- Mendocino Farms
- California’s Beloved Sandwich Shop Expands to Downtown Tomorrow
- California (sandwich) love for the 9-to-5 set
- The Breakfast Klub will cook in D.C. after Astros World Series loss
- From Toys R Us to upscale cocktails
- Two stars for Mastranto’s
- 5 Fast Casual Restaurants That Are Healthy & Hit The Spot
- Sometimes we just want to get a quick, tasty, hastle-free lunch or dinner and going to a proper, sit down restaurant takes too much time. However, where do you go if you want something good and need a break from the food trucks? We gotchu covered with our top 5 spots for hearty, yummy meals that are ready to go in 1-2-3.
- Dig Inn
- The Kati Roll Company
- Two Forks
- City Kitchen
- 10 of the Best Healthy Lunch Chains Around the Country
- ① Dr Smood
- ② Ancolie
- ③ Honeygrow
- ④ Two Forks
- ⑤ Beefsteak
- ⑥ Saloniki
- ⑦ Good Seed
- ⑧ Buredo
- ⑨ Pondicheri
- ⑩ Lemonade
- America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants
I’m a fan of Mendocino Farm and I was so happy when they opened this location in Brea.
If you’re hungry for a sandwich, there is no better place to get one.
Here’s the rundowns :
November 2 Remember – “warm carved turkey, housemade kale-mushroom-turkey sausage stuffing, ancho chile-cranberry chutney, herb aioli, shredded romaine on toasted cranberry walnut wheat” – Thanksgiving dinner between to pieces of bread. It’s DELICIOUS! I love the juicy turkey slices, I love the stuffing, I love the cranberry. It’s a seasonal item, so get it now before the go bye bye. It’s worth every extra calories your body doesn’t need. Lol. Did I mention I love this sandwich =)
Modern Tuna Melt – “wild, line-caught all white albacore tuna with fresh herbs, farmhouse cheddar, vegenaise, Shane’s housemade bread & butter pickles, red onions, tomatoes, Scarborough Farm’s greens on panini-pressed buckwheat” it’s a good sandwich. The only thing I would change is the “vegenaise” , give me the real stuff. I want MAYO on it. Lol.
Grilled Cheese w/ Cheddar (kid’s meal) – it comes with a side of fruit and a drink. My son was not a fan (so was I). The white bread was super thick and the crust was just too hard for a child (and me too).
Avocado & Quinoa Salad w/ Steak ($3 add on) – “butter lettuce & Romaine, curly kale, quinoa, millet, black bean, roasted corn and jicama succotash, red onions, cilantro, Cotija cheese, grape tomatoes, crispy tortilla strips, avocado and. chipotle vinaigrette” – Aside from good sandwiches, they have good salads as well. This was so good. I added Steak and they were very generous on the serving. The avocados provided the creaminess, the tortilla the crunchiness and the chipotle vinaigrette was money!! Yum, yum, yum!!
Price is on the high side, but well worth it IMO.
Service was very friendly and extremely helpful the two times I’ve been here so far.
Tip: if you’re doing take out, call in your order. Trust me it will save you some time. You’ll avoid the main line and just go straight to the take out register.
Creative, healthy, fresh and Delicious, what more do you want from a sandwich or salad.
Go, what are you waiting for =)
California’s Beloved Sandwich Shop Expands to Downtown Tomorrow
Welcome to AM Intel, a (mostly) daily round-up of Houston’s hottest bits of dining intel.
Trying to stay on top of Space City’s endlessly vibrant dining scene? Keep up with the hottest new openings, essential eateries, and more by subscribing to the Eater Houston newsletter, and following us on Twitter and Facebook.
California (sandwich) love for the 9-to-5 set
California chain Mendocino Farms’s takeover of Houston’s sandwich scene continues this week with the opening of its first downtown location on Thursday, November 7 (609 Main Street). In addition to its destination carbs, carved meats, and salads, the operation includes a large catering business. Last month, the expansion-minded brand added a new outpost at Uptown Park.
