Editor's Note: Philadelphia is a foodie's paradise, with more great restaurants and fun bars than we can count. But for someone watching their weight, dining out in Philly can feel overwhelming. Here's the good news: You don't have to ruin your healthy eating goals to enjoy our city's booming restaurant scene.
Over the next few months, Theresa Shank, RD LDN will be traveling around the city to provide Philly.com readers with information on healthy meal selections at popular bars and restaurants. (Yes, dietitians eat out, too!) Consider Shank your personal menu navigation guide.
We'll let Shank take it from here…
It hasn't been easy, but over the years I have been able to identify the bars in Philadelphia that appeal to my health conscious appetite. Recently, I visited some of my favorite spots to give you insight on healthier meal selections for your next happy hour or night out.
Here are my menu recommendations at five more popular bars in Philadelphia:
American pub food, craft beers, sports entertainment and live music sum up the attraction of City Tap House in Logan Square. The menu at this pub is massive, offering dishes from mussels to artisan pizza so you may be more susceptible to getting side tracked from healthy eating dining here. At restaurants like this, I tend to split an appetizer with whomever I'm dining with and then order a salad with an added protein (chicken, salmon, and shrimp) as an entrée. With that in mind, try the Mezze Plate, a spread of curried hummus, roasted tomato tapenade, feta crema, cucumber salad and flatbread. After sharing this appetizer, order the Honey Crisp Apple Salad with chicken to round off your meal. For those of you dining alone, I encourage you to hold off on ordering an appetizer since the entrées are generously sized in portion. The Monk Fish paired with braised leeks, yukon gold potatoes, smoked mussels and saffron broth has a sophisticated taste for an American pub and is guiltless compared to the Trout dish that is prepared with a cream-based sauce. Not a fish lover? Try the Maple Brined Heritage Pork Chop with a side house salad.
Since everyone always raves over Good Dog's sweet potato fries and signature Good Dog Burger it was hard to pass on these favorites, but fortunately, I left with having some favored selections of my own. The Buffalo Shrimp, crusted in panko and served with buffalo sauce, celery and blue cheese is a must try even if it's a fried appetizer, just skip dipping each shrimp into a side of blue cheese dressing to minimize extra calories from fat. The Good Dog Salad or the Spinach Salad topped with chicken, grilled shrimp or calamari is completely RD- approved. If you simply can't resist Good Dog's burgers but still want to try to eat healthy, split the burger with a friend for a hearty 4-ounce portion (the whole burger is a ½ pound) and substitute mixed greens in place of fries or try the house made Soy Ginger Salmon Burger served on a sesame brioche bun and topped with daikon sprouts, spinach and kimchee mayo.
Pro Tip: Gluten Free? This restaurant is noted as one of Rittenhouse's gluten free friendly establishments.
Strangelove's is a gastro pub in Midtown Village known for its eclectic selection of craft beers (22 on tap to be exact), its delicious weekend brunch, and its casual yet sophisticated atmosphere. I favor this restaurant because I can see and taste the chef's high standards in the innovation and preparation of their plates.
Diners will find the "Sips and Nibbles" section of the menu the most tempting with finger foods like wings, and whipped ricotta with roasted acorn squash and pumpkin seeds. While delicious, these selections are hardly RD-approved. If you intend to order multiple dishes, I suggest you skip this section of the menu and order the Russian Kale Salad instead. This generous serving of kale, beets, farro, soybeans, pecans and creamy sumac dressing is packed with antioxidants, protein and fiber, making it a great starter to any entrée on the menu.
If you are someone that opts for chicken over beef because you think it's the healthier choice, you're going to miss out on Strangelove's delicious Chili Marinated Flank Steak. For those of you who are unfamiliar, flank steak is typically a lean cut of beef, so the calorie offender in this dish is not the meat. The steak is served with brussels sprouts, green tomato butter and aji amarillo mayo, which adds a little extra calories and fat to this otherwise healthy entrée. In this case, I suggest asking your server to omit the butter but definitely don't skip the aji amarillo mayo - it lends a flavorful kick of heat to the brussels sprouts. If you can't fathom eating a steak without a side of starch, try the sweet potato hash over the tempting smokey crystal steak fries.
Strangelove's menu also shows love for vegetarians and vegans too! I suggest ordering the homemade Veggie Burger and substituting a side green salad or plate of brussels sprouts (the best I've tasted in a while) for the Yukon gold chips in an effort to cut some carbs and added fat.
Contemporary American cuisine, 1940's themed libations and one of the best raw bar selections in the city are waiting for you behind the doors of Pennsylvania 6 in Midtown Village. Executive chef Marc Pleiss impressed my appetite from the moment I opened the menu. To start, all of the salads are RD-approved, which is pretty rare occurrence at restaurants. I recommend the Kambocha Salad with aged gouda, pumpkin seeds and chicory. The salads are light so no reason to share! Try other appetizers such as the Shrimp Cocktail or the Kona Kampachi served with avocado, pink grapefruit, espelette citrus ceviche sauce. If you are dining with another person, opt for the Yellowfin Tartar, a combination of roasted red peppers, charred scallions, avocado, pickled cucumbers, and spicy aioli instead of the Roasted Bone Marrow or the Potted Chicken Liver dish; two animal sources that have not and will never touch the lips of this dietitian.
Pennsylvania 6 has a notable reputation for their seafood inspired dishes so I highly recommend the Wild Striped Bass with puy lentils, mustard greens, curry broth and a black cardamom honey glaze. If this is the only dish you order, you may want to try a side of Broccolini or Kennett Square Mushrooms so you don't leave hungry.
This whiskey focused tavern serves patrons refined bistro fare in Northern Liberties. If you're going for dinner, I rarely suggest this, but skip the soups and salads and start your dining experience with the small plates section of the menu. I recommend ordering the Octopus with sweet potato and kale chimichurri or sharing the Trio of Dips with your table. For you entrée, try the Seared Halibut served with oyster mushroom risotto (the flavor is out of this world), shaved fennel and an asparagus salad. But first take note — the vegetables in this dish barely provide a full serving so be sure to order one from the sides section of the menu. Another RD-approved meal would be to pair the Meatballs & Toast from the small plates section with a side green salad or brussels sprouts.
Pro Tip: Jerry's Bar was voted 2014 Best City Brunch by Philadelphia Magazine. Try my healthy pick, the sweet potato and goat cheese egg white omelet with a side green salad.
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