Eating healthy and eating out don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, Abby Nevins is eating her way through the Mountain Brook Restaurant Trail with just that duality in mind. After all, she spends her days advising the clients of her concierge nutrition business on how to eat well. How does she do it though? We met her to check Grille 29 off both our trails, and she told us. (Side note: To learn more about the trail, visit mtnbrookchamber.org and follow #i8mb on social media.)
What are some of your go-tos that you checked off your Restaurant Trail list first?
I got Zoes and Starbucks immediately out of the way. At Zoes I absolutely love the Cauliflower Rice Bowl, or I’ll get side Greek salad with chicken, not the one with potato salad in the middle, or their soup.
How do you approach a menu when you are trying to make healthy choices?
We eat out so much as a community that I have to tell my clients you can’t splurge every time you eat out or you will get yourself in trouble. I assess a menu by asking how I can get a decent protein and as many vegetables as possible. I also ask what I am not necessarily going to make at home.
It’s also good to try to make half of your plate non-starchy vegetables. You can order two vegetable sides instead of rice at places like Taziki’s and Zoes. And don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. I get a salad and also tomato-cucumber salad instead of rice at Taziki’s.
What tips do you have on specific items to order around Mountain Brook?
I live around the corner from Ralph who owns Crestline Bagel, and I asked him what I should get since I am a dietician. He said you can order your bagel “scooped,” so they take out the inside extra breading and all you have left is the flavored exterior.
At Urban Cookhouse, their smoked turkey is some of the best I have ever had. I order it with roasted veggies and salad. I love it. At Miss Dots you don’t have to get the fried chicken. They have a phenomenal kale salad, and their Brussels sprouts are really good.
At La Paz I order the Village Salad with chicken, and my father-in-law is jealous. It’s massive. It’s got seasoned chicken and a mango salsa and avocado. Instead of getting the chicken and cheese quesadilla, I am getting a salad without dressing, so I allow myself some chips. At Taco Mama instead of a build-your-own burrito bowl, I build my own salad. Their salads are huge. You put everything else on top, but you are starting with your base as a vegetable instead of rice.
I have a huge sweet tooth, so I know at Olexa’s I will get a piece of wedding cake and share it with whoever I am with. So I’ll order a salad with lean protein, instead of one of their paninis on focaccia which are so good. You’ve got to live a little, and Olexa’s cake you just can’t pass up.
What new-to-you things have you tried on the trail?
I love to cook, so it’s very rare I’d pick up dinner. or Black Sheep Kitchen. But dinner.’s turkey meatballs were really good. You can serve them as-is or over spaghetti squash. My husband devoured them, and we’ll get them again.
My husband grew up here too, and we have eaten at Otey’s so many times! I was thinking, “How many times have I gotten the chicken finger basket with honey mustard?” But I got the salad with the blackened chicken, and it was awesome. I also have clients who get the “Mayor’s Special” like Mayor Stewart Welch: two pieces of Blackened Chicken and slaw. Their slaw is mayonnaise-based, so I don’t order it though.
I had never been to Chez Lulu for dinner. I made my husband go, and he was a trooper because it kind of comes off as girly. But he’s a pizza fanatic, and their pizza was fantastic. We went to Italy last October, and this was really authentic. I got a salad, and we left there saying we’d be back.
What’s up next?
I have never been to Bongiorno even though I grew up here, so I am excited to use the trail as an excuse to go. I already looked at ahead at Gus’s, and they have a grilled chicken sandwich. I’ll probably get that instead of a hot dog. I am interested to try the new Ice House Restaurant, I like the guys at Dram who started it and enjoy their food.
UPDATE: Abby was the first to complete the restaurant trail as of April 2018 and is now working on a second “round” of stops.