The Breakfast Klub will cook in D.C. after Astros World Series loss
Houston soul-food spot The Breakfast Klub will make good on a World Series bet to serve traditional Texan half-smokes to Washington Nationals fans next week, reports DCist. Before the series started, owner Marcus Davis vowed to cook at D.C.’s iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl while wearing its T-shirts, should his hometown team lose. While in D.C. for his daughter’s graduation from Howard University, he and Ben’s owner Kamal Ben Ali shook on the meaty wager.
Had the Astros won, Ben’s Chili Bowl staff would have to Houston to serve its destination hot dogs at the Klub. Klub is not the only loser with its tail between its legs; Houston-based Karbach Brewing now has to make Virginia’s Devil’s Backbone beer wearing shark shirts — the unofficial mascot of the Nationals’ run.
From Toys R Us to upscale cocktails
The rumors are true: Post Oak Boulevard’s fine dining destination Masraff’s will uproot and move to a new mixed-use development at I-10 and Bunker Hill, owner Russell Masraff confirms with CultureMap. Moody National Companies’s six-story project, replacing a former Toys R Us, is expected to wrap up by March. Masraff’s plan is to close when its lease expires at the end of April and relocate and reopen shortly after in mid-May. There’s many reasons for the move, but he says the biggest is the fact Metro’s incoming Uptown BRT project on Post Oak could hurt business.
Two stars for Mastranto’s
Houston Chronicle restaurant reviewer Alison Cook felt welcoming vibes from the start at the Heights’ year-old eatery run by a Venezuelan-Spanish couple. “From the mellow glass-sconce lighting to the glass-walled dough room, I was captivated. And I stayed that way: through bouncy, vibrant house-made pastas, unusual baked goods, vivid salads and seasonal vegetable plates brimming with personality.”
Though prices are on the high side for a casual, all-day neighborhood eatery, she notes, the “care and quality” behind the experience is worth it. Along with a “quirky” wine list, hits on her plate included spaghetti carbonara, Brussels sprouts prepared grilled, raw and fried, its signature “Carrots Over Carrots” dish, and a.m. pastries.
New York is known for having some of the top fine dining restaurants in the world – that’s a given. But it’s also home to so many incredible fast casual spots for just about any cuisine you could be in the mood for. I get excited for the days I’m out and about so I have an excuse to grab lunch out. Here are my top picks for the best healthy fast casual restaurants NYC.
You might have noticed that I’m at Hu Kitchen all. The. Time. It’s in a super convenient location near Union Square, and it’s pretty much a healthy food heaven. The menu is mostly Paleo but also have a ton of great plant-based options. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as a full juice bar, cafe, prepared foods, and bakery. I must’ve tried just about everything on their menu and have never been disappointed, but my favorites are building my own bowl, their burgers, breakfast burritos & the Hu crack bar.
Blossom Du Jour
Blossom Du Jour is the little sis of Blossom vegan restaurant (another favorite of mine) with a handful of locations across the city. Whether you’re a vegan or not, their take on vegan “fast food” is seriously delicious.
My go-to at Blossom Du Jour is always the Smokey Avocado Wrap – avocado, smoked tempeh, tomato, lettuce, and chipotle aioli – on a gluten free wrap.
Charley St is a newer kid on the block and became one of my favorites pretty much instantly. With its bright & airy Nolita location, paired with delicious eats + a cafe, I find myself at Charley St at least once a week (I love setting up here to work for a few hours). My favorites on the menu are the PB&J oatmeal, Happy Morning avocado toast, and Tahini Time bowl.
I remember it was such a big deal when By Chloe first opened – for good reason – and now they have locations all over the city! They’ve completely raised the bar when it comes to vegan food. My favorites are the Quinoa Taco Salad, Mac’n Cheese and Guac Burger.
The biggest “chain” you’ll find on this list, but for good reason. You can’t have a healthy eatery roundup and not include the best salad joint in the universe. It’s no secret that Sweetgreen puts all the other salad places to shame, and I’m so glad there are locations all over the city now.
