Zone in

A brie and smoked turkey wrap waits to be devoured by a hungry Zone Dieter as Server Katy Arias makes a salad at Zone Café, where the menu is based on Dr. Barry Sears’ famous diet program.

A brie and smoked turkey wrap waits to be devoured by a hungry Zone Dieter as Server Katy Arias makes a salad at Zone Café, where the menu is based on Dr. Barry Sears’ famous diet program.

Photo By David Robert

I put on some poundage over the holidays that I have yet to shed. I hope now that the weather’s better, and I’ve been bicycling more, it won’t stay long. But it has been suggested—most vehemently by my girlfriend, Danielle— that a diet might be in order.

Though it’s unlikely that I’ll actually follow a weight-loss diet, one I could consider is the Omega Zone Diet, developed by a Dr. Barry Sears. The good doctor recommends a precise, well-balanced diet of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, 30 percent protein and, for fun, daily fish oil supplements.

To provide a safe haven for devotees looking for perfectly balanced meals, Dr. Sears is opening a restaurant chain. The Zone Café presents itself as “an alternative to traditional fast food.” Finally, there’s somewhere to lunch besides fast food (not to mention those fine mom-and-pop restaurants where I have been wasting my time and of which the doctor and his pamphleteers seem blissfully unaware).

Sears established his reputation with a bestselling book, The Zone, a full-length dieting manifesto that closely examines such intriguing subjects as “eicosanoids.”

Sears looms large in the café. His name adorns everything. He’s part mascot, part visionary motivator: Col. Sanders meets Richard Simmons. The menu includes a few of the doctor’s non-sequitur zen pearls. For example, “Food is the most powerful drug you can ever take.”

This café, whose stated goal is to be “the number one healthy restaurant chain in the world,” currently has exactly one location, here in Reno.

“I assumed it was an established chain and it just finally got here,” Danielle said. “It’s weird that it’s a restaurant targeted at weight loss.” She then added, eyeing my belly, “But honestly, I’m kinda stoked.” I had the brie and smoked turkey wrap with apple-cranberry chutney ($8.95). It’s heavy on the greenery, and the flavors are mild and understated—the chutney is so subliminal that it sometimes gets lost and then surprises—but it’s quite good, and it has that fresh, clean, healthy-living flavor. It’s accompanied with a tasty chickpea salad and fresh strawberries.

To drink, I made the mistake of ordering a raspberry smoothie ($2.95). What I didn’t realize is that the smoothies are intended to replace a meal. They are very filling and have an unpleasant, powdery protein taste.

There’s no vegetarian entree, which, of course, annoyed Danielle. The idea of a “healthy” restaurant not having a vegetarian option at first seemed strange. But Zone Café is based around Dr. Sears’ diet, which includes meat, and the café is decidedly unaccommodating to other diets.

Danielle did manage to figure out a lunch for herself with two appetizer dips, curried hummus ($3.50) and an eggplant vegetable dip ($3.50). Both come with tandoori crackers and are fairly tasty. I was more impressed with the eggplant than the run-of-the-mill hummus.

Though battling obesity is indeed a noble fight (and one in which I must admit to having recently found myself engaged), I still find it a rather off-putting, clinical approach for a restaurant. It runs contrary to my own hedonistic dining approach. The receipts, for example, include number-crunching analysis of fat, protein, carbohydrate and calorie content. Still, at face value, the food does taste good—so maybe there’s something to this balancing act after all.