I've been waiting for this West Roxbury eatery to open since December but I'm such a skeptic of "healthy" restaurant food that I wasn't expecting much. Wow, it was definitely worth the wait. LeanWorks is healthy fast food that emphasizes proper portion sizes (dietitians say yahoo to that!), lean cuts of meat, high quality salads and slaws, and intense flavors. Its idea of "fast food reinvented" was created by co-owners Shea Coakley and Peter Roy, two foodies who used to drive around looking for a quick bite, usually at places like McDonald's or Wendy's, but wishing for something a little less greasy.
Shea describes LeanWorks' 1-2-3 menu concept as "no brainer healthy choices." 1. Choose your base of a potato or whole grain bun, honey wheat wrap, or bowl with Romaine lettuce as the base. 2. Choose your protein from 6 choices including slow roasted pulled pork or chicken, shaved steak, ground turkey, angus sirloin, or a black bean burger. The meats range from 90%-97% lean. 3. Choose your flavor from 8 delicious options such as a citrus pesto spread, Memphis BBQ sauce, or California roasted red pepper spread. No matter what choices you make in each category, the end result will be 490 calories or less, says Shea.
You can then supplement with seasoned baked fries or sweet potato fries, fresh side salads, slaws, or soups. There's also a kids menu with a choice of turkey hot dog, baked chicken fingers, or burger. The calories are listed next to each item and Shea notes the meticulous care that was taken when first designing the menu to ensure proper portion sizes of everything from the meats to the sauces. The burgers are preportioned and the sauces are packaged in Portion Pals dispensers that measure exact, consistent amounts.
Can you gain weight eating here? Sure thing. If you ordered a sandwich, fries and small soup, you could easily top 700 calories, which might be too much at one meal for someone trying to lose weight. However, the point of this menu that I applaud is being able to make informed choices. My gripe with restaurants is that menu descriptions tempt health seekers with meals that wear a health halo. "Grass-fed beef, organically grown greens, and sweet potato mash" could mean 1000 calories or more because we don't know how the food was prepared or because of generous portions. At LeanWorks you're presented with clear-cut information and it's your decision to meet the calorie level you want. Another plus is that this is simply great-tasting food! Honestly, for lunch my stomach would be singing with just one of their sandwiches and maybe a piece of fresh fruit. Shea says that he hopes to expand LeanWorks to more chains in suburban locations, so my only fear is that quality could suffer in the future as I'm betting this chain will be very successful. But that's aways away and for now I and my stomach are smiling. For more info check out LeanWorks' facebook page. If you stop in, it's likely Peter or Shea will be there to greet you with a big friendly hello!
Disclosure: The food tasting for this review was compensated by LeanWorks.