Eating to Live on the Outside: Houlihan's

If you’ve been keeping up with this series you’ve probably realized many mainstream restaurants have abysmal menus; mostly loaded with melted cheese, bacon, deep fried this, and chicken-fried that. These restaurants are so greasy, even the pages of the online menu are stuck together!

Where are the healthy restaurants? It seems like for every Baja Fresh and P.F. Chang’s there is a blockade of Sizzlers, IHOPs, Fridays, and Friendly's. No wonder Americans are so fat, we’re a nation that loves to dine out, we crave crappy food, and all our restaurants are happy to serve it to us. (And apparently we have an unrelenting desire for bacon, its everywhere!)

You’ll find Houlihan’s to be no different; sporting ten bacon-including dishes of its own (if you count adding it to a burger as one). Well for better and in this case for worse Houlihan’s is this week’s contestant for Eating to Live on the Outside. So just pretend you’ve been kidnapped from your nutrient dense lifestyle and left for dead at your friendly neighborhood chain restaurant.

After much consternation here’s what I’d order if I found myself staring down the barrel of a gun. Oops! I mean thumbing through the menu at Houlihan’s. No surprise here, a nice safe option might be to order a basic salad or a “Tossed Simple Greens” as the menu proclaims. I’m not sure what simple greens are maybe greens that scored poorly on their SATs, but in the world of Eat to Live, any green is good. I’d probably top these “greens” with a few drops of the balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing. Your other options are cheese and cream based. Egad!

Houlihan’s also has some original salad creations: Ahi Tuna Salad, BBQ Salmon Salad, Chicken Asian Chop Chop, and Mandarin Grilled Chicken. There’s a lot of vegetation variety between them: napa cabbage, cilantro, bananas, cashews, chilled greens, mandarin oranges, spiced pecans, jicama, snow peas, bell peppers, red onions, peanuts, black sesame seeds, and white sesame seeds. But these salads aren’t without their problems. If you’re a non-meat eating Eat to Liver you’ll probably want to drop the chicken and fish, personally I’m okay with eating meat once a week, it’s a concession I’m willing to make. You also have to contend with tortilla strips, I’d ditch these—these damn things are everywhere! And as always, it’s probably a good idea to limit or omit the salad dressing.

If it were me I wouldn’t venture beyond the salad section of the menu. The rest of the entrees require major concessions of the aforementioned ooey-gooey deep-fried variety. But if I were forced to choose, I’d say there are two non-salad options worth taking a look at: Pan-Seared Tilapia and the Grilled Vegetable Panini. Are they perfect? Hell no!

The Pan-Seared Tilapia caught my eye mainly because Dr. Fuhrman regards tilapia as one of the safer sea fares, so it gets points for that, but the dish still has its worries. The first and foremost being BACON, which I am promptly ditching; you watch, next it’ll be in bacon energy drinks! Although this meal does have some redeeming qualities like leeks, tomatoes, white beans, and garlic. So if I don’t allow my mind to wonder about the contents of the mysterious “fragrant broth” I wouldn’t feel to bad about ordering this.

And lastly I’d consider giving the Grilled Vegetable Panini a whirl. To be honest I was hoping it had more vegetables (hence its namesake), but it's not too plant matter deprived. It comes with white beans, grilled zucchini, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, and caramelized onions. It also comes with provolone cheese, now despite my Italian blood I think its more health conscious to skip it (my mother would kill me). There’s also a walnut basil-pesto creation that accompanies the panini, I’d probably go easy on it since pesto as this version is almost certainly loaded with unhealthy fats.

To be honest, Houlihan’s is probably the last place I’d want to eat at, I think only Paco’s House of Atomic Deep Fried Bacon Tacos would rank lower. Too much greasy, cheesy food for my liking, but I think if I were to stick to these dishes I’d have a decent chance of feeling OK in the morning.

And you know the drill, we want your feedback! Tell us what you might have done differently or what you agree with. Check out Houlihan’s menu and let us know how you Eat to Live on the Outside? Leave a comment or email us at
Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (1) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Louise - August 26, 2006 8:40 PM

Ahhh! I've never seend mashed cauliflower on the menu as a substitute for mashed potatoes! Too bad about the added butter and cream cheese. Maybe you could request "clean" mashed cauliflower with just the roasted garlic!

Post A Comment / Question Use this form to add a comment to this entry.

Remember personal info?