Eating to Live on the Outside: Desert Moon Fresh Mexican Grille

Ever wonder what a menu would look like if practically every dish had cheese in it? You’re in luck! The Desert Moon is a Mecca of cheddar, Monterey Jack, and blue cheese. And we all know how Dr. Fuhrman feels about cheese, it's on his list of the seven worst foods for health and longevity. So guess what that means amigo? We’ve got so some work to do before this place is Fuhrman-friendly.

Let’s start with the dishes without cheese? Excluding the Kids Menu, the Sides, and the Soup of the Day, there is a whooping ONE, yep one dish. And this lone cheese-less creation isn’t without its own problems. The shrimp in the Acapulco Shrimp Taco is a major no-no for an Eat to Liver. Not sure what I mean? Check out what has to say about shrimp. You’ll see that most of them are rated an eco worst. So you probably want to skip it, but without the shrimp there’s really no reason to order it all. So like it or not, we’ve got to monkey with the cheese fare.

I’m going to start off easy—well easier—with the salads. At a glance the Tossed Green Salad looks like the best option (I say that loosely). It comes with tossed greens, pico de gallo, sliced olives, cheese, garlic croutons, and lime cilantro vinaigrette. Clearly the cheese and garlic croutons are getting the heave-ho, going easy on or ditching the vinaigrette is a good idea, the greens are cool, and I’m keeping the olives and the pico de gallo. In case you don’t know what pico de gallo is, check out this Wikipedia link; you’ll find it to be very veggie-friendly.

The other salad I might order would be the Taco Salad, but it needs some major renovations. If left alone it comes with shredded lettuce, chili, sour cream, pico de gallo, Monterey Jack & cheddar cheese, and chicken or fire roasted vegetables. Obviously I’m throwing the sour cream and both cheeses out the window (don’t try this at the restaurant, they won’t appreciate it), but I’ll stick with everything else. Now, I’m not against eating chicken, but given the choice between fowl and roasted vegetables, veggies usually win. All and all these two salads aren’t too different from the usual standard American salads we've seen at other restaurants.

So what if you’re not in the mood for salad? To be honest I’d be surprised to hear an Eat to Liver say that, but just in case you are. Here’s what I’d order. For starters I like the Harvest Wrap; it comes with fresh guacamole, lettuce, more of that pico de gallo, olives, and Monterey Jack & cheddar cheese—not to mention the tortilla holding it all together. Okay, I’m dropping the cheeses again, but should I drop the guacamole? I’m an avocado fiend (Ambassador to the Republic of Avocado), but guacamole is sometimes made dairy or salt. I’d have to ask the staff before I ordered it, a little salt I can deal with, but dairy—no way!

If you make similar omissions to the Black Bean Burrito, Adobe Burrito, or the Fajita Taco, you’re in good shape too. Although because of the tortilla and rice, you’d definitely be making a refined grain concession. But remember you can always order any burrito or taco with fire roasted vegetables; those phytonutrients should put your mind at ease.

I got to be honest, given the success we had with Baja Fresh and Chipotle, I had my hopes up for Desert Moon, but it let me down. While I wouldn’t consider it as bad as restaurants like Denny's, Sizzler, or Houlihan's, it pretty much just joins the ranks of your typical standard American restaurants—diner beware!

As always we want to hear about how you handle eating away from home. Any tips? Check out the Desert Moon's menu and email us at or leave a comment. How do you Eat to Live on the outside?
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marisa - February 19, 2007 1:55 PM

i go to desert moon all the time. i don't agree with a word of your review.
everything is made to oder. you are in control. just ask for no cheese, or checken instead of beef or better yet, the organic tofu...
desert moon has been around forever. you need to look a bit closer and don't junp to conclusions

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