No carb options at ubiquitous restaurants when you're on the run?
September 9, 2008 3:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for chain restaurants (including fast food places) that have some decent no-carb food options. If you could name the place and the dish, it would be most appreciated!

I need to lose some weight, and South Beach has worked for me in the past. However, the stumbling block for me are those first 2 weeks (of no carbs whatsoever) when I inevitably end up having to grab a meal or takeout on the run, and few places are reliable for having a completely no carb meal.

I know California Chicken Cafe and El Pollo Loco have chicken breast with salad options, but I'm trying to spread my net wider than that. Also, I almost never go to chain restaurants usually so I am not familiar with their menus. A lot of places have salads whose dressings are sugary or covered in croutons-- so that's no good.

Please help! I'm in Southern California, if that aids you.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Burger with no bun or ketchup at any fast food joint?
posted by tristeza at 3:32 PM on September 9, 2008

In 'n' Out Burger ordered "Protein Style". They replace the bun with lettuce
posted by The Gooch at 3:35 PM on September 9, 2008

Chipotle will make you a salad with pretty much your choice of ingredients (including meat, beans, lettuce, salsa, cheese), with dressing on the side...
posted by mr_roboto at 3:36 PM on September 9, 2008

In'N'Out offers a Protein-style burger, with huge slabs of lettuce replacing the bun. On preview, seconded.

Here's some excerpts from Agatson's Dining Guide (a book that addresses this question):

Boston Market
Olive Garden
Cheesecake Factory
posted by carsonb at 3:38 PM on September 9, 2008

Yeah, I do the bun-removal thing myself, but I'm more familiar with Atkins than South Beach and I'm not sure about beef in the first two weeks. Jack In The Box now has grilled chicken strips that are 3g, which is about as low as you'll find in any restaurant food (or in most chicken, actually). Fried chicken can have the good part pulled off. Most chain restaurants have a grilled chicken or steak meal, and you can usually get steamed veg as a side.

Anywhere that serves breakfast all day is a good option. You can get an (egg-white-only if you prefer) omlette or scrambled or poached eggs.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:44 PM on September 9, 2008

Fajitas! Swap out all the other stuff (rice, beans, tortillas) for a bowl of queso.
posted by flexiblefine at 3:54 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

A South Beacher blogs phase 1 options at Applebees.
posted by media_itoku at 4:09 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

TGIFridays used to (I think they still do?) a good low-carb friendly menu. I used to order "Cheeseburger Cheeseburger", which was 2 hamburger patties with cheese, no bun, and steamed vegetables with a salad.

I haven't seen it on the menu in a few months, but the waitress told us all you have to do is ask for it.

There IS a section in the menu that offers low-carb friendly meals, tho.
posted by Master Gunner at 4:14 PM on September 9, 2008

Whoops, I forgot to mention that the cheeseburger-cheeseburger also has a really good raspberry sauce over the patties/cheese.
posted by Master Gunner at 4:16 PM on September 9, 2008

I'm going to interpret "Southern California" as "the greater Los Angeles area" - apologies if I'm wrong! That being said, here are my low-carb standbys:

Tacos from any taqueria or taco truck - just skip the tortillas, eat the yummy meat, salsa, and guacamole if available.

Zankou Chicken has locations around the greater Los Angeles area - eat the chicken or shwarma, eat the muttabal, skip the pita and hummus.

The first year I did Atkins, I ate the steamed veggies and Mandarin chicken, sans the sugary sauce, at Panda Express just about daily. Not exactly gourmet, but it did the job.

Koo Koo Roo is pretty low-carb-friendly, if a bit salty.

Baja Fresh will sell you a side order of steak or carnitas, which you can add to a side salad, if you'd like a change from their usual chicken options.
posted by chez shoes at 4:30 PM on September 9, 2008

The book Eat This, Not That! is more about generally healthy than strictly no-carb food, but it's very much about chain restaurants, and so might be up your alley.
posted by box at 5:37 PM on September 9, 2008

Another place for a grilled-chicken on lettuce salad is McDonald's. Not sure about the salad dressings... you might want to leave them off.
posted by exphysicist345 at 7:14 PM on September 9, 2008

The first two weeks of South Beach aren't "no carb." PLEASE read the actual South Beach Diet book rather than trying to wing it. There are many vegetables allowable in Phase One of South Beach, including asparagus, broccoli, green beans, black beans, cabbage, chickpeas, eggplant, lettuce, spinach, and zucchini.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:51 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm on the east coast, and I don't actually know which chains you have in CA, but here's some things I've noticed. Ruby Tuesday has a fabulous salad bar. There might be some higher carb items within the salad bar, but you would easily be able to construct an Atkins/South Beach approved salad with their vast array of fresh options. I can't recommend their salad bar enough, actually. As far as dressings go, we used to eat blue cheese specifically while on the low-carb diet. Ruby Tuesday is also a restaurant that my family has gone to a lot (including when we were following low-carb diets), and they are very good about substituting food. For instance, you can get one of their hamburgers without the bun and substitute the french fries for another side. Places like Applebee's, Bennigans, TGI Fridays, etc. (those sorts of chain restaurants) have been really nice about doing that for me in the past. Sometimes a little substitution is all it takes to make a higher carb meal fit into your diet. Also, our local Subway has a salad option, which I imagine is pretty low-carb. It looks like veggies and chicken.

If you're looking for something beyond salad, I have two ideas: breakfast (specifically eggs, a hearty omelette filled with cheese, meats, and veggies.. without the potatoes and toast) and diner/'family restaurant' food. All diners/'family restaurants' might not be conducive to low-carb eating, but the sort that I'm thinking of has a lot of meat-based dinners (stuff like salisbury steak, chicken) and you pick from a full-page list of different side items. It might be easier to get a good meal that would follow the rules at a place like that.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:04 PM on September 9, 2008

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