Arts restaurant review

Robotic restaurant opening soon in Boston

Spyce, a restaurant featuring a robotic kitchen, will open its first location this spring

Healthy Food, $
241 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02201
Hours: 10:30 a.m. — 10:00 p.m.

It felt like a scene from the future: two cleanly-dressed chefs standing idly to the side of a machine that was cooking my food for me. Me sipping on green juice as I watched this happen.

Spyce is a restaurant business started by four MIT graduates, which features a robotic kitchen. Their first restaurant opens in downtown Boston later this spring, but I was able to try one of its bowls at a special preview.

Customers place their order on a tablet, choosing from a list of bowls with flavors ranging from Thai to Moroccan. They can also customize their order or add a drink (I would recommend kiwi-ginger juice).

Next, the order goes to the cooking robot. A moving bin collects ingredients that fall out of storage containers. The bin then pours its contents into a rotating, hot grill. After cooking for about 30 seconds, the rotating grill tilts over, and the food falls into a bowl. The grill gets hosed with hot water before the next order comes in.

Finally, a human chef scoops fresh ingredients, such as goat cheese or yogurt, into the bowl and serves it to the customer.

I was surprised by how streamlined the process was. There were two orders cooking at a time, but there were a number of rotating grills on standby to take over if one of the grills needed maintenance. The time between ordering and getting food was comparable to that of Chipotle.

The food itself was great. I ordered a “hearth” bowl, which brought together flavors that reminded me of what the name implies. Each component added something that improved the overall dish — especially the diced green apples on top, which added a nice unexpected zingy-ness after I initially thought they were cucumbers.

I definitely appreciated the freshness of the food. After all, I had watched it finish cooking right before I picked it up at the counter. The quality of the ingredients was excellent, and the bowls are nicely priced at $7.50.

Spyce launched as a startup a two years ago. In the time between its founding and the opening of its first location, the company has been working on improving throughput, ensuring food safety, and giving the robot a sleeker look. It no longer uses any of the plywood that the original robotic kitchen had.

The work they put in has paid off in a restaurant that incorporates novel technology while keeping the usual flow of a fast-casual restaurant setting. It was surprising how normal it felt to eat there. There are not any flashing buttons or whirling parts, just a robot that quickly and accurately prepares your food for you. While the machinery is impressive, perhaps this is an even bigger accomplishment: making a cooking robot that people can easily get used to. The restaurant is a proof of a concept that we might see much more of in the future. That just makes me wonder when my McDonald's order will get to me on a conveyor belt.