I recently had dinner with some girlfriends at Ten Mile House, a new restaurant on Central Street in Evanston. I arrived at 6:45PM on a Wednesday evening and there was already a wait. WHAT? Evanstonians are all about dining out these days and the recent surge of great, quality new places to eat is helping them get their fix. We only waited about 25 minutes, by the way, which gave us enough time to grab a glass of wine or beer at the bar.
You, dear reader, might not live in or near Evanston but I urge you to read on anyway because, though I am reviewing a local restaurant, my goal is to highlight different tactics you can use wherever it is you’re having a good meal.
When I first glanced at Ten Mile House’s menu I have to say I wasn’t sure I’d find a whole lot of options that were delicious AND could work with my desire not to break the caloric bank. Here’s how I was reading the menu:
“The seared ahi tuna appetizer sounds really good… OOH BUT PEPPER JACK STUFFED TATER TOTS?!” and, “I bet the salmon lettuce wraps are really yummy… OOH BUT THE CRISPY GRILLED CHEESE WITH WOOD FIRED TOMATOES?!” Tip for non-treat dinners out: Take a deep breath and look the FOMO monster in the eyes and repeat, “Good to know that the grilled cheese sandwich exists, I’ll have to return and order that for a treat dinner. There are still many great options to order from but today I’m choosing to go lighter.”
When the waitress came to our table, she explained that every dish was easy to share and luckily for me, my friends were totally up for that. Tip about sharing plates with friends: It allows you to order mostly spot-on nutritionally-sane items while you order 1-2 items to share that might be “off” your program but that won’t be more than a few bites. With shared plates, especially appetizers, you’ll likely only get a small portion anyway and I promise you that eating a bite or three of something rich/fried/etc will not make you gain weight immediately and ruin everything. (The trick is keeping it to a bite or three.)
So what did we eat, you ask? Let me go plate by plate:
Seared ahi tuna with French feta, avocado, apple jicama slaw. It was to die for. The tuna was absolutely fresh, clean and meaty and went so well with the slightly sweet, tangy and crispy slaw. I don’t usually like feta but this one was softer in texture and taste, it didn’t have that bite that firm feta has. Lean protein: check. Veggies: check. Healthy fats: check. The bonus: The tuna was about a 4oz serving so this could have easily been eaten as a main course for one person (with maybe a little bit of a starchy carb thrown in or fruit for dessert at home).
Angry shrimp with a spicy garlic sauce, grana padano polenta. This was incredibly spicy in the best way (but you have to like spicy). The shrimp were large and meaty and covered in this spicy tomato garlic sauce while the polenta — which was soft and creamy thanks to the grana padano cheese — helped put the fire out. Lean protein: check. Veggies: I’m not counting the spicy tomato garlic sauce as a veggie just as I wouldn’t count tomato sauce on a pizza as a veggie so nope. Healthy fats: Debatable. I personally don’t count cheese (and likely heavy cream) as a healthy fat but fats are definitely involved in this dish so you want to keep an eye on the portion. Tip: I like to try to stick to a 1/2-ish cups of starchy carbs per meal, including when I dine out for a “regular” meal. Knowing what else was coming up for us, I decided to take it easy on the polenta (I had about a tablespoonful). I ate it really slowly and made sure to enjoy every bite and I didn’t feel sad about it.
Which brings me to another tip: Take your time! Get lost in conversation! Don’t eat your meal as if you haven’t eaten in days! Taste your food. Don’t take your next bite until you’ve swallowed the current one. When you want to lose weight and portion control is something you struggle with, slow down. Put. The. Fork. Down. You’ve probably heard this so many times but it bears repeating: It takes your body 20 minutes or so to register that you’re full. And you’ll want to stop at around 80% full. So take your time. I’m not saying give yourself tiny helpings because that might freak you out. Serve yourself a “normal” amount and if you eat slowly, you’ll be surprised that you very well will be leaving food on your plate (which you can promptly ask to be but in a to go box or taken away).
Mussels in a coconut milk and curry broth (and two pieces of toasted bread). This was not on the menu, it was a special. And it was SO good. The mussels were fresh and meaty and the broth was to die for. Tip: If you really want to enjoy a whole lot of different foods at a restaurant, don’t eat the bread. The bread, while it might be tasty and is usually handy for sopping up sauces, will both fill you up before you’ve gotten to the best parts of the meal and will act as a conduit for calorie-dense stuff (butter, usually) that isn’t even the main attraction. Then you might continue eating FAR past your 80% fullness. For the most part we spooned up the yummy broth with spoons and mussels shells. Between the 5 of us sharing, we ate 1/4 of the bread.
Wood Roasted Mushroom Pizza with alfredo, gruyere, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions. Yep. THE TRAINER EATES PIZZA. There were five of us and 8 small slices. We ate all but one slice. There was luckily just a little bit of alfredo, the rest was dough and veggies. Lean protein: Nope. Veggies: Some but not enough to count so nope. Healthy fats: Nope, but fats were involved.
Wood-fired Brussels Spouts. So simply done, with just a drizzle of olive oil as it went into Ten Mile House’s own wood-fire oven. While there were some veggies in the tuna dish, we all felt like we needed an extra side of veggies and let me tell you that this side was enormous (which is SO AWESOME). They were really, really good.
Other dishes that could have fit the bill:
The Prime Burger, bunless with a side of any of their veggies sides for an extra $2 instead of fries (sides include grilled summer veggies, chilled asparagus or Brussels sprouts). Protein: check. Veggies: check. Healthy fats: Fats naturally present in the beef, check…
Salmon Lettuce Wraps: lightly smoked salmon, avocado, baby heirloom tomatoes, marinated summer vegetables, tarragon aioli (on the side), Bibb lettuce. Protein: check. Veggies: check. Healthy fats: check.
Overall, I’d say the food was really good for a low-key, casual dinner with a surprising amount of dishes to order from and stay on top of your goals. The restaurant is family-friendly and the vibe is great. I'll be back (maybe for the crispy grilled cheese next time).