By Jessica Cook
In Pittsburgh, new restaurants are opening up so frequently it’s hard to keep track of them all! One of the newest additions to our dining scene, however, has been so highly anticipated that many of us scoured social media and press releases regularly for any news of opening day: Union Standard, Chef Derek Stevens first restaurant in the beautifully renovated Union Trust Building downtown. Chef Stevens has been at the helm of many of Pittsburgh’s most acclaimed kitchens, but is best known for his decade plus of the elevated American cuisine he created at Eleven in the Strip District. While Chef Stevens himself is known for being a huge proponent of health and fitness, the local, seasonal fare you will find at Union Standard can be just as calorie laden as the food at other restaurants of it’s caliber. Here are some tips to help you make the healthiest choices on this new, exciting menu that features preparations traditional to the Mid Atlantic, Northeast and Appalachian regions of the United States.
- Don’t miss the raw bar! The raw bar at Union Standard is, in many ways, the centerpiece of the sharp, minimalistic of the bar itself. Grab a local Fighting Elleck cider from Arsenal Cider House or a glass of sparkling if you’d like something to sip on. These dry options are lower in carbs and calories than cocktails and beer, and will compliment the seafood you’re about to enjoy. Oysters, clams, shrimp and even the crab legs here are all extremely fresh and nutritious. Shellfish in general are high in protein and low in fat. They are also a great source of nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. Oysters and clams in particular have some of nature’s highest concentrations of zinc, iron and B12. Enjoying these items raw also imparts added benefits– the cooking process often leaches important vitamins and minerals from food. If raw seafood is too adventurous for you, go for the Oyster and Clam Stew in the “Firsts” section of the menu.
- Go light on the bar snacks. This is the section of the menu where you ought to treat yourself sparingly or skip altogether. Most of these small, yet satisfying portions, are deep fried. If you have to choose just one, go for the smelts. They are lightly breaded, very delicious, and hard to find other places. Skip the aioli dipping sauce and opt for a squeeze of lemon. If you’d like to try any additional bar snacks, just go lighter through the rest of your meal. Remember that going out to eat, especially at fine dining restaurants, should be saved for special occasions– high-end menu items are often even worse for you than fast food! So don’t deny yourself something that sounds amazing for the sake of making your whole meal healthy. You are there to splurge and treat yourself, after all. Richer food can also make you feel full faster and longer, so don’t shy away from anything service staff or friends say you must try. Just listen to your body and modify your meal accordingly.
- Be careful with the salads. Salads are a go-to for people trying to eat healthy, but on fine dining menus, they’re often the most calorie-laden and least nutritious items on the menu. Always ask your server or bartender how dressings are prepared, and ask to have them on the side whenever possible. Watch out especially for the beets here, which are laden with natural sugar and then seasoned with molasses. Of the three salad options, the Brussels Sprout, Castelfranco and Bibb salad with boiled miso dressing is your best bet. You could also skip salads altogether and try the Sea Scallops for your appetizer instead, which are flavorful, light and have more filling, lean protein than other options.
- Get the chicken. Chicken, much like salads, are one of the first things people think to order when they’re trying to eat healthy. At Union Standard, you can stick to this piece of conventional wisdom. The chicken entree is probably it’s healthiest, with the hearty greens and sweet onion salad that accompany it. It is cooked on a wood-fired rotisserie, which imparts great flavor without the need to add too much extra salt or oil. If any of the other mains grab your attention, however, the beef options in particular stand out. Most of the proteins you’ll find at Union Standard– particularly the cuts from Jubilee Hilltop Ranch– are local and grass-fed, making them far more nutritious than entree options you’ll find at many other local restaurants.
Jessica Cook enjoys writing about healthy options for a Smarter LifeStyle.