Terri is another vegetarian spot I love, with a few locations in the city. My favorites from there are the Chickpea “Tuna” Melt, the Green Power Smoothie, Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcake, and Portobello Pesto (on a gluten-free wrap).
Inday is one of the more unique fast casual spots in the city, in the best possible way. They offer a healthy take on Indian cuisine with customizable bowls and deliciously interesting ingredients.
The customizable poke bowls at PokeSpot are out of this world. Seriously. You can choose from various bases (including zoodles!) and topping ingredients, or choose one of their signature bowls. You also get quite the bang for your buck – the bowls are huge, so go hungry.
Don’t be scared about missing the fish – Beyond Sushi‘s vegan sushi and wraps are ridiculously good – incredibly flavorful and refreshing. My favorites are their Nutty Buddy Wrap and the Sweet Tree roll.
Springbone brought the bone broth trend to NYC with dozens of different variations and add-ins, along with a delicious menu of mostly Paleo food. I’m a huge fan of their burger (I mean, look at it).
Dig Inn has been around for a long time, but I think about a year ago they redid their menu and it’s seriously better than ever. Dig Inn is always consistent. Their vegetables and proteins are always so flavorful and taste like they were cooked on the spot.
Ah yes – more customizable bowls. Mission Ceviche offers Peruvian bowls full of fresh, locally sourced ceviche with tons of topping options. It’s located in the Gansevoort Market in the Meatpacking District.
Dez brought Middle Eastern cuisine to the fast casual world, and I’m so glad they did. Their dishes are seriously flavorful with big, filling portions. I really love their Jeweled Rice Bowl + build-your-own bowl option.
If I’m being honest I’m not usually the world’s biggest fan of smoothie bowls…unless it’s at Loco Coco. They’re bowls are on another level with fresh & unique ingredients. The perfect spot for when you want a meal that’s sweet and refreshing.
You might also like:
Get Paid to Eat with Seated App
The Best Places to Work from in NYC
Favorite NYC Classes on Classpass
5 Fast Casual Restaurants That Are Healthy & Hit The Spot
Dig Inn’s whole thing is that they’re farm-to-counter, which means their ingredients are naturally sourced, seasonally based and fresh! The menu is divided into the following sections: Dig Featured Bowls, Marketbowls, Bases, Market Sides (cold/hot) and drinks/snacks. Once you get to the counter, choose your bowl size, protein, two sides and grains/greens. Protein includes chicken, meatballs, salmon, tofu and steak. The sides change frequently but usually include options like roasted kale, sweet potatoes, etc. Grains Protein choices include chicken, meatballs, salmon, grilled organic tofu, or steak. Sides vary by season but often include choices like roasted kale, roasted sweet potatoes, or grilled squash.
Cava’s mission is simple: bring people together through delicious food and to make sure you never have to choose between healthy or satisfying. Menu includes: a base (salad, greens + grains, grain bowl, pita), dips + spreads, protein (vegan options available), toppings and dressing.
The Kati Roll Company
This is one of the newest food trends to hit the city, just look up the Kati Roll Company and you’ll see all of the positive reviews. The food is simple: choose between a paratha (indian flat-bread) or whole wheat roti (vegan option) and either a mix of spicy meat or veggies for the filling.
Two Forks’ brand is built around good food with good friends/family, the ingredients are always high-quality and healthy.Menu includes breakfast and lunch options, with variations on buns or bowls. Like the other restaurants above, Two Forks has the same structure including a base, protein, sides, toppings and sauce!
