The Skinny: Rumbi Island Grill

The Skinny: Rumbi Island Grill

I admit it. I'm in love. It's what I like to call a "culinary crush"; when you find a new local restaurant that you become completely obsessed with. Every time you're hungry and don't have plans, you turn to your crush, where you always know you'll enjoy the experience.

My new crush is a small Hawaiian grill next to Chipotle and a sub place in a Southwest Phoenix strip mall. Called Rumbi Island Grill, the place hovers somewhere between traditional fast food joint and swankier order-at-the-counter restaurants like Sauce. Yes, Rumbi is a national chain (tsk, tsk), but if I avoided dining at strip malls or chains, in a month or two I'd be SOL with new restaurant choices over here in the West Valley.

Normally, I indulge in the pork platter with mac salad and rice. But if we're going to have a long-term relationship, I figure Rumbi needs to be supportive of my dieting endeavors. And sadly, my research indicates that a large scoop of macaroni salad like the one at Rumbi's can pack a whopping 600+ calories and 40 grams of fat! Ouch.

Salads offer a unique trap for dieters, because we automatically assume they're healthy. Greens, veggies, proteins, what's unhealthy about that? Nothing. But how many salads have you seen loaded with cheese, croutons, fried tortilla strips? That's how restaurants trick you into thinking you're being good when you're really not. And the dressings -- watch out! Better drizzle it on personally, as the dressing can have more calories than the actual salad.

I avoided the Hula Salad, which sounded delicious but had fat-packed macadamia nuts (if you're on a high-protein diet like Atkins this option would be more acceptable) and went for the Caribbean Chicken Salad. My food crush didn't disappoint. The salad arrived a few minutes later, made fresh, with each of the ingredients separated so I could combine them together myself (and even better, so I could remove any diet offenders before tossing.)

I reluctantly picked out most of the evil fried tortilla strips, but left a few in so I could feel like I was treating myself. The salad was light and refreshing, a perfect summer treat. Pineapple and mandarin oranges added sweetness to the heavier taste of the black beans, corn and marinated spiced chicken. And the couple of tortilla strips I left in added a nice crunchy texture to the mix.

Later, I found out that Rumbi has nutritional information on their website. Turns out my salad had 630 calories, if I had eaten the whole thing with the tortilla strips. I ate about half of the large salad, a small amount of dressing and only a few tortilla strips, so I figure I ended up with about 350 calories total. Not bad. Next time, I'll have to try the lower calorie Aloha Mango Chicken Salad or Voodoo Chicken Salad. Hmm...I smell an excuse to visit my crush again!


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