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I will admit that I don't like reviewing chain restaurants. I don't eat in these places because I find the food to be pretty awful, and my dread begins with the research before I even leave the house. Reviewing the nutrition information is, quite simply, terrifying and a clear study in why America has so many health problems. When I started looking at the information provided by Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant I was even more astounded than usual.
We know that calories and saturated fat are an issue at such places, but Chevys is really over the top. Here are a few examples:
|Item||Calories||Sat Fat (g)||Sodium (mg)|
|Shrimp Lunch Fajitas||923||21||2,620|
I didn't choose the most extreme items for this sample. Most all of their dishes have way too many calories and saturated fat, but the thing that I am never prepared for is the amount of salt. It's a challenge to have a meal that's lower in calories in these places, but it's virtually impossible to eat anything that doesn't have 4 or 5 times the amount of salt that is needed for good flavor. That Smothered Burrito has about a teaspoon and a half of salt. Amazing.
Did we find anything worth eating? Yes, but at Chevys you have to be very careful and do your homework. The salads are some of the worst dishes and the appetizers all have far to much saturated fat and salt. The best rule of thumb is to stick to the a la carte menu.
Their Guacamole is pretty good. It's appears to be made fresh with chunks of avocado along with tomato and cilantro. It's lightly spiced. The nutrition info says that a tablespoon is 20 calories and has 45 mg of sodium. It comes in a 12 ounce bowl so that's going to be about 24 tablespoons. Half of that will be 480 calories and 540 mg of sodium - without the chips - so you might want to go easy on this. Sure, avocados are good for you, but one of these to share with a large table is probably the best course. Their salsa is OK with a generic, smoky flavor and it's about 1/4 the calories, at 5 per tablespoon, but it actually has more salt than the guacamole.
The Original Chicken Fajitas seemed a reasonable choice at 360 calories and 600 mg of sodium - but that doesn't include the sides. These were pretty good and came on the traditional sizzling platter with onions and green peppers. The chicken was moist and not overcooked with a slightly spicy flavor. The chicken and the veggies were not greasy as a lot of chain fajitas can be. This came with sides of cheese, sour cream, lettuce and tomato. There's enough to make 4, and using soft corn tortillas I estimate that you'd come in at around 400 calories for two fajitas. Not too bad for you and pretty fresh and tasty.
The sides served with the fajitas were fair and bad. The Mexican Rice was pretty typical chain fare, being bland and a bit gummy. The beans were just far to salty to even eat: 750 mg for a serving and they tasted more salty than that.
Stay away from the tamales. Both the Salsa Chicken and Slow-Roasted Pork Tamale were tired, with a dry crust and even drier filling. The chicken tasted like shredded cardboard with the texture of old rope. Even the sauces over these were lackluster.
The same holds true for the enchiladas. We all had to laugh at the Cheddar Cheese Enchilada because it tasted like Italian food (just like the eggplant parmesan hoagies we ate in New Jersey when I was a kid). As for the Picadillo Beef Enchilada, it just tastes like it came from Taco Bell.
While the fajitas were fair, we'll give the tacos an "almost good"- but that's only because of where we were. The Soft Salsa Chicken Taco had moist chicken with a slightly smoky flavor. There was too much sour cream, so ask for it on the side and you should ask for more lettuce and tomatoes. All in all, however, a respectable enough taco. One taco has 290 calories but a whopping 700 mg of sodium. The Soft Picadillo Beef Taco is good also, with similar nutrition breakdown.
This is where it gets a bit crazy. You would think that the soft tacos would be the healthier choice, but at Chevys it's the crispy ones that are better. Their corn tortillas appear to be baked for crispiness and both the Crispy Salsa Chicken Taco and Crispy Picadillo Beef Taco are better than their soft taco cousins. Not only did they taste better, with a fresher flavor and a better balance of meat and veggies, but both are lower in calories AND salt. They come in at around 250 calories and 300 mg of sodium each.
|Item||Calories||Sat Fat (g)||Sodium (mg)|
|Crispy Picadillo Beef Taco||240||4||260|
|Crispy Salsa Chicken Taco||230||3||320|
So.... Another chain restaurant nutrition minefield but with a few standouts. You and a friend could make an OK meal of the fajitas, and the crispy tacos are actually pretty good. This is the sort of place that you have to go in armed with knowing what you are going to eat and sticking to the plan. Do so and you'll have a good meal that's a LOT better for you.
Reviewed: May 14, 2010