We thought we’d end the list with one of NYC’s favorite indoor food markets right in the heart of Times Square, just to broaden the scope of restaurants even more. Current vendors include a diverse set of cuisines such as, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican and more. Find their menus here: Azuki, Box, Dough, Gabriela’s Taqueria, Kuro-Obi, Luke’s and Whitman’s.
featured image: instargam.com/seanclaudeeats
Mendocino Farms, Southern California’s beloved sandwich destination with a mission of helping guests “Eat Happy,” is pleased to announce the opening of its 15th restaurant location in The Shops at La Jolla Village in the La Jolla area of San Diego. Mendocino Farms features a dynamic chef-driven menu that changes with the seasons and offers guests a gourmet fast casual dining option at affordable prices. Devoted to partnering with local farms and food artisans to create inspired dishes, the culinary team specializes in approachably adventurous sandwiches and salads using fine dining-quality techniques and ingredients. The new Mendocino Farms restaurant is located adjacent to Whole Foods Market, and will be one of the premier dining destinations for the newly redeveloped shopping center and immediate surrounding neighborhoods.
With all previous locations in the LA and Orange County areas, Mendocino Farms’ arrival in San Diego is the realization of a long-time aspiration for husband and wife owners Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen. A UCSD alum, Ellen had always hoped to put down roots in her college town as San Diego itself holds much significance for the pair, including the site of their engagement at Del Mar’s Dog Beach. Over the course of building the Mendocino Farms brand, San Diego always remained in their sights as a preferred destination, and entering the marketplace in La Jolla has been a serendipitous culmination of efforts.
The initial La Jolla offerings will consist of Mendocino Farms’ new Winter Menu, featuring seasonal specialties like the Braised Short Rib & French Onion Melt made with 4-hour red wine braised short ribs, “French onion soup” onions, melted Havarti cheese, horseradish crema, and Scarborough Farms’ arugula on a toasted pretzel roll; and Chef Judy’s Korean Chicken Meatball Sub, which pairs caramelized free range chicken meatballs with pickled Asian mushrooms, kimchi aioli, jalapenos, and a kale-carrot-scallion slaw in a rice wine vinaigrette all tucked inside a toasted soft roll. You can also expect signature Mendocino Farms favorite sandwiches including the Pork Belly Banh Mi, a play on the Vietnamese classic made with rich, caramelized Kurobuta Pork Belly, bright pickled daikon and carrots, chili aioli, and spicy fresh jalapeño on panini-pressed ciabatta. Though the popular eatery has built its reputation on its innovative, chef-driven sandwich creations, their flavorful and unique entrée salad offerings have also garnered their fair share of fans. Choose from mouthwatering options like the Avocado & Quinoa Superfood Ensalada, a flavor- and nutrient-packed powerhouse featuring butter lettuce and romaine, kale, housemade “superfood krunchies” (a healthfully addictive blend of crunchy fried quinoa, millet, heirloom red rice, and nutritional yeast), Cotija cheese, and a black bean, roasted corn, and jicama succotash; or the Save Drake Farm’s Salad featuring Scarborough Farm’s greens, free range chicken breast, pink lady beets, dried cranberries, honey roasted almonds, and a generous portion of Herbes de Provence-marinated goat cheese from Drake Family Farms in Ontario, California, where every single goat has a name and is treated like a pet.
Mendocino Farms is thrilled to partner with Chef Christine Rivera of San Diego locals’ favorite Galaxy Taco to create a specialty sandwich exclusively for the La Jolla location’s opening menu. The two restaurants’ chefs worked together to conceptualize Chef Christine’s Torta de Lomo, a traditional braised pork torta-style sandwich with escabeche ensalada, Cotija cheese, black bean spread, avocado, and chipotle aioli on a panini-pressed soft roll. Always with a mind for giving back to the community, Mendocino Farms will donate 100% of proceeds from sales of the sandwich – at a price point of $11.95 – to ECOLIFE Conservation for a one-month promotion that runs through January 8th. The charity of Chef Christine’s choosing, ECOLIFE Conservation is devoted to championing techniques like Aquaponics (which uses 90% less water and land compared to traditional farming) and other simple sustainable solutions that address the problems associated with large-scale farming practices.
