I will be the first to say I love carbs- glorious carbs. But as we all know, that takes it’s toll on you. When my friend told me she lost 85 lbs. from eating at Protein Bar, a new chain in the Loop I knew I had to try this mystical place for myself. If food existed that-gasp-was healthy and didn’t taste healthy, these guys were on to something.
My biggest problem is eating out. Like many city folk, I do it all the time because I love the Chicago restaurant scene. I’m a foodie, I like instant gratification and being crazy busy with school and work, cooking is just too much effort- grab on the go. And salads don’t fill you up or leave you satisfied. Protein Bar aims to cater to just that crowd, you’re eating a full (and dare I say, tasty) meal instead of a supplement laden with chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce or drinking your dinner through a shake crammed with additives.
With one store now and three more in the works in Chicago and location scouting in LA and Denver, it sure seems like they’ve on to something. With almost every customer a regular, this is a fad that’s not going away. The secret to most of their recipes is quinoa, a Spanish grain cooked much like rice that is extremely high in protein and very low in calories. Referred to as “the gold of the Incas,” throughout history, warriors ate it for stamina.
Much to my surprise, the clientele was less of the gym rat tan-orexic crowd that I was expecting, but heavy in male- i-bankers. Located across from the Sears Tower, it appears the way to the urban young professionals heart is manly sounding food that keeps their figure in check for North Avenue Beach season- bar-ritos and chili.
But like I said it’s all about the taste. Here’s a breakdown of what we sampled:
Pancake in a Bowl-Organic steel-cut oats mixed with vanilla protein, choice of milk, organic agave nectar, cinnamon, and topped with fresh fruit.
-While the consistency was certainly not pancake-like, for oatmeal something I very much consider bland mush, this was nicely masked by the sugar, cinnamon and available in a variety of fruit toppings. A filling alternative to the guilty-pleasure afternoon vending machine break.
Michigan Ave-alanche- Vanilla protein, choice of milk, choice of yogurt, banana, all-natural granola, organic agave nectar, and almonds.
-Delicious smoothie, the granola gave it a strange texture, a little chunky, but not enough to turn you off. And you feel way better than if you had grabbed a Coke.
Buffalo Bar-rito (grilled)- All-natural chicken or tofu, organic quinoa, blue cheese, house-made vegan buffalo sauce, and our Super 6 Salad Mix.
-While the Buffalo sauce was dead on for what you’d expect on wings, the chicken didn’t do as good of a job masking the quinoa and salad “healthy” texture as I would’ve liked. But as one of their best sellers, it’s worth a try for yourself.
Chicken Chili- Hearty all-natural chili with shredded chicken or 95% lean ground beef, fiber-rich red beans, juicy tomatoes, spinach, onions and our house-blend of spices.
-This is what sold this place for me, if you hadn’t said it was healthy I literally never would have known. Perfect for a Bears game or Chicago winter, to find a chili with only 215 cals, I’m sold.
The best part of the menu? Everything is clearly marked with how many calories, carbs and proteins each item has so you can make smart, informed choices.
235 S. Franklin St. 312.346.7300. http://www.proteinbarchicago.com/