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Marketplace Grille offers healthy and tasty options

Making healthy choices in your diet is hard enough when you prepare the food at home. It’s doubly difficult when you’re dining out -- especially when you need a quick lunch or dinner.

The Marketplace Grille - with its high-quality, Mediterranean-style cuisine - is one of the happy exceptions. This fast and fresh food eatery, tucked into a mini-restaurant row in a strip mall off Torrey Pines Road, has a full menu of tasty and tempting dishes that fit very well into a healthy lifestyle.

The atmosphere is friendly and informal, and the portions are ample.

Marketplace Grille is not much bigger on the inside than a hole in the wall. It has a few comfortable tables, but most of the regulars eat on the outdoor patio, shared with the other little eateries in the complex. Many dinner patrons call ahead and pick up their meals to enjoy at home with the family.

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In fact, Marketplace Grille does catering and prepares party platters for large groups. However, even small orders can be phoned in and delivered to your home (as long as you live within the area). To take advantage of this free service, all you have to do is to place an order that costs at least $9.

The menu abounds with delicious dips and salads. You can purchase the hummus (made with chopped chickpeas) and baba ghanosh (an exciting eggplant mix) in small and large sizes. They’re both wonderful with pita bread, so be sure to try them. A small portion of each costs $3.50. The large container runs $6.50.

Marketplace Grille excels in its salads. You can enjoy a grilled chicken Greek salad for $8.75 (leave out the chicken, and it will cost you $6.75), a spinach salad with feta cheese for $6.75, and a grilled chicken on Caesar salad for $8 ($5.70, if you opt for plain Caesar).

Salad fixings come with many of the non-salad items as well, including the full line of gourmet wraps. Like all the hot food, these popular wrapped dishes (served on fresh lavash bread) are prepared on the mesquite grill in the busy open kitchen. The dressing is a freshly made “Grille House” original.

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Among the enticing fillings available for the wraps are minced sirloin ($5.75), chicken ($6.25), filet mignon ($7.75), lamb ($7.75), shrimp ($7.25), veggies ($6.25) and the catch of the day (available at market price).

The entrees - all served with garden salad, basmati rice, and lavash bread - are excellent. They feature the same assortment of meat, chicken, lamb, and seafood, and range in price from $7.25 to about $10. The same platters with the restaurant’s herb rice start at $7.75. Of course, everything is cooked to order.

The newest items on the varied menu fall into the category of “crispy Mediterranean bowls.” These huge bowls (created from lavash bread) resemble the oversized edible bowls you get in many Mexican restaurants when you order a taco salad.

They’re popular for a reason. These value-packed crispy bowls are loaded with rice (white or herb), shredded lettuce, baba ghanosh, and shirazi salad, then topped with your choice of chicken, sirloin steak, salmon, wahoo, shrimp, vegetables, or filet mignon. Prices on these satisfying meal-in-one dishes start at $6.95, and the most expensive is $9.75.

Falafel lovers can indulge in these savory meatless delights on a platter ($6.95 with white rice, and $7.50 with herb rice), in a wrap ($4.55), or even as a side dish ($.55 each). Other sides on the menu include grilled tomato skewer ($1.95), grilled seasonal vegetable ($2.85), corn on the cob ($1.85), and French fries ($2.25).

If you’re still riding on the low-carb bandwagon, you can select “Tony’s Special” - a veggie skewer on a bed of shredded lettuce and shirazi salad. Top it with chicken or sirloin for $8.95, or with fish, shrimp, or filet for $10.95.

There’s nothing fancy about the service at Marketplace Grille. You purchase your food at the counter and wait for the server to deliver your order to your table. Then, help yourself to the plastic utensils and paper napkins. No china or glass wear with this meal, but that’s a small price to pay for a quality meal - served in short order.

You know everything is perfectly fresh at Marketplace Grille because everything is prepared from scratch several times during the day. Any leftovers are tossed. They don’t show up in your meal the following day.

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No wonder Marketplace Grille has three locations now, including a new one in the Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego. The food is delicious, and the price is right.

Marketplace Grille is located at 1030-C Torrey Pines Road. Call for more information at (858) 456-95676.