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A Tale of Two Grills

I love living in New Orleans and there are some really good restaurants here. Fortunately, there are more locally owned restaurants here than big chains. Unfortunately, that means that when we want to review restaurants for you, we don't have a lot of choices. Our mission is to help you make better choices, so we took our tastings on the road to find some restaurants that are more widely available. This time we were in the Washington, D.C. area.

Our first stop was The Daily Grill. This is a chain that we have reviewed before, back in 2010, and they have some good choices, but they have now developed a menu with dishes under 600 calories. There were too many great choices for us to try them all, but these options include such things as a simple grilled salmon or petite filet. They have a small version of their Thai Chicken Salad (we have given this good marks in the past) and a blackened ahi tuna salad.

We did try the fish tacos and they were great. Two tacos served in soft corn tortillas, these were flavorful and filling with corn and slaw. Not too terribly spicy.

Daily Grill Cobb SaladThe most interesting thing was their gluten free menu. This has become more and more common in the past couple of years and there are some good choices on their menu. We tried their Daily Grill Cobb Salad and this is one of the better Cobb salads available anywhere. It is a chopped version, so the ingredients are tossed together, but the balance between ingredients is quite good.

Daily Grill Manhattan Clam ChowderAs good as the salad was, however, the Manhattan Clam Chowder is just plain terrible. This soup is so easy to make (try my Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe and see how easy it is), and in my opinion, you have to work hard to mess it up. It should be thick and rich and tomatoey with chunks of potato, veggies and clams. The Daily Grill version is precisely the opposite. It is thin, watery, with a few bits of vegetable matter and clam. So sad.

Daily Grill Vegetable PlateWe finished our tasting with their vegetable plate. This was really good! It is served with brown rice as the starch, and it is lightly buttered and not too salty. There are delicious grilled shiitaki mushrooms served with a balsamic glaze, steamed broccoli, grilled asparagus and sautéed spinach. All of these were great, although the broccoli was slightly underdone.

Wildfire Grill Gluten-free PizzaWildfire Grill is one of the restaurants in the super-chain from the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group. They have a half dozen Wildfire Grills (most are in Chicago). What drew us to this place was their gluten free options: they have a gluten free pizza. Since I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I've really missed going out for pizza. The only wheat free pizza selection was a fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil, but that's just fine by me (they're some of my favorite pizza toppings, after all). Wildfire's gluten-free pizza is served on a freshly baked flatbread-type crust which is thin and crispy and quite tasty. The toppings were just right, with a good balance of sauce, cheese and basil.

Field Greens and Wood Roasted Vegetable SaladThey also have some good starters, including the ever present Shrimp Cocktail and a host of salads. The Field Greens and Wood Roasted Vegetable Salad may be one of the best salads from a chain restaurant we have tasted. Lightly grilled veggies served warm on one side of a plate are complemented with chilled, crisp greens on the other side.

They also offer burgers with gluten free buns, and we tried the Angus Burger. It was great. Wow! A burger out.

Wildfire Grill Baked Goat CheeseBecause we had a group we also tested the baked goat cheese. This is the perfect appetizer to share for a group. Baked goat cheese topped with a little bit of tomato sauce and served with a freshly baked, crispy pizza crust that was cut into toast points. This group has over 80 restaurants and has gluten free menus in most locations. Here's a list of the restaurants that offer gluten-free menus.

There are more and more delicious, healthy choices when you are eating in chain restaurants. We know just how bad places like Applebee's and Chili's are for you, but the great news is that you have more and more alternatives. Read more reviews from chain restaurants.

Reviewed: February 3, 2012