Another exclusive offering coming soon to the La Jolla location is artisanal, small batch soft serve ice cream from Chef Shiho Yoshikawa of Sweet Rose Creamery (Rustic Canyon restaurant group). Sweet Rose crafts their ice cream from scratch in their GMO-free kitchen in Santa Monica, CA using premium ingredients like 72% Guittard chocolate, hand-scraped vanilla beans, Clover Organic Farms dairy, and Chino Family Farms organic eggs. In addition to the classic flavor options – vanilla bean gelato, chocolate custard and swirl – Mendocino Farms guests will choose from two chef-driven sundaes: the Malt Chocolate Crunch Sundae, a decadent combination of vanilla bean gelato soft serve topped with malted cocoa syrup and chocolate malt ball dust, and Dottie’s PB&J Sundae, with vanilla bean gelato soft serve, peanut butter syrup, fresh blueberry coulis and peanut butter cookie crumble.
The fresh fare at Mendocino Farms La Jolla is complemented by a selection of wine and local San Diego craft beer on tap, including Bitter Brothers’ Aunt Joy and Little Brother Citra IPA, Modern Times’ Fruitlands Blood Orange & Hibiscus, and Karl Strauss’ Follow the Sun Kolsch. Additional seasonal soup and deli salad specials rotate weekly and include options such as a creamy, curried Israeli couscous salad with roasted cauliflower and carrots; and a raw shaved beet and carrot salad with black rice, ginger, citrus, and toasted hazelnuts. Weekly specials can be found online at www.mendocinofarms.com and through their social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Extensive and flexible catering options are available daily for pickup and/or delivery, perfect for office and school functions or upscale entertaining at home. The catering menu includes a diverse list of Mendo’s favorite sandwiches arranged in signature blue trays, as well as flavorful hors d’oeuvres and sides like the Chili-Rubbed Chicken Skewers, the Charcuterie & Artisan Cheese Platter, mini cocktail sandwiches, a selection of seasonal green salads, and gourmet whole grain and pasta salads.
Designed to serve as a natural and welcoming neighborhood gathering place, the family-friendly layout has an inviting, open atmosphere with both indoor and patio seating, as well as a designated kids’ area with a chalkboard wall and pint-sized activity table. With a nod to the bohemian persuasion of 1970s Venice Beach and the clean, classic feel of a French brasserie, the space is accented in tones of gray, blue, and white, with such eye-catching features as fully-tiled flooring, a Carrera marble communal table, custom two-sided couch, and large twisted rope chandelier in the center of the dining room. On the patio a plant-centric ‘living wall’ creates a fresh and comfortable haven from the surrounding shopping plaza, and guests can enjoy a variety of seating options and foosball table in the active and airy space.
Mendocino Farms La Jolla is located at 8795 Villa La Jolla Drive in The Shops at La Jolla Village. The restaurant is open daily from 11 AM to 9 PM, with phone lines opening as early as 8 AM for catering and takeout orders. To learn more about Mendocino Farms, visit their website at www.mendocinofarms.com. For information regarding sponsorship or community partnership opportunities please reach out to Deanna Durst at [email protected]
10 of the Best Healthy Lunch Chains Around the Country
The latest crop of healthy fast-casual restaurants is going beyond build-your-own salads—and working to turbocharge lunch to totally new heights. From better-for-you barbecue to nourishing stir-fries, these 10 craveable spots will help you straddle the intersection of #healthgoals and #lunchaldesko.
① Dr Smood
(Miami, FL, and New York, NY)
This dairy-free Danish health concept is nothing if not cheeky (Smood = smart + food). But don’t worry, the food is rich where it counts—think avocado cream cheese and homemade nut “mylks.” The nutritionist-guided menu displays Dr Smood’s color-coded philosophy, which is organized into health focuses: immunity, energy, general health, beauty, detox and power.
(New York, NY)
“Never feel guilty if you eat cake, as long as you balance it with something else.” That’s the abiding food philosophy for Ancolie founder Chloe Vichot. The tres French notion of moderation is omnipresent here, from the lentil-and-grain salads perfectly portioned in glass jars to, yes, even the bite-size pieces of chocolate cake.
