Girl #1, gazing at her lentil salad: "What is this?"

Girl #2: "I don't know. Like, kale? Do you like kale?"

Girl #1: "I have no idea."

One of the few drawbacks of eating at The Little Beet in the beating heart of Midtown: You're in Midtown--just a few tourist-clogged blocks from TGI Fridays, Tad's Steakhouse and the ghost of Cats.

But the mere fact that this airy, two-story, well-meaning, gluten-free, non-GMO, fast-casual spot exists in this neighborhood is reason enough to have lunch there. It's earnest in all the right ways, from the highly detailed Compost-Recycling-Trash bins to the vegetable-inspired artwork on the walls.

The view from the street | Seasonal salad | Partner Andy Duddleston | Lentil salad and steak

But back to your lunch. There are fresh salads (beets! And hey, look--kale!), including a seasonal number that combines arugula with roasted butternut squash, hazelnuts, apples and Parmesan cheese ($7). Their grilled chicken is an extra you'd actually want to order ($12.50); ours was juicy and obviously came right off the grill.

Platter upon platter of hot and cold side dishes ($4.50 each; $11.50 for three) beckon from a long serving case. Make a smorgasbord out of options like said lentil salad with avocado, oranges, pecans, ginger and kale; heads of grilled radicchio; and blistered green beans.

When we visited, the order-at-the-counter process was a little convoluted, but a free sample of brothy cauliflower soup while we waited, as well as the honest-to-goodness, 'aw-shucks' smiles on all of the employees' faces, erased any misgivings.

Not to be outdone, even the living plant wall is a breath of fresh air.