Restaurant Reviews

Resolute Eating

Anyone still clinging with white knuckles to a New Year's resolution to eat healthier can find an ally in Ziggy's Healthy Grill. Original owner Ziggy Penn -- who recently sold the restaurant to Wayne Croft -- once owned the now-defunct Mariner Steakhouse and also founded Marble Slab Creameries. Following an epiphany concerning his cholesterol count (high), he decided not only to alter his own eating habits but to help spread the good-eating gospel by de-emphasizing cow in all its dietary incarnations in a new restaurant. So a little more than two years ago, he opened Ziggy's.

But with a shrewd restaurateur's feel for his market -- or perhaps it was just a loyalist's regard for the ruminant that had gotten him where he was -- Penn decided to institute a "transitional" menu: most items low fat, but almost as many meatful selections as meatless. You can safely start by ordering a buffalo burger (Ziggy's best-selling item) or perhaps a grilled chicken breast sandwich; then one day, feeling a bit reckless, you might try the veggie loaf, which really looks like the beefed-up meat loaf Mom used to make. You'll need to be sure and specify that you want plenty of the fat-free veggie gravy, because without it, the slab of blended lentils, rice and herbs, though tasty, is a tad dry. If you're in the mood to eat all your vegetables that day, you can crunch through a juicy haystack of julienne carrots and squash and, because you're enjoying their vivid colors and impeccable texture, you might not even notice that they could use a jump-start of fresh herbs. But you almost certainly won't finish the namby-pamby mashed potatoes, which the menu insists are "garlic herbed," even though the taste doesn't bear that out. At least the corn muffin, pretty with flecks of red pepper and possessing a mild aftertaste of heat, has zest. And the grilled portobello mushroom sandwich, with its focaccia bread shell that manages to escape sogginess even after soaking up grilled mushroom drippings and pesto-y mayonnaise, will leave you raving about the surprising possibilities of a meatless diet.

Look the other way when ordering a dessert so as not to see the Randall's bakery box, and you'll be able to add a respectably healthy lunch spot to your list. You may even be able to chalk up one New Year's success.

-- Kelley Blewster
Ziggy's Healthy Grill, 2320 West Alabama, 527-8588.

Ziggy's Healthy Grill: buffalo burger, $4.25; veggie loaf, $4.95.