Muscle Maker Grill Is A Welcomed Change To The Often Mundane and Unhealthy Fast Food Culture

 Your Health In Mind

     For some foodies the rudimentary idea of calorie counting, dieting, and eating healthy is an unfathomable notion.  These words and phrases in the foodie community can be met with the ire of a grandmother that just heard their innocent little angel drop the C-word, and you all know what C-word, I am talking about, THE ONE AND ONLY C-WORD!  The thought that any meal that is good for you, simply could not taste even half-way decent, is extremely widespread throughout the foodie community.  So, as I got older, and my pants got tighter, I thought my days of being a foodie were over.  I grieved longer that Artie Lange did, when he found out that Hostess Cakes went out of business, thinking I would have to eat turnip salads with okra nuggets for the rest of my life.  Fortunately, I learned through necessity that this notion is and always was completely untrue.  Not only can healthy food be just as delicious as unwholesome food, but one can splurge every now and again on bacon wrapped bacon bites, as long as it is not every day.


Rest In Peace, Indeed

For those of you who still are under the impression that nutritious food can’t tantalize your palate I suggest that you make a voyage to Muscle Maker Grill and check out their healthy yet scrumptious offerings.   I will pause for a moment to allow the grumpy cat fan club grumble and murmur about chain restaurants, and how they destroy the very fabric of foodie culture, and blah, blah, pretentious know-it-all gibberish, blah.  Are you good now haters?  You got that out of your system?  Can we move on?  Sure, Muscle Maker is a chain restaurant, but my problem with franchises has nothing to do with the idea of them ruining some silly pompous notion of the epicurean elite, I have always found that they tend to scrimp on ingredients, forget about freshness, and serve calorie laden unimaginative meals, once they turn to the dark side of the gastro-force.  Thankfully, this is not the case with Muscle Maker Grill.  The Muscle Maker Grill that I chose to visit for the purpose of this review is located at 14-29 River Road, in Fair Lawn, NJ, but that is the beauty of franchises, you can search to find one closer to you.

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

The Muscle Maker Grill Logo

Before ordering from Muscle Maker, Kat and I went for a rather vigorous two hour hike and neither of us was in any mood to cook, so we decided to get take-out, before we started Googleing recipes that involved cooking and eating our dogs and cats.  (Relax PETA people, I am joking, I love my pets like family.  Furthermore, why are you reading a foodie blog? Go eat some kale that is dressed with your salty tears because you are crying about how the pesticides that treated your organic shrubbery that you are eating most likely killed a dozen bugs.)  Kat and I inspected the menu and found that the selection at Muscle Maker was much larger than we expected, and to add to the robust selection, when ordering most of the menu items, you can choose the type of protein you would like to have in your meal.  In addition, every menu item lists the caloric intake for the entire world to see, unlike many other “fast food,” restaurants that conceal the nutritional information of their food, as if they were protecting Carmen San Diego.

Where in the World is Carmen San Diego

Carmen San Diego

Kat and I both chose the El Mexicana, which is described as fajita grilled chicken breast or steak, sizzling onions and peppers, reduced fat cheddar cheese, and salsa over brown rice and beans, garnished with tomatoes and scallions for $9.99.  Kat decided on the chicken breast, while I chose to upgrade my order, and went with the shrimp.  As I was on my way to pick up the order, I began to have orders’ remorse,  I was very nervous that healthy merely meant small portions that are designed to fill up a dainty bird like lady, not a large land mammal such as myself.  I fretted and worried the entire drive over to the establishment, and then even more while I fidgeted with my phone at the counter while my food was placed into bags.  With our Muscle Maker Grill in hand, I raced back to the house, filled with apprehension and foodie anxiety.

As I removed our meals from their plastic confines, I was relieved to see that my trepidation was all for not.   The food not only smelled and looked fantastic, which is a feat in amongst itself while be housed in take-out containers, but the portion size was extremely generous.  I began to eat my entrée and observed that the ingredients all fused together flawlessly to create a tremendous amalgamation of zesty flavor.  There was no one ingredient that overpowered the dish, and half way through eating it I completely forgot that this flavorsome meal was low in calories and chock full of nutritious morsels.  I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the menu, that each of these entrees is large enough for two servings, but I was definitely full when I was done with my meal.

El Mexicana from Muscle Maker Grill

Our Meal

All in all, Muscle Maker Grill provides healthy food at the speed of most fast food joints, and the prices are sensible to boot.  As the heartless cold nights of winter give way to the warm embracing days of spring, even foodies have to begin to think about shedding some of the winter weight their hibernation has welcomed.  So, next time you are too tired to cook, don’t grab a Big Mac or some Lo Mein; give Muscle Maker Grill a whirl, your belt and pants will thank you.

