Center City Outpost of Fuel Delivers Flavor, Not Fat

South Philadelphia residents have had a little secret. It wasn’t the 20 block brisk walks from their rowhouse to the office that were keeping them looking lithe, it was the panini. The healthy yet hearty options of casual dining spot Fuel have quickly won a cult-like following, and now Center City calorie counters can get in on the action at the new, second location by 12th and Walnut streets.

Owner and chef Rocco Cima, also known for is DJ gig on Q102.1, understands that eating right shouldn’t feel like punishment. And so his wraps, sandwiches and salads rely on fresh produce, lean meats and seafood and local cheeses (used sparingly, of course) in order to deliver taste that doesn’t tank your diet. Every item is less than 500 calories without bread, and the menu includes the calories, protein and Weight Watchers point value of each dish so that guests can enjoy without guilt.

So what to try? The sweet pea puree served with grilled wontons is a favorite, as is the tomato and goat cheese-enhanced guacamole. For a solid lunch, take a bite of of the Grilled Veggie wrap, stuffed with grilled zucchini, squash, red onion, roasted peppers, ricotta, arugula and a Balsamic reduction. Those who need some protein to get through the afternoon slump will find a friend in the Tuna sandwich, which features a house-made lemon aioli, tomatoes and artichokes.

Fuel’s space is colorful and a bit funky, something Cima refers to as “West Coast flair.” The juice and coffee bar counter is back-lit with a series of neon lights, the almost florescent green walls are punctuated with pink and black accents. There are a series of flat screens throughout the space, and the speaks continually bump to the rhythm of upbeat dance tunes.

Take advantage of the soundtrack; perhaps you can get in some cardio while waiting for your lunch to be served and make your visit double duty.

Fuel is located at 1225 Walnut St., 215.922.3835 ,