Taco Nano, a different sort of taco place

Charity auctions are a favorite activity of mine. In fact our theater company, the 2nd Act Players, is planning our first-ever charity auction this September. Check our website for more details as we get closer to the Sept. 10 date. But getting back to food, I recently won a gift card to Taco Nano, which bills itself as a fresh Mexican-style place in the Chicago northern suburb of Northfield.TacoNanoLogo

Going there for dinner on a Friday night, my wife and I were surprised by the crowds. It’s obviously a popular place but is it healthy? As a small place, it isn’t required to post nutrition information on its offerings and doesn’t. So eating there was a shot-in-the-dark nutrition-wise. Continue reading “Taco Nano, a different sort of taco place”

The Garden Bar in Portland — a great spot for a salad

Sometimes, you just want a great salad for lunch, one that isn’t loaded up with a lot of the unhealthy items most restaurants put on them so they can think they’re being creative and charge you more in the process.

Portland's Garden Bar, one of its five locations.
Portland’s Garden Bar, one of its five locations.

That’s why I prefer make-your-own salad bars, I can pick — and pay for — only the ingredients I want, avoiding any high in salt or fat. Knowing my salad bar preference, my daughter found a really good one for us to have lunch at during my recent Portland, Ore., trip — the Garden Bar.

The Garden Bar isn’t exactly make your own. Ingredients are under glass and a staffer makes the salad to your specifications. Or you can choose one fo their pre-planed salads. Both the people I was eating with went with pre-planned house salads, I made my own since the menu salads often have one or more items, like nuts, that I don’t eat. Continue reading “The Garden Bar in Portland — a great spot for a salad”

Harvest at the Bindery — a Portland veggie gem

Harvest, in Portland, Ore., is not the type fo restaurant I would normally eat at. It’s a vegetarian place, everything on the menu is plant-based. Other veggie restaurants I’ve gone to have disappointed me with their reliance on nut-based sauces of meat substitutes. I don’t eat nuts and don’t like their taste.

The luscious morels and grilled asparagus at Harvest. Bravo!!!
The luscious morels and grilled asparagus at Harvest. Bravo!!!

But eating at Harvest  with my daughter and her boyfriend on my recent trip to Portland opened my eyes to what a veggie restaurant can do with a great menu and creative chef.  Continue reading “Harvest at the Bindery — a Portland veggie gem”

Denny’s Fit Fare menu — loaded with salt

Many national restaurant chains these days are trying to adjust menus to offer what they call healthier or leaner meals. It’s a tall order to full when their menu planners remain addicted to salt! I ran into this with Applebee’s last year and just came face-to-face with it again recently when I went to a local Denny’s for breakfast.

Denny’s has what it has dubbed its Fit Fare menu. Items are labeled as “lite” and their protein amounts are highlighted as well. But when you dig into the nutrition info on Denny’s website, you see the sad salt stories.

My Denny's omelet..get the salt out Denny's!!!
My Denny’s omelet..get the salt out Denny’s!!!

Take the Fit Fare veggie omelet made with egg whites as an example. I planned to get this, but then saw it contains 820 mgs of sodium, basically half my daily limit! Where is all the salt? I discussed it with a very helpful waitress. We agreed the Swiss cheese used and the English muffin that could be a side likely accounted for most of it. Continue reading “Denny’s Fit Fare menu — loaded with salt”

Jenny’s will take you back—to 2001?

Jenny’s Steakhouse & Pub is another one of my favorite Chicago south suburban spots, not because it has a lot of low-salt, low-fat options on its menu, but because it reminds me of the family friendly places of my youth, the kind fo place people would feel special going to on a Sunday afternoon.

Jenny's junior filet and potato. Ask for no salt preparation.
Jenny’s junior filet and potato. Ask for no salt preparation.

That and it does a killer filet mignon for a reasonable price. I was surprised to see on its website that it’s only been there since 2001, it seems much older in terms of the vibe and atmosphere, which for me is a good thing. But the owner is a third generation restaurant guy, so it makes sense.

The only steak I order out these days is a filet because of its leanness. They also tend to come in smaller sizes than other steaks, so you save on overall calories as well. At Jenny’s I opt for the 8-ounce junior fillet because it comes with no toppings that would add fat or salt. At $22 with a baker potato and simple salad, it’s a bargain. Continue reading “Jenny’s will take you back—to 2001?”

