Eat the Menu: Healthy Doesn’t Always Happen At Home


I maintain a pretty healthy lifestyle. Mostly so I can afford to eat whatever I want, whenever and wherever I go out for dinner. Or breakfast, lunch, brunch, snack, nibbles, etc. The last thing I want to do when I sit down and open a menu is count calories. Or order dressing on the side. Or ever intentionally ask for a side of steamed broccoli. I want nothing to do with portion control and everything to do with, “I appreciate your concern that we ordered too much food, dear server, but we got this.” I write a column called “Eat the Menu” not “How to Order the Poached Salmon When You Really Want the Double Bacon Cheeseburger.”

Sassy Spoon. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Sassy Spoon. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

I also realize that not everyone approaches dining out this way. Nobody’s perfect. Some people do count calories. Others willingly adhere to specific diets like Atkins or Whole 30. Some people just want to have a nice lunch without feeling like they need a three hour nap afterward. I hear you. But really, post-meal naps are pretty awesome, am I right?

Those not looking to inhale every item on a menu can rest assured there are plenty of healthful options for eating out and about around the Twin Cities. And they won’t make you feel like you’re torturing yourself either. Quite the opposite, in fact. I always do a happy dance when I happen upon a healthy hot spot. They’re perfect for those times (typically during the work week) when I would much rather let someone else do the cooking. Or, frankly, I’m just not in the mood for a full-on cheat day binge fest.

Sassy Spoon
This lovely little neighborhood restaurant in south Minneapolis is equal parts delicious and health-conscious. Especially if you or your dining companion(s) are trying to avoid gluten. Tamara Brown’s Sassy Spoon serves up some pretty amazing munchies, including a tasty yucca crust pizza, spicy chicken curry and feta-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates that will change your religion (to one that worships appetizers — how cool would that be?). Sassy Spoon is also a super takeout option if you’re looking to pick up something wholesome for dinner on your way home from work.
5011 S. 34th Ave., Minneapolis

Seward Co-op and Seward Co-op Friendship Store
It’s pretty common for co-ops to offer some pretty health-forward prepared food. Seward Co-op and its Friendship store are pretty uncommon, however, in their selection of consistently mouth-watering meals. Each day, Seward serves up a buffet on their signature hot bar that beats any in town. Not a day goes by that I don’t check Twitter for their hot bar menu update. The descriptions alone will force you into your car for a quick trip. How does pineapple chicken, cilantro lime rice, roasted yucca with feta vinaigrette, ancho beets and yams, and vegetable mole enchilada sound? See you there!
Seward Co-op: 2823 E. Franklin Ave, Minneapolis
Seward Co-op Friendship Store: 317 E. 38th St., Minneapolis

Brasa Premium Rotisserie
Whether I’m trying to stay on the Paleo end of the dietary spectrum or if I just need a good old-fashioned protein fix, I can always count on Brasa to serve up some of the best meat around. Slow-roasted, drippingly delicious meat that not only tastes good but also goes great with a hefty selection of side dishes that don’t have to break the calorie budget. How about some slow-roasted pork with collard greens or beans and rice? Just make it a double-order, I’ll be right over.
600 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
777 Grand Ave., St. Paul

Birchwood Cafe
The best health food is really just real food made with love. Birchwood has been infusing love into their wonderfully down-to-earth real food for years. Ever since my first visit (on a date, no less), I’ve relished the cozy comfort of Birchwood’s thoughtful, seasonally appropriate menu. From house-made pickled vegetables to grass-fed steaks, there’s something suitable for a casual lunch or rarified date night dinner. Don’t forget weekend brunch, either. I hear the savory waffle is just beyond.
3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis

How’s that for a healthy start? You’ve now got four solid options for dining out without all the guilt. At least about the food, that is. While I hope you’ll give yourself permission to splurge on occasion and throw dietary caution to the wind when necessary, having a few trusty healthful options in your back pocket isn’t a bad idea. Especially when they’re as delicious as the ones I’ve recommended. Who wants to stop by Sassy Spoon on their way home and pick me up a couple of those yucca crust pizzas? Pretty please?

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