The power to choose veggies and proteins at Nalley Fresh, Columbia’s newest restaurant, successfully lured my 12-year-old to eat all of her salad, including the peas – Wasabi peas. Chef Greg Nalley’s approach to Nalley Fresh, the eighth restaurant opening in Maryland, sheds more light on the not-so-secret approach to healthier eating. Make it yourself. Well, sort of.
A team of folks do the hard work of preparing the assortment of vegetables, meats, or rather proteins, including tofu and falafel. Make it in a bowl, salad or a wrap is part of the process. And mix it with dressings like Basil Dijon, or pour a broth in your bowl to make it real interesting.
The menu of choices
The range of choices are a bit intimidating at first. But the menu for seasonal signature salads is a good starting point. During the community event that offered free meals, I selected the Nalley Fiesta salad. Anything Mexican-inspired works for my palate and the order flow is much like Chipotle, so this came second nature. With envy I also delighted in the looks of the Shades of Green with Thai Pork my mom ordered and my 12-year-old’s Asian Salad (edamame and Wasabi – peas!) with chicken, which she mixed with Old Bay dressing. Gotta keep a bit of hometown flavor in all things.
Managing food allergies
Restaurants that have ‘point and pick’ are prime for cross contact risk of allergens. And places we tend to avoid dining as a family because of my youngest daughter’s multiple food allergies.
However, Chef Nalley and nutritionist, Monica Rainagel, were on-hand during Community Day to answer questions, accommodate and guide us through the ingredients, including those in the sauces.
My youngest daughter chose grilled chicken, bacon, bleu cheese, cucumbers and romaine lettuce mixed with ranch dressing filled in a wrap, which she enjoyed safely.
It is estimated that 15 million Americans have a food allergy. The common eight allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, dairy, and eggs. Shrimp and salmon are among the standard proteins you can select, for an extra cost, but these were not on the bar during Community Day. Toasted almonds, a tree nut, are also on the bar.
Nalley Fresh’s website features a nutrition guide, nutrition calculator and the listing of allergens are available onsite at the restaurant. The ingredients of the dressings are displayed. And the Asian Vinaigrette contains fish sauce and Caesar Dressing contains anchovies.
It would be further helpful to have all allergens listed as part of Nalley Fresh’s online interactive nutrition guide. Like most consumers, food allergy diners check websites for menus, but also call restaurants ahead to check for cooking practices and options.
Healthy lunch budget
I went for a second helping during a HoCoBlogs event after the grand opening and tried the Bleu Collar, a salad with shredded beef and pretzel bites.
Nalley Fresh is a likely go-to-spot for an occasional work lunch break. Not so much for our entire family in light of food allergies. However, it may be a consideration for those who have a gluten-free diet (without the bread and some toppings), vegan or prefer a Paleo way of eating. It’s about $9 for a meal without a drink. And I already signed up for the rewards program to get my 7th meal free.
The greatest reward you can give yourself is to make food choices that are tasty and healthy. And for that reason, Nalley Fresh hits the spot.