(Various locations including Philadelphia, PA)
Honeygrow’s plant-based stir-fries pair egg white and whole-wheat noodles with all-natural, antibiotic and hormone-free proteins. Try combos like Sour Cherry BBQ and Sweet Soy Five Spice, or choose your own adventure with customizable options.
④ Two Forks
(New York, NY)
Finally, BBQ without the guilt—or the food coma. Two Forks pairs all-natural, slow-cooked meats like lamb or veggies like spaghetti squash with freshly made seasonal slaws, then smothers them in small-batch sauces like harissa Buffalo.
Vegetables get the limelight at Beefsteak, celebrity chef José Andrés’s first fast-casual concept, where the menu includes avocados, salt-cured salmon and poached eggs. The BEETsteak Burger was named Best Veggie Burger in the Washington City Paper’s Best of D.C. 2016.
James Beard Award-winner Jody Adams brings a health-conscious mind-set to Greek street food with a menu of brown rice bowls and salads that are customizable with proteins like spicy lamb meatballs or honey-braised pork shoulder. Best of all, there’s no extra sugar or oil added.
⑦ Good Seed
(New York, NY)
Good Seed promises to give your picnics a much-needed makeover; replace that hunk of Brie and pile of crackers with organic herb-roasted chicken, grilled salmon, apple-zucchini quinoa salad and mango slaw.
Buredo offers a healthy way to eat sushi on the go. Rolled fresh daily, these portable burrito-sized sushi rolls use high-quality fish and veggies, and pack a vibrant punch with pickled fennel, cabbage and red onion.
(Houston, TX, and New York, NY)
At Pondicheri, a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2012, chef Anita Jaisinghani creates a flavorful Ayurvedic-based menu. Among its extensive offerings are vegetable-laced dosas, parathas, pani pooris and seafood-rich curries.
(Various locations including Los Angeles, CA)
A healthy hipster buffet, Lemonade offers trendy faves like poke, craveable veggies like watermelon radish salads and, of course, lemonades—six seasonal flavors daily. Sampling and skipping the line are encouraged—it even says so on its website.
Marisel Salazar is a contributing writer for Tasting Table, who comes to NYC by way of Panama, Hawaii and Japan. Follow her on Instagram at @breadbutternyc and Twitter at @MariselSalazar.
America’s Top 10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants
Who hasnt unwrapped a sandwich while driving down the highway or pulled a hard U-turn into a fast-food joint on the way home from a late meeting or soccer game? We practically live in our cars, so we need quick food, and please, wed like it to be healthy.
Well, guess what: We surveyed the nations 100 largest fast-food chains, as defined by the number of locations, and found many are creating menus that look more and more like what wed cook ourselves (if we had the time)—from nutritious soups and healthy salads to fresh whole grains and sensible desserts. Even better: Theyre offering good-news Mexican, Asian, and Mediterranean fare.
Using criteria that was created with the help of our expert panel, we scored the chains on such factors as the use of healthy fats and preparations, healthy sodium counts in entrees, availability of nutritional information, and the use of organic produce to determine the 10 highest-ranking restaurants.
One big surprise: A traditional fast-food chain, McDonalds, cracked our top 10. Sure, its the home of the Big Mac, but did you know it also serves a mean yogurt-and-granola parfait? Here, the standouts that are making grabbed food healthy food.
#1 Panera Bread
Over 1,230 locations nationwide (and in Canada)
This bakery-cafe-based eatery wowed our judges with a comprehensive menu of healthy choices for every meal. “Variety makes it easy for everyone to choose healthy,” praises registered dietitian and panelist Marisa Moore. What does that mean for you? For starters, you can pick from two whole-grain breads for your sandwich and have an apple with it instead of chips (though the chips are fine, too—they can be baked!). Half-size soups, salads, and sandwiches make it a cinch to control portion size. Also, most of the chicken is antibiotic- and hormone-free, a rarity for large chains.
