Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Healthy Menu Means Happy Customers

Several years ago I got a job that required me to travel a lot. Just over a month into it I’d gained almost ten pounds! This was how I learned about the extra fat, calories and other additives restaurant meals can have in comparison to the ones I made at home. 

However the good news is that since then the restaurant industry has been picking up on the fact that many, like me, would probably dine out more if offered healthier entrees. In addition, a growing number of Americans are seeking menu choices that are non GMO, Organic, and also Vegetarian and Vegan.

Nine in 10 restaurant operators say their guests are more knowledgeable about food than they used to be and pay more attention to food quality than just two years ago. Healthier options are now at the top of the list of what consumers consider when choosing a restaurant, according to the National Restaurant Association. Followed by Eco-friendly dining, Technology, Quality Innovative Food, Local Foods, Ethnic Options and Mobile Options. In addition, research shows that about a third of all adults have gone online to get nutrition data on restaurant food. 

El Dorado Cantina Las Vegas...A Non GMO Restaurant
In relation to healthy eating, one of the terms most of us have heard is “non GMO,” especially in the past few years. What does non GMO mean? Non GMO Food is food that is not genetically modified from its original source.

One of the restaurants I recently checked out that promotes its healthy and Non GMO menu is the casual but upscale authentic Mexican restaurant, El Dorado Cantina here in Las Vegas. A large part of their menu includes entrees that are GMO-free and Organic, as well as some unique Vegetarian and Vegan choices.  To find out more about how a Non GMO establishment is different, I spoke with El Dorado Cantina Co-Owner Darin Feinstein.

“We believe strongly that sustainably-raised products are of superior quality, and we offer exclusively products from carefully-selected U.S. farms that are free of antibiotics, pesticides and steroids.”  -Darin Feinstein, Co-Owner of El Dorado Cantina

The restaurant is in its first year of operations so I asked Darin how it was different setting up a Non GMO restaurant compared to a traditional one. He told me that it took a little longer than it did for his previous restaurants to locate and set up relationships with suppliers, organic farmers and the like, but once those relationships were in place, the system operated smoothly. 

I also asked him what is unique about the menu at El Dorado Cantina. He said, “Our menu shares information with the consumer such as who our supplier farms are. Also, there’s a symbol next to each entrĂ©e on our menu that tells you if it is or can be prepared to be Gluten free, Vegetarian, or Vegan!” Darin went on to say, “Non GMO foods are healthier and often times better tasting than Genetically Modified Choices."


As for my own personal experience with the menu, two items I enjoyed from the small bites section of the menu were Shrimp Taquitos, (Pacific wild shrimp wrapped in fresh corn tortillas, topped with, chipotle ranch dressing, roasted morita salsa, queso fresco & fresh, guacamole), and Aguachiles, (Pacific wild shrimp in lime juice & rich spices with cucumber, cilantro, red onions & chiles, served ceviche style with house tortilla chips). Both of these items by Chef Paco, (a native of Mexico City),  were flavorful beyond my expectations. The shrimp taquitos were what a taquito should be, (but seldom is) light, tasty and fresh, and the Aguachiles item was modified to contain no onions per my request.

I also noticed the El Dorado Cantina beverage choices include a variety of cocktails of course, but also a selection of non-alcoholic fresh juices like Horchata and seasonal fruit drinks such as Tamarind, Hibiscus, Mango and more.  I wish I’d see more of this out there because I don’t think a drink has to contain alcohol to be an exotic drink. 

As for me, I will be expanding my dining horizons to include more Non GMO restaurants like El Dorado Cantina. 

To locate restaurants and retail shops like this in your city a good source is, a listing of thousands of local, organic and sustainable proprietors.

Anna Wendt Copyright 2014

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