the interior at symbowl photo by michelle volansky

Review: SymBowl in Kirkwood

SymBowl, formerly The HotPot, touts fresh, local options meant to make it easy to eat healthy. With a vast build-your-own menu offering up a lot of choices for bowls, wraps and salads without a lot of guidance, I actually found it a little daunting. Luckily, the staff was happy to give suggestions. I’m privileged not to have any dietary restrictions, but if you’re someone who has a tough time finding a place to accommodate an autoimmune, gluten-free, vegan or paleo diet, SymBowl has you covered with separate menus for each. And for a place with such a healthy and crunchy vibe, the portion sizes are decidedly American.

The Wraps
Just get a wrap. Beef and pork are the most flavorful of the protein options – the braised beef is super tender and juicy and the roasted pork is crispy and comes in little chunks nearly indistinguishable from bacon (which is high praise). Complement either with something crunchy: Napa cabbage was a nice addition, as was the mild onion bite of scallions, and they have a great selection of other greens. Finish it off with the mysterious S.A.L.a.D. dressing. The menu doesn’t explain that it’s like a creamy avocado-green goddess dressing, but a quick call confirmed that the acronym stands for soy, avocado, lime and Dijon. It’s the best sauce on the menu, and people may not know it. The tortilla is another highlight: made from sunflower seed flour, it’s fluffy and crepe-like. My wrap came open on both ends (not sure if that was a mistake or a feature), and stuck to the wax paper it came parceled in, but those little quibbles weren’t deal-breakers for my favorite thing on the menu.

braised beef wrap at symbowl // photo by michelle volansky

Smoothies and juice
Smoothies and juice are big at SymBowl. Each juice is freshly squeezed or pressed and raw – without additives. If you’re a wimp like me, some (like the Drop the Beet, made with beet, celery and carrot) can be a tad earthy and unsweet, served at room temperature. But there are plenty of more approachable options. The Tanner smoothie, made with pineapple, mango and coconut cream was a real treat.

Instead of a soda fountain, SymBowl has a selection of three freshly brewed iced teas. All the ones I tried were delicious, and they even provided agave syrup to sweeten each to my child-like preference. My favorite was a mix of the black tea with the mango-pineapple. The combo was like a better QuikTrip tea – which I mean in the best possible way. I don’t always love iced tea, but these bowled me over.

The Downside
After studying the menu like the Rosetta stone, you may feel as though you’ve decoded something delicious. But be wary, adventurer. Every bowl I tried ended up soupy – even ones that should have had very little excess water. Maybe it’s from sauteeing the veggies or cooking the carbs, but something creates a crock of condensation. I expected a kind of bento bowl from an order of chicken, vegetables, spicy miso and yaki sauces over rice, but what I got was closer to soup with the rice as floaters in a bland broth. I’m a huge fan of bowl-of-stuff meals and was disappointed that SymBowl didn’t provide an experience I was stoked about. If you’re going for a salad or a wrap and a glass of iced tea, it’s a winner, but I wouldn’t recommend the namesake.

11215 Manchester Road, Kirkwood, 314.315.4421; 137 Chesterfield Towne Centre Blvd., Chesterfield, 636.778.0638,

Tags : Places, Reviews, Restaurants