Does Marie Callender’s Have A Low-Carb Menu in 2013?
For the low-carb dieter, Marie Callender’s restaurant does exactly one thing right. And they do it so well that it’s nearly enough to recommend it, but not quite.
With locations primarily in California and a few in other western states, their on-line nutrition information web page is the best I’ve ever seen, and even if you don’t have a Marie Callender’s nearby, it’s worth checking out their nutrition data website.
You’ll Probably Be Disappointed with Marie Callender’s Low-Carb Menu<
But if you go to Marie Callender’s looking for nice low-carb high fat meal at a place that gets it, you’ll probably be disappointed. Marie Callender’s back-story fits the Mildred Pierce rags-to-riches model; their founder, living in a trailer, began making and selling pies and parlayed that into a major chain that is still best known for their pies. Sadly, none of their desserts would work on a LCHF diet. So far, Cheesecake Factory is the only restaurant reviewed that offers tasty low-carb dessert.
The rest of the menu is fairly typical of upscale American chain restaurants. The food is not bad, but for the low-carb dieter, it’s nothing special.
They do offer a low-carb appetizer, which is not rare but still uncommon. But, on your low-carb diet, you won’t go hungry here. Many of their entrees can be ordered with substitutions or omissions, to make a workable low-carb meal, and this is where their on-line nutrition information really shines.
Here you can look at the entire menu, easily select which menu item you may want, see the carb count, then try the same item with substitutions. This helps you isolate the high carb ingredients and assemble a complete meal, knowing what the carb count will be.
Try it out, experiment with a few meals. For an appetizer, I selected the Shrimp and Avocado Stack, eliminated the corn chips and pico de gallo (a tomato based salsa popular at Mexican restaurants) and substituted bleu cheese for ranch (9g carbs; 6 net; 0 sugar). We shared this with the table, so divide that by three.
Nutrition data at restaurant web sites is much hit and miss. Some provide incomplete information (carbs, but not sugar, for example); others make it difficult to explore options due to user interface issues; other simply provide the data in a PDF format; and some don’t provide any at all.
For carb counters, nutritional data is key, and this kind of powerful, flexible and customizable information should be a model for all restaurants. It would also be helpful for calorie counters or low fat dieters. The one change I would make (there’s always something) is that when you print out your selections, it should include a paragraph for each dish you are ordering, so you could bring the print-out to the restaurant to help you get your order just right.
For my entree I chose the Frisco Works, a cheeseburger with bacon, hold the parmesan sourdough garlic-bread, substitute a salad for fries. (3g carbs; 3 net; 2 sugar.) I wouldn’t order that again. The burger was sold Protein style meaning it was sandwiched between to slabs of iceberg lettuce (that is so 1990s). That’s no way to eat a burger. I’d prefer the patty on a bed of fresh spinach, with onions, tomatoes and mushrooms. There is nothing wrong with eating a burger with a knife and fork.
Instead of the burger I would have picked one of the traditional entrees, and used the nutrition data to make sure it was low carb. I also would have gone to the salad bar, but didn’t see it on the menu or in the restaurant until after we ordered (it’s tucked away in a corner). It would have been better than the salad they brought me, but nothing to get excited about.
A restricted carb dieter in our party had a the Lemon Pepper Grilled Atlantic Salmon from the lite menu (6g carbs; 5 net; 3 sugar). Another mistake; she found the filet dry and bland, and looking at a similar dish from the regular menu, we agree that she would have enjoyed that, with a few substitutions, a bit more. That’s fairly typical for low-carb dieters ordering from the diet menus, even when there’s a low-carb diet menu section.
The carb eater in our party had the same burger I did, but with the bun, fries and onion rings, and she enjoyed her meal more the most. (117g carbs; 110 net; 10 sugar). She also had a nice slice of pie for dessert (65g carbs; 63 net; 43 sugar), and the restricted carb dieter enjoyed a slice of cheesecake (46g carbs; 44 net; 33 sugar). I had a micro bite of each and found them so sweet I don’t think I would have enjoyed either.
If You Gotta Go To Marie Callender’s for Low-Carb…
On a low-carb diet, Marie Callender’s won’t be your first choice, but if you’re going with family and friends, and that’s the place they’ve picked, do a little on-line recon first, and carefully plan your meal. You won’t go hungry.
But even with their great on-line nutrition data, it’s clear that they just don’t get us. When I asked for nutrition data at the restaurant, the waitress pointed to a posting on a wall that listed total calorie counts for each menu item. Even in nutrition data they go from the top to near the bottom of the list.