Three moms, spandex clad and straight from the gym, loped into Clean Eatz in Chesapeake intent on behaving.
Restaurants pose hazards for those who have made two of the most common New Year’s resolutions: losing weight and eating healthier. French fries, ice cream, and margaritas beckon. But Clean Eatz, a nationwide chain with three South Hampton Roads locations, is a safe space of sorts.
Here, every sanely-proportioned meal has a balance of protein, carbs, and fats with the calorie content right on the menu. Vibrant orange walls sport posters with slogans like “You only have three choices in life: Give up, Give in, or Give it All You Got” and “Look in the mirror, that’s your competition.” A wall of freezers is stocked with to-go meals, each labeled “gain,” “maintain,” or “lose,” with calorie, fat, carb, and protein content front and center.
Think wild salmon with rosemary potatoes, broccoli, and balsamic glaze or bbq meatballs with mashed potatoes or “Epic Chicken & Waffle.”
The latter, at 507 calories, 46 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of proteins, is one of the “gain” meals. Sadly, that was not our mission. But no worries, the cafe menu had plenty to tempt.
There are melts, flatbreads, wraps, snacks, smoothies, bowls, and burgers. The latter, with a base price of $8.99, comes three ways—chipotle, “clean eatz” (a classic cheeseburger approach), and teriyaki. Then choose a protein—bison (+$3), salmon (+$2), black bean, or turkey. Kids are given the same healthy treatment with a $5.99 menu that includes a turkey burger, boneless wings, and pizza rolls, complete with calorie counts and a side of sliced apples and peanut butter.
Patrons at the surgically-clean Chesapeake location order eat-in meals at the front counter and then listen for their name to be called. Clean Eatz is not fast-food-fast, but our names were called a short time after ordering, and we were pleasantly surprised at the near absence of disposables. Even the utensils are stainless steel.
We ordered a wrap, a bowl, and the impossible sounding “Clean Mac & Cheese” ($12.99). I mean, how’d they do that?
“No oil and four ounces of pasta,” explained Dylan Richmond, owner of the Chesapeake and Virginia Beach franchises.
Yet the plate of whole grain penne pasta piled with shreds of mildly-spicy beef bbq and a swirl of queso cheese made for a very hearty lunch.
The Hammerhead ($9.99) garlic herb wrap came bulging with salmon, spinach, and bacon slathered in Clean Eatz’s version of green goddess dressing that’s akin to yogurt-based tzatziki. The result is fresh tasting with a satisfying crunch from the ample amount of spinach. This one feels like it’s good for you.
Our medium-sized “Build Your Own Bowl” ($11.69), made with a base of brown rice and topped with salmon (+$2), spinach, shaved brussels sprouts, and asparagus, came with a container of teriyaki sauce on top. The uber-fresh veggies had a satisfying crunch, and the two squares of salmon, while a little more done than we prefer, were tender and flavorful, and the portion guaranteed a snack-free afternoon.
We sipped raspberry-hibiscus tea and tropical mango-flavored vitamin water while watching weekly meal-plan patrons fill baskets with pre-made meals from the freezer cases. Dylan noted that entrees change weekly and can be customized for vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten free, and even special macro diets for athletes.
Adam Cournoyer of Chesapeake, a weekly meal-plan customer with a full basket, said, “I haven’t had a bad one yet.”
Clean Eatz offers online fitness tips, cooking tips, and workouts on YouTube and online at cleaneatzkitchen.com/a/blog.