I like The Bar. The atmosphere is cozy and warm and the bartenders are friendly and fun. The food is awesome, too, but I wanted to know how healthy it was, so I sat down with Sous Chef Frank Cummins and had a nice, long chat. We went through the menu section by section and here’s what I learned.
Appetizers: The first thing that caught my eye was the gumbo – a spicy stew shrimp, chicken and crab meat over white rice. Sounds harmless. However, when I asked Chef Cummins about it, he told me that the butter roux they use as a base has quite a bit of …….can you guess? ……..butter. Not the best choice when you’re wanting to eat lean. Everything else is fried – unless you request different. There a couple ways to do this. First, the Buttermilk Sriracha Chicken Nuggets are marinated in a secret sauce and then fried – but these can also be pan-sauteed in the marinade to cut some calories. Second, the Nashville Chicken is normally marinated in Carolina Reaper sauce and fried, but you can also request to have them grilled and basted with the sauce instead.
Soups: Each day of the week features a different soup. My picks for the healthiest soups are the Tomato Florentine and the Fish Stew, which uses oats for body and texture so you’ll get a little fiber in, too! Minestrone can often be a healthy choice, but this version uses a high-fat chicken stock as it’s base. Still a good choice of you pair it with a light salad and call it good.
Salads: If you want to make it into a meal, I suggest the Steak or Chicken Salad. The Spinach Salad looks fabulous, as well as the Beet Salad – both use fresh spinach which gives you a better nutrient bang for your buck than Romaine (although Romaine tops iceberg every time) but watch the candied walnuts and feta cheese. Dressing on the side, as usual.
Sandwiches: Best choice: Fish Tacos (fish blackened or grilled). Close second is the Grilled Chicken Caesar Wrap, but ask them to go light on the dressing. The one to avoid is probably the Kim-chi Reuben. I love that is uses Kim-chi, which is a fermented cabbage with lots of health/probiotic properties, but I doubt it cancels out the high-fat/salt corned beef, cheese and Thousand Island dressing.
I was fascinated by the Cinnamon Buttered Chicken Breast Sandwich. This unique sandwich uses a chicken breast that’s been marinated in buttermilk and cinnamon. Then it’s fried, and topped with a saute of apple pie filling and red onions. I’m a sucker for interesting food, so I had to try it. I asked for the chicken grilled instead of fried. I loved the onion and apple saute – it was sweet but with just enough onion so I felt like I wasn’t actually eating dessert (although I probably was).
Burgers: I asked Chef Cummins about the Veggie Burger, and learned that it is made in-house, with a blend of carrots, black beans, onions, oats, quinoa, corn, panko bread crumbs and a little honey to hold it all together. Sounds like a good combo to me!
House Specialties: This is where I found my favorite. When Chef Cummins described the Frutti De Mare to me, I already knew I was going to love it….Clams, mussels and scallops on linguine with a wine and garlic sauce….mmmmmm. This actually didn’t need any modifications at all. Pasta dishes often have WAY more than one serving on the plate, but this was perfect. It was fantastic.
Other good choices would be the Bourbon Glazed Pork Loin or the Herb Roasted Chicken. The Pecan Parmesan Crusted Wild Salmon can be served without the crust and it’s JUST as good as with it on. If you’re in the mood for a steak, the Filet Mignon is the best choice, followed by the Sirloin. The others have more marbling (trans: high saturated fat), which adds a lot of flavor but not so great for your arteries.
When choosing your sides, stick with the veggies like asparagus (which I tried and loved) broccoli or Brussels sprouts. The standard preparation calls for a fair amount of butter or oil but just ask the chef to go light on it and you’ll still love it. I also recommend the Ratatouille. Ratatouille is a French dish made with yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers and onions in a tomato sauce, and topped with a bit of mascarpone cheese. I say don’t skip the cheese- it’s not much, and the taste definitely outweighs the extra calories.
Here’s the RED LIGHT/GREEN LIGHT breakdown:
GREEN LIGHT = Go for it!!
RED LIGHT= Don’t do it!
- Buttermilk Sriracha Chicken Nuggets (pan sauteed)
- Nashville Chicken (Grilled)
- Spinach/Artichoke Dip
- Fish Stew
- Tomato Florentine
- White Chili
- Clam Chowder
- Loaded Baked Potato
- Chicken Salad (grilled)
- Garden Salad
- Caesar Salad
- Veggie Burger
- Famous Bar Burger (sorry, The Bar)
STEAKS AND HOUSE SPECIALTIES
(choose Brussels sprouts, broccoli, ratatouille, asparagus, or cauliflower, light on the oil for a side)
- Filet Mignon (take half home)
- Frutti Di Mare
- Herb Roasted Chicken
- Pecan Parmesan Crusted Wild Salmon (light crust or no crust)
- Bourbon Glazed Pork Loin
- Ribeye or Strip Steak
- Fish and Chips
- Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf
~As always, enjoy the food, enjoy the company – and tip well!