Guest Post: Hungry Games: The Protein Bar—Nutritious Eats in Penn Quarter, Washington, DC

Natch loves juice, Very Curious George is a vegetarian, and I like to eat 400 calorie meals every 3-4 hours. Imagine our excitement when Natch discovered a new casual dining restaurant on the corner of 7th St and D St that caters to each of our diet eccentricities! Protein Bar (398 7th St NW), which opened earlier this month, offers a menu of on-the-go items for the health conscious diner. We decided to check it out on our lunch break during opening week.

The line was out the door and curved around the dining room, but moved very quickly as the friendly and enthusiastic staff handed out menus, explained the foods, and took orders at the cash register. I was handed a buzzer and sent to the pick up window to get my meal. It was a very well-organized process.

The light, clean and simple dining area was bustling, but the table turnover was fast, so we found some seats at a round communal bar-height table in the middle of the restaurant. The signs on the wall reminded us all that we were eating healthy foods that satisfy our bodies and contribute to our overall well-being. I loved that the menu gave nutritional information for every item. I also really liked that there was an abundance of sriracha sauce at our disposal (I didn’t use it this time, but I usually put it on everything.)

We each ordered something from a different section of the lunch menu, which is divided into Protein Bar-ritos, Signature Salads, and Signature Quinoa Bowls. (They have Signature Drinks and Raw Juices as well. They also serve Breakfast Bowls and Breakfast Bar-ritos until 10:30am Monday – Friday and until 12:30pm Saturday-Sunday).

Natch thought about ordering juice, but instead went for a salad, commenting that she would try out the juice next time. The Southwest Salad with all-natural chicken, organic quinoa, house-seasoned black beans, cheddar, tomatoes, Cholula sauce and avocado, was fresh and tasty (470 calories, 39 g protein, 15g fat, 44g carbs, and 15g fiber). The sauce had a little kick to it. Natch was surprised out how filling her meal was and couldn’t finish the whole thing.

Very Curious George had the Green City Vegan Bar-rito with marinated tofu, kale, pepitas, chickpeas, house-made creamy vegan chia dressing and super 6 salad mix (557 calories, 28g protein, 28g fat, 61g carbs, 19g fiber). She enjoyed her wrap and noted that the pepitas and chickpeas gave it a nice texture. She felt light but satisfied after finishing it. It did get a little messy at the end, though, as the sauce dripped out the bottom of the wrap.

I went for the Buffalo Quinoa Bowl with all-natural chicken, house-made vegan buffalo sauce, carrots, cucumbers and blue cheese because two people on staff had mentioned to me how much they loved the buffalo sauce (387 calories, 26g protein, 23g fat, 19g carbs, 3g fiber). I thought my meal looked a little small when the order first came up. However, it was the perfect amount of food to feel satisfied but not overly full. I liked the texture of the cucumbers with the quinoa and thought the sauce was very good, but I wanted more of it. I also thought it could have used a little more blue cheese (but, I guess if I want to keep it under 400 calories, I cannot have that wish).

I will definitely go back to this place for the light and healthy fare. Next time, though, I think I’ll test out another salad, since they make them quite flavorful and filling.

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