Get the Fries Without Guilt

Everything’s grilled, baked or steamed at Energy Kitchen

January 8, 2013

Energy Kitchen offers a lower-calorie take on burgers, fries, shakes and more.

Michelle Obama can finally order a hamburger in D.C. in peace.

Last week saw the local debut of Energy Kitchen, which markets its grilled, baked or steamed items as “fast food, not fat food.” The menu features comfort favorites with nothing more than 500 calories.

Founder Anthony Leone opened his first restaurant in Manhattan in 2003 to try to make it easier for people to eat better, particularly at breakfast.

“I’d order egg whites somewhere and the first thing they’d do is put all this oil on the grill,” Leone says.

At Energy Kitchen, which has 13 locations, including the outpost at 1901 L St. NW, customers can try the signature 277-calorie breakfast sandwich ($4): five egg whites, fat-free cheddar cheese and turkey bacon on a whole-wheat English muffin.

But what’s become the centerpiece of Energy Kitchen’s menu are the “Better Burgers” ($6.50-$8.50), a lineup of bison, 90 percent-lean sirloin, turkey, chicken breast and veggie burgers.

Pair your pick with a side of crispy baked sea-salt fries ($2, 198 calories). Or maybe go for the hearty creamed spinach ($4), which clocks in at 72 calories — the recipe calls for silken tofu instead of cream cheese. Wash it down with a “Smart Shake,” infused with protein to keep you fuller longer, or slurp something from the calorie-free soda fountain.

“How we’re different [from] the other concepts is you can pick and choose anything,” Leone says. “How many times do you want to do it right, but you see clam chowder in a bread bowl and you can’t pass it up?”

To help customers keep tabs on the bottom line — and decide whether to add fat-free Swiss —  all calorie info is posted on the menu boards.

Although the D.C. location is testing new items, such as sweet-potato fries and Asian broccoli slaw, for the chain, the menu is missing some New York favorites, including the kids’ menu of English-muffin pizzas and sirloin sliders. But when Energy Kitchen expands into local suburbs (as soon as this year), it’ll be prepared for little diners.

So the first lady can get burgers for everyone.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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