Muscle Maker Grill Fair Lawn on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie’s School of Endless Shrimp!

Sometimes foodies, out of habit, seem to be somewhat pretentious and give off a like hipster vibe.  It is this ostentatious elitism that rubs me the wrong way and basically caused me to create this blog for the everyday foodie that welcomes noteworthy food no matter where it comes from.  With that said, this week I am reviewing a chain restaurant that rarely is uttered in the foodie realm without contempt.  This chain is none other than Red Lobster.

Red Lobster is usually synonymous with sub-par seafood and over salted steaks like most large chain restaurants in America.  But once a year, Red Lobster offers a promotion that no Blue Collar Foodie should miss, and that time is now.  Endless Shrimp has returned to Red Lobster and every single server in the employ of this eatery collectively has begun to weep in unison.

Other than the servers, who honestly loathe this time of year, everyone else should be rejoicing that Red Lobster is still offering this amazing deal.  For $14.99, you can shovel unlimited quantities of Teryaki Grilled Shrimp, Parmesan Shrimp, Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, and Hand-breaded Shrimp, a salad, a potato, and unlimited Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  After nearly a decade of attending this event, the economics of this deal still baffle me, but I am not complaining and neither should you.

Some of you are sitting in your ergonomic office chairs adjusting your horned rimmed glasses, preparing to write me angry hate mail about the quality of the shrimp, or the fact that the parmesan cheese is not organic, and you are entitled to your own opinion but dude seriously this is ALL YOU CAN EAT SHRIMP we are talking about.  This event is not about the tantalizing Amouz-bouche or the tastefully created radish flower, this experience is all about strapping on a feed bag and attempting to devour literally an entire school of shrimp in one sitting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a classy black tie restaurant as you should all know if you read my blog each week, but there are sometimes that the Blue Collar in me, ties up the foodie, 50 shades of grey style, and drives me straight to yummy town.  The shrimp that Red Lobster offers during this event is not Sushi Grade by any means, but I love shrimp like fat guys like cake, so when I am offered an endless supply, I tend to get a little excited.

Before we discuss the individual types of shrimp that Red Lobster is offering this year, I think we must first discuss a good strategy for optimizing your shrimp intake.  First off, soda fills you up as does beer and wine, so I always order water with lemon as my drink selection for the evening.  Next we must discuss the Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  These miniature scrumptious morsels of sheer fatty goodness tend to be irresistible but very filling, so I try to only eat one with my salad to save room for the main course, and the reason we have decided to enter the threshold of Red Lobster to begin with.   As for the main course, I shy away from ordering a potato with my meal, because starches fill me up eight times more than any other side dish in this world, so I usually pair my shrimp with whatever vegetable they are offering.

Now that the side dishes have been discussed there is also a strategy when choosing your shrimp plates as well.  Two of the selections on the Endless Shrimp Menu seem to have been placed there with the purpose of filling you up quickly, so you reach your limit rapidly and thus saving Red Lobster some money.  The Teryaki Grilled Shrimp, although very tasty, comes with a side of rice, and the Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, are chock full of stomach filling belt loosening carbohydrates that will stop you in your tracks immediately and cause your endless shrimp adventure to come to an early end.  I am not saying don’t try these tasty dishes, all I am saying is save them for last.   Stick with the two scampi selections and the fried shrimp at first to maximize your shrimp eating ability.

In order to make this event even more enjoyable, I usually hook up with a few of my foodie friends that enjoy a good feeding frenzy and venture to Red Lobster to participate in a gluttonous eating competition that would make vegetarian’s far and wide weep for the entire crustacean community.   During one of these competitions, which get pretty heated, my record is 155 shrimp in one sitting.  I am both proud of this record and slightly disgusted with myself when I think of it.

Whether you are attending this promotion with one other person or ten other people, be aware that you are holding up a table for quite a long time, and that your waiter or waitress depends on quick turnovers, or good tips to make his/her night as good as yours.  If you are like me and can eat shrimp for 2 hours straight, please tip accordingly so the story about you that he or she tells at the bar after work starts with, “this freaking guy ate 150 shrimp” and ends with, “but he tipped well so it was all good, and it was kind of awesome to watch.”

The main thing to remember about this hedonistic affair is that sometimes, even a foodie has to recognize a great deal when he/she sees one and join us common folk at the Red Lobster and dive into some shrimp.  You can even request a plastic food bib if you don’t want to ruin your tweed jacket.  See you all there!

Red Lobster on Urbanspoon