Well, this crew is certainly planning to eat healthier in the new year. I asked for suggestions and got exactly one response. I've gotten more recommendations asking for Turkish-Irish restaurants that serve sushi.
Thank you, MD Canon. Not only does he/she have a suggestion, he/she explains exactly how to eat healthily there. I couldn't do any better, so I refer you directly to the post.
I didn't want to make this just a list of vegetarian restaurants. (That's another Top Ten.) Instead these are places that are promoting the idea of healthy eating in various ways. Because of that, I think they will be sympathetic to whatever your special dietary requests are.
I also didn't want to fill up the list with ethnic restaurants, but you should always consider them when you're trying to improve your eating habits. They tend to go easy on the meat, heavier on the vegetables and whole grains; and if you stay away from the deep-fried offerings, they can be lower fat.
But keep in mind that with Asian restaurants you may very well be getting more sodium than you should be eating.
I wanted to put Liquid Earth in Fells Point on my list, but I haven't heard anything about it lately, and when I called the phone rang and rang and there was no voicemail message. I know it's closed Mondays, but even so I wasn't comfortable including it.
*Black Olive in Fells Point is expensive, but that's partly because this Fells Point seafood restaurant with a Greek accent uses organic produce (whenever possible from local farms), beef, dairy, flour, and sugar. The restaurant's specialty is whole fish. Many people think of it as a special occasion place, and don't realize you can eat healthfully while you're celebrating.
*Dogwood in Hampden was the first of the city's high-profile eco-gourmet restaurants, focusing on local ingredients, organic when possible. The menu includes at least one interesting and well-done vegetarian dish so you don't feel like a second-class citizen if you don't want meat. Plus I hear they're getting their liquor license soon. (Doesn't a glass of wine a day help prevent a heart attack?)
*Donna's, area locations, was featured last year in Cooking Light's article on cities with the healthiest cooking. The local restaurant group has lots of fat-free and vegetable-filled menu items like the signature roasted vegetable salad, vegetarian soups and a nightly seafood special. They are also happy to oblige special requests.
*Flying Avocado in Owings Mills is a small natural foods cafe that's sunny and fun and doesn't preach. It's vegan-friendly, but there's also plenty to like if you aren't a vegetarian. Try the avocado nicoise salad or the blackened chicken and Brie sandwich.
*Great Sage in Clarksville is known for its organic, vegetarian menu done well, but if you have special dietary concerns, you should also note that dishes are marked "vegan," "gluten free," "peanut free," and "soy free" so it's a good choice if you have food allergies. The latest menu features dishes like cranberry pear salad and Korean bulgogi made with seitan.
*Green Leaf (Shawan Plaza, 11313 York Road, Hunt Valley, 410-771-0030) promises "Japanese healthy cuisine." That's only partially true (you have to skip the deep-fried food), but its heart is in the right place. Dishes like salmon teriyaki with broccoli, snow peas and zucchini deliver on both the good-for-you and tastes-good fronts. Nice atmosphere, lots of healthy choices.
*Olive & Sesame (1500 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, 410-484-7787, and 2 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson, 410-494-4944) is one of our few Chinese restaurants that even pays lip service to the concept of healthful food. You can get the American-Chinese standards, but the oils are olive and sesame, there are entree salads, plus many other healthy choices. Japanese dishes are also on the menu. Just stay away from General Tso's chicken.
*One World Cafe in Homewood specializes in chemical-free, low-fat, organic foods, with entrees made up mostly of grains, nuts, tofu, vegetables, and sauces. Soy products are often used as meat substitutes. But like other places on this list, it isn't obsessive about its healthfulness, serving sweets, organic beer and wine, and organic, fair-trade coffee.
*Woodberry Kitchen in Woodberry/Hampden emphasizes local, organic when possible and "green" more than healthfulness (the rib eye, white bread and rich desserts are highlights), but you can eat very well here if you are a vegetarian or on a weight-loss diet if you don't let yourself be tempted. There are dishes like "shell beans and gold rice, radish salad, pumpkin seeds" and "various beets, yogurt cheese, lovage oil."
*Zia's Cafe in Towson is owned by Daniela Troia of the Cafe Troia family. She is also the cook. That means her juice bar and cafe has a good pedigree. While not a vegetarian restaurant, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan offerings, the produce is organic, and the meat is nitrate- and antibiotic free. If you want more than salads and sandwiches, entrees packaged for take out can be microwaved there.
(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)