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Herban: Healthy eats in University City

Two Wharton grads have an idea for a fast-casual restaurant. But first, they're doing delivery.

Another duo of Wharton grads is tackling the fast-casual food game.

Following Justin Sapolsky and Nicole Capp of the Italian sandwich shop Matt & Marie's near Logan Square into the marketplace are Kalefe Wright and Amir Fardshisheh.

Wright and Fardshisheh, who enjoy fitness and eating right, started Herban Quality Eats, whose stock in trade are  hearty but healthful food made with quality ingredients.

If all goes to plan, in September they will open their first Herban restaurant, in a new building at 3601 Market St.

Herban (say it "urban") will ascribe to the fast-casual model of cafeteria-line-style, build-your-own platters as practiced by Chipotle and others: Customers choose a base, add a protein and order sides to complete a meal.

Wright and Fardshisheh are starting out slowly, testing their ideas in the field. Last fall, working out of the leased kitchen at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises at 48th and Spruce Streets, they began dinner delivery service in University City.

Starting Tuesday, March 17, they expand the delivery zone to Center City west of 18th Street (Arch to Bainbridge Streets).

"We've always wanted to make it easier to eat healthy in a convenient way, and not pay through the roof to do it," said Wright, a son of Caribbean immigrants who is from south Florida and South Carolina and did his undergraduate work at Morehouse College; he worked in finance previously. Their food, he said, "caters to the masses without it being a salad or vegan option."

Fardshisheh, who is from Toronto and worked in finance in San Francisco, New York and L.A. before his Wharton years, said the restaurant's atmosphere would be "upbeat." They're working with Ed Eimer of Eimer Design on the look and layout.

They hired chef Chris Paul, who has worked during the opening phase of restaurants such as Parc and Chifa. Food is tasty, based on a sample platter of jerk chicken, rice, sweet potato mash, and quinoa and feta - plenty of food for $8.80.

Though Wright and Fardshisheh lacked a food background, they learned from others after they decided to go into business together. Fardshisheh worked at a Chipotle, while Wright worked at a Shake Shack.

"We weren't afraid to get our hands dirty," said Fardshisheh.