Panera also won top honors for kid fare, dishing out RD-approved crowd-pleasers like squeezable organic yogurt, PB&J (with all-natural peanut butter), and grilled organic cheese on white whole-grain bread.
We love: Delicious, nutrient-packed combos like a half–Turkey Artichoke on focaccia bread with a bowl of black bean or garden vegetable soup.
Danger zone: Sticky buns and cheese danishes are on display at the counter.
View this article as a gallery.
#2 Jasons Deli
206 locations in the West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South
How did this up-and-comer snag second place? Largely because of its devotion to organic food: About one-fifth of all its ingredients are organic, from blue-corn tortilla chips and whole-wheat wraps to field greens and spinach. Plus, its creative salads—like the Nutty Mixed-Up Salad with organic field greens, grapes, chicken breast, feta cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, pumpkinseeds, raisins, and organic apples—make you actually want to order the greens.
Our judges applauded the portion-control option: Reduced sizes of, say, a stuffed baked potato, are $1 less. Jasons menu also highlights ultrahealthy sandwiches and provides the nutitional info.
We love: Being able to build any sandwich on an organic whole-wheat wrap.
Danger zone: High-sodium counts on some sandwiches; if sodium is a concern, stick to the ultrahealthy choices.
#3 Au Bon Pain
280 locations nationwide
A pioneer in healthy fast food, Au Bon Pain serves up sandwiches, soups, salads, and hot entrees made with whole grains, veggies, and hormone-free chicken.
New this year: Portions, a 14-item menu of nutritious small plates—from appetizers like apples, blue cheese, and cranberries to salads like chickpea and tomato—all of which are less than 200 calories. Another impressive feature: Au Bon Pain provides on-site nutritional information via computer kiosks, so before you even order you know each options calories, fat, and sodium. “Its a great way to empower customers,” praises judge Amy Jamieson-Petonic.
We love: Yummy low-cal soups, from Jamaican Black Bean to Fire Roasted Exotic Grains and Vegetables.
Danger zone: The sodium counts can get high if you dont pay attention.
#4 Noodles and Company
204 locations in West, Midwest, South
Noodles and Company isnt your typical greasy Asian food-court joint. In fact, it goes beyond Asian fare and cuts out the grease (only healthy soybean oil is used in sauteing). Here, you choose from three food types: Asian, Mediterranean, or American, then within each style, pick from four noodle bowl options. Lean proteins—hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken, beef, shrimp, and organic tofu—can be added, too.
The result? Tasty combos like Japanese Pan Noodles with broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, and sauteed beef. Also key: “You dont have to chow down on a giant bowl of noodles. You can opt for a small portion,” says judge Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, Healths Senior Food and Nutrition Editor. The small Bangkok Curry bowl has just 250 calories.
We love: The whole-grain linguine—usually hard to find when eating out.
Danger zone: The desserts. The only options are two kinds of cookies and a Rice Krispy Treat bar that checks in at 530 calories and 19 grams of fat!
#5 Corner Bakery Cafe
111 locations in West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South
What sets Corner Bakery apart? A fantastic breakfast menu, which is rare in the quick-serve world. We love the Farmers Scrambler: eggs scrambled with red and green bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, potatoes, and Cheddar cheese. (Its only 260 calories when ordered with egg whites.) Theres also Swiss oatmeal, a chilled European breakfast cereal made with rolled oats, green apples, bananas, currants, dried cranberries, low-fat yogurt, and skim milk.
But Corner Bakery also has healthy salads, sandwiches, and soups made with whole grains, fresh, lean meats, and vegetables, as well as great portion-controlled combinations that make limiting calories a no-brainer.
We love: Healthy oven-roasted chicken that comes on most pastas and salads.
Danger zone: You have to go to their Web site to get nutritional info.
