Local LowCal: Top Low-Calorie Menus In Connecticut

August 22, 2012 2:00 PM

(credit: Thinkstock)

salmonsalad Local LowCal: Top Low Calorie Menus In Connecticut

(credit: Thinkstock)

To eat healthy or to eat happy, that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the tummy to suffer the calories and the cholesterol of outrageous smorgasbords, or to take forks against a sea of soy, and by devouring them, end them? Fortunately in Connecticut, the choices are no longer so stark or grim. Many top, and not necessarily expensive, restaurants offer fare that is as hearty as it is heart-friendly, and as luscious as it is low in calories. Here are just five of the restaurants that offer great low-calorie menus in Connecticut.

Black Bamboo
844 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT 06119
(860) 236-8888

Chinese food should be healthy as well as tasty, and the cooks at West Hartford’s Black Bamboo understand this basic truth of their national cuisine. Black Bamboo offers all of the traditional Chinese-American comfort food dishes from Moo Goo Gai Pan to General Tso’s Chicken that every other restaurant of its type serves, but also presents calorie-conscious diners with many choices from its extensive “New Vegetarian” and “Healthy Specials” sub-menus. While steamed vegetables and rice form the base of most of its healthier plates, Black Bamboo does offer a variety of chicken, beef and seafood as well as a lovely mixed vegetables with pineapple dish to ensure its low-calorie customers leave sated and satisfied. Black Bamboo proudly announces that “We use only 100% Vegetable Oil, Fresh Meat and Organic Vegetables,” and for those especially concerned with caloric content, will serve its special “low calorie sauce” on the side if requested.

Claire’s Corner Copia
1000 Chapel St
New Haven, CT 06510
(203) 562-3888

Vegetarian restaurants pride themselves on being the healthier choice for dining out, and Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven has been building on that pride for 37 years. Not only is Claire’s the healthy and low-calorie choice, it is organic, sustainable and kosher. There are vegan and no-cholesterol options for many of what in other restaurants would be high-fat food traps, even on the burrito and pizza menus. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, Claire’s tries to cater to the dietary restrictions of as wide a variety of customers as possible. What other restaurant can claim, let alone deliver on, the promise that no matter what their special needs, “everyone is entitled to fabulous food.”

Related: Top Ethnic Grocery Stores In Connecticut

Istanbul Café
245 Crown St
New Haven, CT 06515
(203) 787-3881

Who knew that the Ottoman sultans were healthy eaters? Apparently they were – or at least could be – as evidenced by dishes that the staff at New Haven’s Istanbul Café claims were taken from, or at least inspired by, the sultans’ kitchens. In its selection of both traditional and innovative dishes, this Turkish treasure presents what it touts as “an array of recipes that are as healthy as they are delicious.” There is more here than “babaganush” and lamb kebabs; the Istanbul Café has a varied menu that includes such rare treats as octopus and a carrot and yogurt puree, as well as that royal pleasure “Hunkar Begendi;” a tomato-marinated lamb and creamy smoked eggplant combination whose name translates, appropriately, to “The Sultan’s Delight.”

It’s Only Natural
(Main Street Market)
386 Main St
Middletown, CT 06457
(860) 346-9210

From noodle bowls to pierogies, It’s Only Natural at the Main Street Market in Middletown is committed to serving a healthy, lower-calorie and natural alternative to what other restaurants put before their customers. There are the old standbys of tofu and veggie burgers, faux crab and even “fauxer” cutlets, and soy is always in season on this menu, but It’s Only Natural caters to far more than the stereotypes so often associated with such places. The bread is baked fresh every morning and sells out quickly, and the cupcakes (even the gluten-free ones) are not only famous, says a staffer, “but a constant source of joy for us to present.”

The Vanilla Bean Café
450 Deerfield Road
Pomfret, CT 06259
(860) 928-1562

Know to its many loyal local customers simply as “The Bean,” The Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret is as little-known a gem as is the small town around it in remote Windham County. The fewer than 4,000 residents, however, know a good thing when they see it (or in this case taste it), and “The Bean” keeps them coming back with a local, organic, fresh, diverse and healthy menu. There are vegetarian, vegan and seasonal fruit specialties for the trendier health-conscious crowd, but there are also many comfort foods from burritos to raviolis on this menu. “The Bean” serves breakfast and lunch “361 days a year” (closed on Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas), and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. It has a good, fast grill menu and on Saturdays and Sundays, presents an epic feast dutifully named “The Weekend Breakfast.”

Related: Top Frozen Yogurt In Connecticut

Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience, most notably but not exclusively in the fields of international relations and history specifically military history. His work can be found at Examiner.com.