203 Racine Drive
Mon. – Fri., 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Bottom line: More than a good health-food restaurant, Clean Eatz is a good restaurant … period.
Tucked away from street view on Racine Drive, sharing a parking lot with Blue Moon Gift Shop and The Gallery at Racine, Clean Eatz promotes the radical notion that food can taste good without forcing diners to use up a week’s worth of calories in a sitting. It may be an uphill battle in a country where “extra cheese” could be considered the 51st star and the 14th stripe on the flag. But I think they’re off to a good start.
The concept is simple: No meal goes on the Clean Eatz menu with more than 500 calories or 10 grams of fat. Don’t look for an all-you-can-eat rib night any time soon. Even the desserts meet those strict criteria. Founded by Evonne White and Dan Varady, both fitness buffs who had their own struggles with nutrition, Clean Eatz offers café-style meals and meal plans to extend healthy eating habits throughout the week.
Part of the fun of the place is the “local diner” feel of the interior. It isn’t elegant by any stretch of the imagination, but in place of ham-loaded omelets and triple-cheese burgers get healthful meals with accurate calorie counts printed on the menu. The walls are adorned with posters, offering inspirational gym slogans. For example, one suggests that if Columbus could sail the Atlantic aided only by the wind, then surely we could find our way to a workout. Though somewhat trite, I am sure they work for someone.
I opened with the teriyaki turkey burger. Served on oat bread with pineapple and green pepper, the turkey patty proved surprisingly juicy. Very surprisingly. My main objection to ground turkey is its limited ability to hold moisture. I’ve never been served a turkey burger so moist. Add to it the salty teriyaki sauce and sweet pineapple, and the Pacific treat clocks in at only 390 calories. I couldn’t have been happier.
My side dish also warrants mention. The fruit parfait, which admittedly might have been a bit heavier on yogurt than fruit, made an enormous impression. The key difference was a healthy dose of cinnamon to add calorie neutral flavor, which was as vibrant as it was healthful. The freshness of the apples and oranges burst through as well, making this a favorite side dish in my recent memory.
I moved on to the BBQ chicken flatbread. Any diet-conscious restaurant which still allows a bit of mozzarella is OK in my book. Though the barbecue sauce was a little more watery than my preference, the smoky-sweet flavor proved spot-on. Onions and peppers rounded out the sandwich and added nice texture. Again, at 360 calories, what’s not to love?
One of my guests chose the “Build Your Own Bowl” option. By my calculations there are 174,720 permutations of bowls—and that’s assuming one doesn’t pay to add additional veggies or proteins. My friend had little to say about the quinoa, but he raved over the lightly seasoned chicken and fresh broccoli.
The table also appreciated the eggplant portobello sandwich, the only vegetarian choice we sampled. Grilling the mushroom and eggplant lent a nice charred flavor to the dish, and red onion spiked it to a new level. And, well, you already know my feelings on the mozzarella. It was definitely a find for only 280 calories.
Finally, the chicken honey-mustard panini won acclaim, making the afternoon a clean sweep for Clean Eatz. Juicy bites of chicken co-mingled with a light honey mustard sauce. Turkey bacon lent a salty facet while crisp onions and spinach rounded out the texture. I found the honey mustard a bit offputting, but those who enjoy it will love this sandwich.
Even the drink menu, though more limited than most eateries’, keeps to the healthy theme. Diners may pour themselves as much as they want from spigots offering cucumber-infused water, unsweetened tea or Crystal Light. I admire a beverage bar, featuring a 5 calorie Crystal Light as the heavy drink.
To my endless regret, I was not able to stay for dessert. Only 8 Yogurt—a frozen yogurt whose name boasts that it contains only eight ingredients—will have to wait for another day. But there will be another day. Only 8 contains no fat or cholesterol and only a negligible amount of sodium. I’m looking forward to it.
Fear not, foodies: I shan’t be abandoning butter soon, but this café is a gem. No, it can’t necessarily lead to an epiphany about my eating habits, however, I will be darkening the door of this health food mecca many more times in the future.
Clean Eatz isn’t a good health-food restaurant; Clean Eatz is a good restaurant.