“Great food with your health in mind” is the slogan of the Muscle Maker Grill franchise, which started in New Jersey and opened its first California restaurant in Antioch this past April. Offering reduced-fat ingredients, no-carb sauces and meat that’s cut and marinated onsite, the restaurant caters to all styles of healthy eating, from high-protein to vegetarian. “It’s not a diet place. We tailor to everybody,” said Sam Shaer, who co-owns the Antioch franchise with his father and cousin. “It’s just cooking healthy.”
All the restaurant’s meat is grilled. “If you come in here and ask for something fried, we’re going to laugh at you,” Shaer said. His personal favorite entree is the MMG Signature Wrap ($7.99). Loaded with grilled chicken breast, turkey bacon, reduced-fat cheese, fresh romaine and tomatoes, the wrap contains only 450 calories. Other popular dishes include the Arizona ($9.99) – chicken breast, turkey bacon, tomatoes and green onions over brown rice – and the Godfather ($9.99) – chicken breast and thick portabella mushrooms with roasted peppers and melted cheese on a bed of broccoli. The Godfather contains only 335 calories per serving, and the Arizona, a two-serving dish, a mere 290.
Meals are cooked when ordered and can be tailored to your desires. For example, the Arizona can be ordered as a wrap, spinach can be substituted for broccoli, or fish can be used instead of chicken. Seasonal specials keep the menu new and exciting.
A striking red and black theme decorates the room, and diamond plating on the walls adds a shine. Upbeat music plays during the day to keep the atmosphere energized. “People are working, going to the gym,” said Shaer. “At night we slow it down. People come in and want to relax.” He greeted several people by name during the interview, and said the community’s reaction has been positive.
Shaer and his co-owners discovered Muscle Maker Grill while on a trip to New Jersey. “We walked in and the store was busy, busy, busy. If people are coming from miles around, it must be something good.” After trying several different menu items over the next few days and enjoying the uniqueness of the restaurant, they decided to look into opening a franchise in California. At the time, Shaer already operated a successful money service business and a yogurt shop.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always thinking about running businesses,” he said. Despite the formidable challenges of opening a restaurant, Shaer said the most difficult was “choosing which pictures to put up.” Muscle Maker Grill’s extensive menu made it hard for Shaer and his co-owners to decide which food photos to display on the wall.
Muscle Maker Grill, located at 4621 Golf Course Road, is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call 925-978-9246 or visit www.musclemakergrill.com. Take-out, catering and delivery are available.