Editor’s Note:Philadelphia is a food lover’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.
In 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!) Future installments will cover food trucks, breakfast spots and every type of cuisine Philly has to offer. Consider Shank your personal menu navigation guide.
Now, a little about our expert — Shank has been a registered dietitian for four years. She works full-time at Einstein Medical Center as their outpatient dietitian and part-time as a consultant at Rittenhouse Women’s Wellness Center. She also runs the popular private counseling and nutrition blog phillydietitian.com.
We’ll let Shank take it from here…
Over the last few years, I have been able to identify the bars in Philadelphia that appeal to my health conscious appetite and my thirst. Recently, I visited some of my favorite gastropubs to give you insight on healthier meal selections for your next happy hour or night out.
Here are my menu recommendations at five popular bars in Philadelphia:
To many people, Smiths in Rittenhouse is known for their boneless wings, friendly bartenders, live music and sports-oriented atmosphere. To a dietitian, Smith’s is known for their Seared Jumbo Lump Crabcake. Every time I go to Smiths, I order this salad dish, which includes a perfectly seared jumbo lump crabcake, Indian corn, grape tomatoes, edamame, fingerling potatoes and mustard remoulade. To keep the calories down and still enjoy the taste, I’ll ask for the chef to use less oil and go light on the sauce (always comes out perfectly). This dish is great if you need some protein to fill your stomach while watching a sports game but don’t want to overload on fat and carbohydrates. The Chopped Salad and Quinoa Salad are also nice options if you want to eat lighter. Smith’s is pretty good about not drenching salads in dressing so no need to ask for to have the dressing on the side.
Pub & Kitchen in Graduate Hospital has a relaxed atmosphere, the menu is always solid and the bartenders are very knowledgeable. What I appreciate most about Pub and Kitchen is that the menu changes daily so customers are always served the freshest ingredients. Of course, the core staples stay on rotation, but Chef Eli Collins appreciates the farm to table movement so my waistline usually feels clean after a meal at P&K. Usually appetizers are fried or contain some type of cheese that would send your calorie intake sky high — to steer clear of that trap, I recommend trying the Chili Marinated Cauliflower for an appetizer; it’s bursting with flavor and mild heat. For your first course, serve yourself some vegetables and save the fat and calories for your main entrée whenever you eat out —that’s my motto. This season’s Treviso Radicchio & Grain Salad and the Arctic Char are two of the healthier dishes on the menu. If you enjoy red meat but are watching your fat and cholesterol intake, pass on the P&K Cheeseburger, which serves up 6 ounces of ground beef, and choose the Rabbit Meatballs for a lighter option.
I’ve always favored this Rittenhouse bar because of its cozy atmosphere and spacious seating. As for their menu, I usually skip the entrées and order from their appetizer and salad selections. Black Sheep offers your typical diet offenders, like Cheesesteak Spring Rolls and Spicy Sambal Wings, but they also have good-for-you options like Sautéed Brussels Sprouts (skip the bacon) and a generous sized Mediterranean Plate. Both selections are great food choices if you need something to share while enjoying a glass of wine with friends. For main dishes, their salads are hearty so no need to order an appetizer. Try the Grilled Shrimp Salad (no substitutions needed); its flavorful and guilt-free. The Sheep Salad is also a great option but you’ll want to make a few swaps; add chicken for protein and nix the dried cranberries for their added sugar. Sources of added sugar on a salad kind of ruin the health factor. (Yes, I consider dried fruit to be added sugar — usually it is dusted with even more sugar and sugar is nobody’s friend.) By omitting the dried cranberries, you can feel comfortable keeping the candied pecans (another sugar offender) because without them, it will ruin the salad. The goat cheese on this salad isn’t generous enough to bust your diet so go ahead and enjoy it. Ask for your salad dressing to be placed on the side if you’re overly worried about calories.
Misconduct Tavern, a popular bar near Avenue of the Arts, has menu options ranging from avocado fries to build your own macaroni and cheese. Personally I have never tried either, but I have tried the Root Vegetable Salad, which is a medley of roasted root vegetables served with grilled chicken, honey, goat cheese and apple cider dressing. When you order this salad, ask to skip the honey to avoid the added dose of sugar. If you are craving more than a salad, but don’t want to break the bank, try the Seared Chicken Sliders with red cabbage slaw and soy glaze with a small mixed green salad. Pro tip: When ordering sliders here, make sure that you ask for your bun to not be buttered, that way you’ll save some calories from fat.
McCrossen’s Tavern is a hidden gem in the Art Museum area. This friendly neighborhood bar is perfect if you are looking for a casual scene to catch up with friends or to grab a beer after work. I’m a fan of McCrossen’s because no matter how little or big my appetite is, they always have a healthy plate to satisfy my hunger. If you’re not starving, order from their small plates selection. I suggest trying the Roasted Butternut Squash Salad or the Veggie Medley, which is a mixture of in-house seasonal vegetables that is so satisfying. The Hummus Plate served with roasted peppers, celery, carrots, cucumbers, greek olives, and grilled pita would make anyone feel healthy. McCrossen’s has daily entrée specials that are generally great picks but if I don’t care for what’s being offered, I’ll get their Creekstone Farm Burger; yes I eat burgers! Order their burger without the fries (substitute a small side salad) and share it with a friend since they offer a 7-ounce serving of ground beef.
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