A Chicago north suburban favorite reborn — Kappy’s

Kappy’s has been in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove for more than 30 years and was the kind of old-school diner that had the spinning dessert refrigerator in the front with massive cakes and pies in it all the time. When my son was young, I remember taking him there for a birthday meal just so he could get a piece of one of those cakes.

My Kappy's veggie omelette with fruit and whole wheat
My Kappy’s veggie omelette with fruit and whole wheat toast.

Massive pieces of cake are off my menu since my 2012 angioplasty, and they;re apparently not front-and-center at Kappy’s anymore either. A new generation of the owner-family has taken off and freshened the place up a bit.

My wife and I tried it on a recent Sunday. The menu is still immense and I didn’t see many low-fat, low-salt choices despite the new decor. So I went with what has become my standby meal at such places, an egg-white omelette. It was one of the best I’ve had. Continue reading “A Chicago north suburban favorite reborn — Kappy’s”

Farm-to-table claims — again it’s buyer beware

I recently wrote about how people need to be careful when buying anything labeled grass-fed beef, given that the USDA says it can;t police who uses that when for their products any longer. And now I’ve come across this story from Tampa warning that the rash of new restaurants popping up these days calling themselves farm-to-table may not be what they claim either.

Mondelez has to compete with fruit for the healthy snack trade, can it?
Always check claims of farm-to-table freshness at restaurants.

The food critic for the Tampa Bay Times checked into claims by some farm-to-table places in that area and was not happy with the results.

“This is a story we are all being fed. A story about overalls, rich soil and John Deere tractors scattering broods of busy chickens. A story about healthy animals living happy lives, heirloom tomatoes hanging heavy and earnest artisans rolling wheels of cheese into aging caves nearby,” writes Times food critic Laura Reiley of the so-called farm-to-table restaurant craze.  Continue reading “Farm-to-table claims — again it’s buyer beware”

Eating at Asian restaurants with their high-salt options — here’s some alternatives

Chinese food, more correctly old-fashioned Chinese-American restaurant offerings like fried rice, spare ribs, egg rolls and lobster-filled fried wontons, is perhaps the cuisine I miss the most since switching to a low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet after my 2012 angioplasty.

My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.
My Chinese birthday dinner, egg rolls, crab rangoon, Mongolian beef. Not shown was the fried rice.

I went back to it on a birthday in 2014, with unpleasant results. And I’ve found some ways to make Asian dishes at home with a salt-free teriyaki marinade.

So I was interested to read a post on former Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels’ site headlined “Learn Healthy Options at Asian Restaurants.” I generally think there are none, but she started out with one that I can actually agree with — sashimi instead of sushi at a Japanese place.  Continue reading “Eating at Asian restaurants with their high-salt options — here’s some alternatives”

Fast food breakfast choices — the salt flows like water

WebMD recently did a series of posts about fast food choices which I wrote about recently. The news was mostly bad, especially when it came to salt content of even what WebMD considered the best alternatives in several categories.

A McDonald's breakfast platter my mother once loved.
A McDonald’s breakfast platter my mother once loved.

The medical site is at it again, sending me this look at fast food breakfast choices. Again the news is bad even for the choices WebMD says are you best bet, or at least better bets than the calorie and salt monsters profiled first. Continue reading “Fast food breakfast choices — the salt flows like water”

Primo in Gurnee (IL.) — a primo lunch spot

Italian restaurants always worry me these days, not because I don;t love Italian food, but because my post-angioplasty diet means I shouldn’t eat regular pasta, or any sauces that are high in sodium. So when a friend suggested meeting for lunch at Primo in Gurnee, Il., not far from the Great America amusement park, I was apprehensive.

Octopus and potatos at Primo's. Bravo!
Octopus and potatos at Primo’s. Bravo!

My fears were misplaced, however. First we were told the minestrone soup for the day was low-sodium, I cannot remember when I’ve been told that in a restaurant before. I did not try it, but did yet the octopus appetizer, along with a half-dozen oysters, for a seafood lunch. Continue reading “Primo in Gurnee (IL.) — a primo lunch spot”

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