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Snap Kitchen: Going big with healthy food to go

The Texas company has been prepping for the Philadelphia rollout in earnest for the last two months.

Go big or go home.

Snap Kitchen, an Austin, Texas-based company specializing in prepared foods aimed at health-conscious customers, will open seven shops in the Philadelphia area this year, starting with two on Saturday, Feb. 6 -  at 243 Market St. in Old City and at 1901 Callowhill St., next to Buena Onda in Logan Square.

The company has been prepping for the Philadelphia rollout in earnest for the last two months, when it began training kitchen employees at a central commissary it created from scratch in a former industrial building on I Street, near Kensington Avenue in the Harrowgate neighborhood.

The buildout, priced at less than $2 million, was done with no city or state aid, said company co-founder Martin Berson.

Snap's commissary turns out creatively thought-out and specifically portioned breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals - there's spinach and goat cheese scramble, bison quinoa hash, grass-fed lamb lasagna, and crispy Scottish salmon - plus salads and juices. The commissary could serve as many as 20 stores, which display the food in grocery style refrigerated cases. Store visits are fast - "most less than four minutes," Berson said.

Stores have microwave ovens and a few seats, but they're primarily retail outlets. Dishes are about $5 to $15.

Everything except for chips is gluten-free, and the labeling is downright explicit: each dish, packed in a BPA-free container, gets a nutritional breakdown and an ingredient list.

Snap Kitchen (no relation to the Philadelphia-area Snap Custom Pizza) was born in 2010 in Austin and spread next to Houston and Austin before reaching Chicago. As of this weekend, there are 31 stores in the five cities.

Philadelphia became Snap's entree to the East Coast because "the revitalization in the urban core that we've seen in the last five, eight years is amazing," said Berson, who with his partner, Penn alum Brad Radoff, also scouted Baltimore and Washington.

"There are a ton of people who are our target demographic - people into wellness and food and fitness and everything that creates the tailwinds behind our concept. ... This city has this amazing energy, like Austin."

Berson, who has a restaurant background, said Philadelphia could become a mid-Atlantic service hub.

Besides 243 Market St. and 1901 Callowhill St. , the next to open (perhaps Feb. 20) will be at 1901 Chestnut St, followed at the end of February by one at  5 S. Morehall Rd. in Malvern. Also on the booked are 1109 Walnut St. in Washington Square West, 706 Haddonfield Rd. in Cherry Hill, and an undisclosed location in Radnor Township.