Dining Out Paleo: Chipotle Mexican Grill

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I’ll admit it. I’m a huge food snob. I’ll only eat out at a place once I’ve thoroughly done my research and know the food is supposed to be delicious. I’ve been a food tourist and made pilgrimages across the country and abroad for the sole purpose of visiting restaurants (e.g. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, Alinea in Chicago, Per Se in NYC, Cibreo in Florence, and back when I was flirting with vegetarianism, Kodaiji Ikkyu-an in Kyoto). Eff the landmarks and historical sites — I just want good grub.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t need trendy or fancy. The restaurants can be hole-in-the-wall places where I can only communicate with the server by pointing at other diner’s dishes. Frankly, I don’t even care if the place is unsanitary. If it tastes good going down, I don’t care if it comes out painfully a few hours later. Really. Just ask Fitbomb. I’ve hauled his butt all over the globe for good eats.

I like restaurants that are run by passionate food lovers because you know that they put their heart and soul into whatever they’re serving you. You know, like Chef Primo from the movie Big Night or Chef Remy from Ratatouille. (Yes, I haven’t watched too many movies since I hatched my kids.) I just don’t believe you get that kind of passion at a chain restaurant, so I avoid them like the plague. Sure, chains provide a consistent minimum standard of mediocrity; the food won’t totally suck, but you won’t be wowed by anything at Macaroni Grill or Applebee’s.

Well, stop the presses because this afternoon, I ate lunch at a chain. A FAST food chain, no less.

A little backstory…

Lunch today was going to be a bit more problematic. We were headed to Fitbomb’s cousin’s birthday luncheon and we knew we’d be served a dizzying array of dim sum dishes. Fitbomb’s family LOVES eating dim sum.

I HATE dim sum. Besides, the stuff certainly ain’t Whole30 compliant. To make sure I didn’t starve, I ate a can of sardines at home and I packed emergency packs of coconut flakes and macadamia nuts. At the party, everyone kept nagging me to go get food, but I just pretended to be busy feeding my kids. I finally had to flat-out lie and say that I ate when they weren’t looking. Fitbomb was even sneakier and spread a few stray pieces of food on his plate and pretended he ate a full plate. I’m just glad that we were able to escape early because we had a mandatory preschool open house to attend.

After we left the party, we were still hungry after eating our pre-packed nuts and flakes. We were in a bind ‘cause we didn’t have time to go home to eat. To top it off, the food scene in in this particular corner of the East Bar is abysmal. Then, I remembered that Paleo guru Robb Wolf recommends eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill so I told Fitbomb to aim our Paleomobile in the direction of one. I think he thought I was punking him but I was HONGRY.

As we stood in line, we took out our iPhones and studied John Durant’s post on what good and proper cavemen order at Chipotle. We both ordered salads topped with carnitas, extra guacamole, and two kinds of salsa. No beans, por favor.

Can you see the skepticism in my face? I was just reciting the mantra, “Food is fuel. Food is fuel. Food is fuel…”

The verdict? Drum roll, please…

Not bad. It’s pretty good for fast food. I’ve definitely had much better (and cheaper) Mexican at authentic taquerias near our house, but in a pinch, I’d eat here. Since I’m on the Whole30, I like the transparency of the ingredients on the Chipotle website. That being said, almost everything (except for carnitas!) is cooked in soybean oil, so if you want to go 100% Paleo, stick with the carnitas. The guacamole’s pretty awesome, though. Next time I find myself in a Chipotle, I’m doubling up on the guac.

Make Your Own Paleo Kalua Pork Salad @ Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina, HI)

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It’s nearing the end of our weeklong stay in Maui so we’re re-visiting a bunch of our favorite restaurants for second (and third) meals.  Tonight, our kids seemed too punchy to eat out at a restaurant so we opted for take out from Aloha Mixed Plate.  I’m not sure why we were being so selfless.  If our kids are shits we ain’t coming back for another year anyway. 

In all honesty, the food at Aloha Mixed plate is really only mediocre at best.   Most of their items are really sweet (e.g. teriyaki beef) or too tough (e.g. kalbi) but one item that really shines is their kalua pig.  It’s tender, moist, and seasoned just right.   I thought the only way to order it was to get the Hawaiian plate lunch but then you get a bunch of stuff I don’t like (e.g. poi, tough haupia, rice, macaroni salad).   When I called in my order tonight, I learned that you can order just the kalua pig as a side and it would only cost around $5.  As a result, we cobbled together our own Paleo kalua pork salad with some take out items and things in our fridge/freezer.

From Aloha Mixed Plate, we ordered a garden salad (split between Fitbomb and I):

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Three sides of kalua pig (split amongst 3 of us):

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Add some nuked frozen broccoli and sliced avocado and VOILA:

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Tasty, healthy, and cheap Paleo kalua pork salad!  

Eating Out Paleo: Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina, HI)

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We were all pretty tired and exhausted after our flight from SFO to OGG so we opted to pick up some take out from Aloha Mixed Plate on our way to our hotel tonight.  At first I was sad that many of our favorite places to eat would be off limits because the food is so carb-intensive.  But, you know what?  I’m determined to forge ahead and report back my successes and failures eating Paleo on Maui.

One place I was sure we couldn’t go back to was Aloha Mixed Plate.  I mean, come on, almost everything comes with 2 scoops of rice and macaroni salad. What did I order?  The grilled mahi mahi plate and they happily subbed in a salad for the french fries and cole slaw.

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Fitbomb ordered the Hawaiian plate and polished off the Kahlua pig and lomi lomi salmon.  Our carb-addicted kids scarfed down the rice and macaroni salad.  No one touched the poi.  I like Aloha Mixed Plate because it’s affordable and has a great view of the beach when you dine in.  Is it the best food ever?  No, but my standards are lower when I’m eating on Maui.