. Make no mistake: Start is all about the food. As for those words? They merely speak to the quality.

“It’s certainly helping that there’s a number of items on the menu that are diet friendly, but diet wasn’t our primary goal,” says Start owner Erin McKool. “But having pure, whole food was. So everything that we serve is clean and we use a lot of organic products – even beyond what we advertise. For example, take our sugar; we tell you we use organic sugar, but it’s organic, evaporated, cane-juice sugar. Our yogurt is all-organic, and we try to use local whenever possible, so we use Three Happy Cows yogurt, and they provide our milk too. The idea is to be clean, so what you’re putting in your body isn’t full of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides, or nitrates.”

McKool, who opened Start in August of last year, has a vision for her new restaurant inspired not only by the lack of inspiring fast-food restaurant fare, but also by her own son. The need, she observes, for a fast-service restaurant that doesn’t load its food with preservatives and antibiotics was so great that – despite a lack of any professional restaurant experience – she decided to open a place where the words fast and wholesome weren’t an either/or option.

The Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich at Start. (Photo by Rich Vana)

The Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich at Start. (Photo by Rich Vana)

“We’re hoping it’ll be the first of a trend in fast food that’s serving healthy, organic, real food, and what we interpret that to mean is that we’re making it here. It’s a restaurant, but for people who don’t have a lot of time, or for people who want to go through the drive through,” she says. “But we’ve also made it a comfortable place to linger, too, and we offer coffee, Wi-Fi, and beer and wine. However, the overall goal is to get people fed who would otherwise need to get fast food but want something a little more wholesome.”

The meals are wholesome in every regard. For example, the bacon, egg ‘n cheddar sandwich is a substantial breakfast offering, with applewood-smoked bacon (and organic, free-range eggs), while the high-selling Better Burger (grass-fed, free-range beef, scratch-made dijonnaise) provides a beefy, satiating lunch. And for prices that generally hover significantly under $10, the premium that usually comes with more sensibly-sourced ingredients is, for the most part, happily absent. Even the Mahi-Mahi Wrap, with avocados and a cilantro cream sauce, can be had for $9.50.

And while she has little professional experience, McKool’s handiness in her own kitchen was certainly a precursor to Start, where the recipes mimic the food she prepares at home. Her hope is that the food she once served only in her kitchen will be available to wholesome-minded people everywhere.

“I love food, I’ve always tried to eat pretty healthy and be careful what I feed my family – to ensure that it’s the highest quality with the cleanest ingredients. And having a little boy, there’s nowhere fast to eat. There’s just nowhere to go that you can just swing through a drive thru,” she says. “And I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant of some kind, a small café or something like that. Then I thought, ‘Let’s fill in the gaps out there so that maybe we can be bigger than just one little restaurant.’ The idea for this is that it will expand and be available all over.”

It hasn’t even been open for half a year, and Start is already headed in that direction. With an attitude geared toward serving conscience-friendly food and a desire to please, McKool’s dream certainly isn’t beyond reason. And while the effects may be that the parking lot gets a little full during lunch and the drive-through line may seem a little daunting (she observes that the wait is rarely over seven or eight minutes) the effort to get a quick meal that tastes a little slower is already an effort worth making for many Dallasites.

“We don’t want it to taste healthy,” McKool says. “We want it to taste good.”

At Start, the two seem to go hand in hand.

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