January always starts out with a bang, but when the smoke clears, most of us are faced with the cold reality that it's time to tighten our self-discipline before it's impossible to tighten our belts.
Green and Grilled opened in the summer of 2011, offering options built for this time of year. It's the kind of place where one could enjoy eating practically every day and never feel any guilt.
When Juan Suarez's years working in other people's restaurants, learning and saving money finally put him in position to open his own place, he wasn't exactly sure what kind of restaurant to open.
The answer was right under his nose.
“We were having this beautiful dinner at home, delicious flavors and beautiful colors, and I finally said to my wife, ‘This is the kind of food we need to be serving.' ”
Not long after that, the couple leased space in Rockwell Plaza, and Green and Grilled, 8547 N Rockwell Ave., was born.
Green and Grilled is a fast-casual concept, specializing in heart-smart dishes that promote balance without scrimping on flavor.
Suarez and his wife, Adriana, who both hail from Colombia, designed the clean, bright interior founded on white paint with green highlights and clever touches such as ceiling cutouts and an elevated banquet along the south wall.
If the layout seems familiar, it should. Suarez spent close to a decade opening Chipotle restaurants, starting in Denver, then Utah and finally Oklahoma.
“Food, feel and flow” is what Suarez said he took from his time at Chipotle.
Suarez said while food is the most important thing for a restaurant, comfort is a major part of the dining experience. A clean, attractive interior that's easy to navigate is almost as essential.
But Suarez said he wanted to take it one more step with his concept and offer food that promotes a sustainable lifestyle.
“We want to offer people meals that are balanced,” he said. “My wife is studying for her master's in nutrition, so we pay a lot of attention to every ingredient that goes into the food.”
That means targeting natural organic ingredients and learning to take extra precautions to make sure the ingredients have no potentially harmful additives.
The result is a simple menu featuring soups, salads, grilled proteins and plenty of fresh fruit. Don't look for bacon-laden cheeseburgers or pork slow-cooked in its own fat at Green and Grilled — save that stuff for one meal a week. What you will find is grilled pork, chicken, steak or tofu served with carrot rice, spinach rice, sliced avocados or steamed potatoes with salt.
“I'm really proud of how many clean plates we get when kids come in,” Suarez said. “If you give kids good options, you'll be surprised how they react.”
Kids can choose from smaller portions of meat with vegetables and fresh fruit. Suarez said they may look at adding wraps to the menu later this year.
Striking a balance
If you're trying to slow your roll toward morbid obesity, Green and Grilled is a fantastic place to keep you on track. Add it to places such as Coolgreens, The Red Cup, Ceviche, El Pollo Chulo and Matthew Kenney that lean heavily toward healthy eating. Ceviche House and Inca Trail aren't far behind, and most Asian restaurants offer excellent balance.
Meanwhile, if you do find yourself parked at a favorite restaurant that bears partial responsibility to any unwanted love handles, take control. Most restaurants offer dishes that will keep you from backtracking on your way to better eating.
On my recent visit to Abel's, 5822 NW 50 St., chef Santos Flores served an absolutely spectacular platter of fresh fruit, elegantly carved and lightly coated in simple syrup with a dash of red chile blend. Then he presented a mango smoothie flavored with Salsa Chamoy. The Chamoy, a mixture of pickled fruits and chiles, packs the drink with sweet, salty and sour elements that might make you wonder if it were concocted by Willy Wonka. More please. Pair fresh fruit with one of Abel's fish dishes and give the basket of chips and bottomless salsa the Heisman, and you can get out of a feastatorium like Abel's in pretty decent shape.
Or you can eat lunch at Green and Grilled all week then treat yourself to Tacos Calvillo at Abel's on Sunday.
To learn more
For more information about Green and Grilled, go online to http://greenandgrilled.com or call 563-2605.