The legend tells that years ago every casino in Las Vegas had a three-piece chicken dinner with a potato and a veggie for $1.79. A standard bet back then was $2, hence when you won a bet you had enough for a chicken dinner. So, the call of glorious victory rang out “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!”
Now, you can’t gamble at the Natural Chicken Grill, nor can you get a full meal for under $2. But the restaurant does offer fast, healthy chicken meals that won’t leave your wallet looking like you just came back from tanking in Sin City.
WHERE TO GO
- Natural Chicken Grill
- 470 Tamiami Trail North. Naples
- Go to the 15-and-under archive
The Chicken Grill is a South Florida chain that started in Miami in the early 1990s and has spread outward ever since. The Miami New Times voted the restaurant “Best Healthy Fast Food” in 2003 and 2004, and for good reason. None of the offerings are greasy or loaded down with fatty sides, and the restaurant vows that they only use fresh chicken, never frozen, that is marinated in a special Caribbean/Mediterranean blend of herbs and juices before being slowly char grilled. Each dish that meets the American Heart Association’s recommendations for low fat, calories and cholesterol is marked with a little red heart on the menu, and there are far more dishes with hearts than without.
The Chicken Grill is no place to go to impress a date, nor to have a fine dining experience. It is perfect when you just left the gym and need something quick, or are just looking for an in-and-out lunch break. The atmosphere is more cafeteria-style than formal restaurant, with simple, colorful painting on the walls.
I headed to the Chicken Grill with a friend during my lunch break. The smell of the seasoned chicken hit our olfactory senses as soon as we opened the door, and adequately whet our appetites. The place was busy, but the wait through the line was short. Everything was made right in front of us by the unusually friendly staff. Within minutes we had paid and were sitting at a table enjoying our meal.
Photo by Tovin Lapan // Buy this photo
I had the chicken fajita wrap meal ($7.99) with cheddar cheese, guacamole and sour cream. The meal comes with a soda and a side dish, so I got the mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was nice and creamy but could have used some of those crispy chunks of baked cheese you expect from a homemade version. The fajita was tasty and light, not overly filling like a burrito can be.
My lunch companion had the small Latin Chop ($5.99) with BBQ sauce, which consists of chopped marinated chicken on a bed of rice, beans, lettuce and tomatoes with a pita. She said her side of sweet plantains were “not super authentic, but tasty.”
The meals at the Chicken Grill can be customized to fit your tastes, with different sauces and sides. The side orders are all under $2 for a small portion and include: corn on the cob, brown rice, macaroni and cheese, sweet plantains, steamed vegetables, and sweet potato soufflé. Sauces cost extra (.39), but are worth it to add some punch to the mildly seasoned chicken. There are numerous varieties including: cilantro garlic, curry mustard, Mexican salsa, BBQ, cranberry, sweet and sour, orange sesame, garlic vinaigrette, and light alternatives.
In the end we spent about $15 for the two of us and left satisfied. It didn’t blow our minds, but it is definitely a good place for an efficient lunch break or to pick up a meal when you don’t feel like cooking.
And remember: What happens at the Chicken Grill stays at the Chicken Grill.