The Atlanta-based chain Gusto, which opened its fifth location in Decatur on Oct. 18, features a stylish industrial design furnished in yellows and grays reminiscent of many restaurants around Ponce City Market. Nestled along Church Street and across from the Emory Decatur Hospital, the restaurant fuses Mediterranean, Thai and Tex-Mex flavors into colorful bowls, wraps and salads that promise locally sourced ingredients.
The restaurant prides itself on its “gustos,” Gusto-style entrees with distinct flavor profiles. There are six gustos: chipotle mango avocado, ginger lime peanut, chile sesame BBQ, tahini cucumber feta and sweet soy sriracha, that can each be made into an eight-inch flatbread wrap or a bowl of mixed greens, brown rice or half greens, half rice.
Meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans alike can enjoy Gusto’s offerings, for the chain provides a plethora of proteins ranging from grilled shrimp and chicken to grilled portobello mushrooms and avocado. Crispy sweet potato chips come as a side for every order, driving home their health-conscious mission of “better-for-you fast food” that founder and former NFL quarterback Nate Hybl promises.
For a total of $11.83 (with tip), I opted for the Ginger Lime Peanut Gusto over a warm bed of seasoned long-grain jasmine rice, which included cold cabbage, red bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots and a roasted peanut salad tossed in a lime vinaigrette garnished with scallions. The meal came with a cup of cold ginger peanut sauce and a side of oily sweet potato chips. For protein, I chose grilled diced portobello mushrooms, as I don’t eat meat, but I was satisfied nonetheless.
The flavors in the meal were subtle — no one ingredient overpowered any other, which surprised me. I expected the ginger to be the star of the show, but I was pleased that it wasn’t strong enough to block out all the other flavors.
The dish itself was Thai-inspired, and I could tell. Sweet and nutty notes of peanuts and lime were foremost, and the veggies offered a much-needed crunch that complemented the rice. The dish also had the perfect ratio of rice, veggies and protein, as well as fresh-tasting ingredients. The crisp veggies and fresh rice created a well-balanced meal that satisfied my hunger.
My friend ordered the Tahini Cucumber Feta Gusto served over a bed of rice with cherry tomatoes, scallions, chickpeas, cucumbers and feta drizzled in a za’atar white balsamic vinaigrette topped with dill. The Mediterranean-influenced dish, served with tahini sauce and grilled and diced portobello mushrooms as the protein, had a mild blend of flavors.
With both dishes, no one flavor dominated the taste, as both were on the milder side. There are opportunities to amp up the flavor profile, namely by choosing spicy grilled chicken as your protein or ordering one of the spicy side sauces (chipotle mango avocado, chile sesame BBQ or sweet soy sriracha).
My friend and I somehow ordered what seemed to be the mildest meals the restaurant offers, but still didn’t regret our choices. The sauces made the plates successful in terms of flavor, while the veggies lended a nice crunch to every bite. Clearly, each bowl had been carefully planned.
Although the dishes themselves were relatively nondescript, the atmosphere was anything but. Miniature succulent plants adorned the dining tables as pendant lights illuminated the area. A corny neon “LIVE TODAY WITH GUSTO” sign hung brightly against the slotted wooden walls. The bright and airy atmosphere allowed plenty of natural light to come through tall windows.
Though the menu is globally inspired, I wouldn’t call the food authentic. Instead, the menu borrows from cultures around the world to produce fast service, creative meals. Most of the dishes cost around $9.95, a fair price for what you’re getting. For what the restaurant is — a trendy, fast-casual eatery that doesn’t ruffle any feathers — it served its purpose.
It wasn’t exceptional, but with chains like Gusto, I wasn’t expecting anything extraordinary. My friend and I were satisfied, but we agreed we wouldn’t go out of our ways to eat at Gusto again. It’s a good choice for those who can’t agree on the same type of cuisine and is a solid pick for people on the go looking for health-conscious, globally inspired fare close to home.