Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mini Dish: Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food -- CLOSED

Slow Food Principles in this Fast Food Joint
(Update: This restaurant couldn't negotiate a new lease and will close 12/31/10)
2122 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley
PH: 510.548.2122
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Major credit cards accepted, no reservations

Quality quick-and-convenient food is hard to come by. That’s probably why fast foods have gotten such a bad rap because they often mean low prices but unhealthy options. And places that have quality food often mean higher prices and a bit of a wait.

Amanda’s Feel Good Fresh Food in downtown Berkeley may be on to something. The new fast-food-like eatery promotes good eating with fresh salads and organic, sustainable products like their 100 percent natural beef hamburgers and baked potato sticks ala French fries.

I discovered Amanda’s recently after visiting the Berkeley Saturday farmers’ market. Opened since summer 2008, the place is clean and friendly, offering an Earth-friendly motif of frosted glass with bamboo and a huge communal table that the owners promote as a “picnic table” for people to gather.

The restaurant was opened by Amanda West, who is not a chef but worked in the tech industry until she got a job at Niman Ranch. There she learned about high standards for sustainable foods, and she was inspired to come up with this healthy fast-food eatery after watching that “Supersize Me” documentary a few years back.

The menu consists of several burgers (beef, grilled chicken and veggie) and huge salads. Everything is served in compostable packaging, and every detail supports Amanda’s health and environmental mission—from the organic Heinz ketchup served to the tap water pitchers.

On one visit, I ordered the Grilled Citrus Chicken Salad ($6.45), which was a nice-size salad made with naturally-raised chicken, radicchio, red onion, jicama, orange segments and white beans. It’s served with a very light citrus vinaigrette.

I was amazed at the freshness of the ingredients, which was more restaurant quality. In fact, the jicama was so fresh that it made me a convert for this crunchy white vegetable that I generally avoid because I thought it was bland. But I realized that when fresh, jicama can be slightly sweet and fun to eat.

This isn’t a salad that will win for flavor because it tastes very light and healthy. But I felt it gained points for freshness and the nice portion size.

On a subsequent visit, I checked out the 100 percent naturally raised beef used in the hamburger ($3.75). I topped off my burger by adding avocado for 75 cents.

The burgers are served ala carte (unless you got the combo deal), so I ordered a side of the regular baked fries ($1.50). (Amanda’s also offers baked fries made of sweet potatoes for $1.75.)

The hamburger was a bit tiny, but it was piled on with avocado, tomatoes, lettuce and pickles (I asked it be made without onions). While the beef patty wasn’t necessarily cooked like at a restaurant (translation: a bit dry), it was still enjoyable, especially when I lathered it with ketchup. And I liked the warm, slightly toasted bun.

The fries were nicely thin, resembling real French fries. But of course, they weren’t as crisp as deep-fried fries. Still, they gave me the feel of eating French fries because of the texture and feel in my hands. To some, it might just seem like a somewhat soggy French fry. Given the health benefits of having them baked, I didn’t mind the slight sogginess since I have an aversion to deep-fried foods.

While the food might lack a bit of flavor, Amanda’s is a real refreshing find and priced to compete with any of the major fast-food chains. If you want something fast and convenient but don’t want to feel guilty about it, make Amanda’s your next stop.

I’m not giving this my regular rating system since Amanda’s isn’t a full-fledged restaurant, but I would definitely go back.

Amanda's Feel Good Fresh Food on Urbanspoon


David K. and Ann C.-K. said...

We just checked this place out this week. Pretty good veggie burgers. We also got the combo, which included a salad and fries. Have you been to Smart Alec's in Berkeley? Same concept. They're both good, though Smart Alec's is a bit cheaper, catering more to the college crowd.

Single Guy Ben said...

Hi David, thanks for letting us know about the veggie burgers. I probably wouldn't try that in the future, so good to know. I've seen that Smart Alec's on the bus on my way home. It's on Telegraph Avenue and might check it out if I'm in the area.

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Passionate Eater said...

I would definitely go there especially since it is a health and wallet conscious "fast food" place. Great review and find, Chef Ben!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see places like this and Calafia in Palo Alto doing so well. It gives me hope that people in general really do want healthful, nutritious, good-for-you "fast'' food.

Anonymous said...

yes at first I was all in shock that you had fries, but then I read they are baked... The prices sound good, especially for sustainable humanely raised meat. I hope these healthy fast food places expand to more neighborhoods!

Cookie said...

Leave it to Berkeley for fast and healthy food! I can't believe how cheap that burger was even with the avocado!

Single Guy Ben said...

Well, I do have to say that the hamburger is slightly on the smaller side. In fact, it might be called a Junior Whopper. Still, for the price and healthy environment, I think it's a good value. (I guess I should really post a sign on my photos: "Objects may seem larger than they appear." LOL)

egifford said...

Love this place! They also make their own sodas which are not crazy-over-sweet and the ginger soda has actual zing! I prefer the sweet potato "fries" to the regular. And yes, the burgers are on the small side, but I think a combo is a reasonable portion of food, if not what we're used to getting elsewhere.

Amanda said...

Thanks so much for the post on Amanda's, Ben! Your pictures are great!

Thought you might also be interested in checking out the blog our team has been writing for several years about better-for-you fast food:

Yes, we've designed the whole menu with a nutritionist around a balanced meal, so our beef patties are 3 ounces. You can order a "Guy-Style" double burger for $5 (just $1.25 extra).

Look forward to seeing you back at Amanda's soon!

Anonymous said...

nice place... i was here some days ago... the hamburgers are delicious... and is very cheep

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