800+ locations nationwide
Buffet-style Chipotle gives every customer complete control over her burrito, taco, or salad. (Take that, Taco Bell!) And you get to build it with fresh, local ingredients. In fact, Chipolte won high marks for its commitment to organics, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and produce sourced from local suppliers, which is revolutionary in a chain this big. Many of its entrees can be low-sodium, if you choose add-ins such as the fajita veggies and green tomatillo salsa.
We love: Burrito Bowls, which let you skip the tortilla—and the extra carbs.
Danger zone: The dark side of a buffet is that you can go wild. So you have to go light on cheese and sour cream.
#7 Atlanta Bread
106 locations in 24 states (Southeast, West, and North)
Someone at Atlanta Bread must be a Seinfeld fan: There are muffin tops (half the size of regular muffins) on its breakfast menu—the low-fat pumpkin muffin top has only 200 calories, compared with 320 to 640 calories for regular-size muffins. But this chains got more going for it than skinny muffins. This innovative bakery also features whole-grain bread, fresh sandwiches (including paninis), and hearty, healthy soups and salads. It earned high marks for great sides, too, including fire-roasted black bean and corn salad.
We love: The entree salads like Salsa Fresca Salmon Salad: grilled wild Alaskan salmon filet on greens with fire-roasted black bean and corn salsa and a pineapple-mango vinaigrette.
Danger zone: Pasta entrees at some locations are offered with bread … thats a whole lotta carbs!
14,000 locations nationwide
Among the big burger-based chains, McDonalds is leading the way in overhauling its menu to offer more heart- and waist-friendly fare. Take the Happy Meals, which you can order with a side of apple dippers (with low-fat caramel) instead of fries and low-fat milk or fruit juice instead of soda. (Now the trick is just getting your kid to go for them!) And if youve gotta have fries, McDonalds are made in a healthy canola-blend oil and come in at just 230 calories for a small.
The Grilled Chicken Classic sandwich and wraps are healthy choices, too (just skip the mayo or sauce). So is the salad with Paul Newman low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. Registered dietician Moore notes that an Egg McMuffin, at 300 calories, is a smart alternative to other “calorie-laden biscuit breakfasts.” And our whole panel commends McDonalds for spelling out the nutritional information right on the back of its tray liners.
We love: The chains 260- to 270-calorie Snack Wraps (choose grilled chicken) for protein without a lot of unwanted carbs.
Danger zone: Although McDonalds made our list, this is still the land of supersizing and giant sodas. Its up to you to request a small.
#9 Einstein Bros. Bagels
649 locations nationwide
OK, we all know that bagels are pretty high-carb, but slathering cream cheese or butter on them is what really gets you into trouble. No worries at this chain: Einstein Bros. offers healthier alternatives like reduced-fat shmears, hummus, and peanut butter—a great way to add healthy fat to breakfast (or lunch). It also serves a Good Grains bagel that has an impressive 4 grams of fiber.
In the mood for a salad? You can order any in a half-size. For kids, our panel of judges gave a thumbs-up to the bagel dog (picture a Pig-in-a-Blanket with bagel-style bread as the “blanket”) and a fruit salad upgrade.
We love: The high-fiber Veg Out on a sesame seed bagel.
Danger zone: “Overstuffed” size sandwiches are a calorie nightmare.
#10 Taco Del Mar
270 locations in 22 states
You may have noticed that Baja-style Mexican cuisine—think: fresh ingredients and fish instead of beef and chicken—is a growing trend. Whole grains are easy to get here, with whole-wheat tortillas available as an alternative in burritos. The chain gets high marks for its new 320-calorie chicken burrito, available at most locations. Our judges were also impressed that Taco Del Mar banned lard from its beans and bakes its fish and taco shells instead of frying them.
We love: The 460- to 555-calorie Mondito-size burrito, which fills you up but keeps fat and sodium in check.
Danger zone: The breakfasts. In particular, steer clear of the Mondo Breakfast Burritos, which are more than 1,000 calories.
View this article as a gallery.
- By Tracy Minkin
- By Brittani Renaud