Restaurant News & Reviews

Dining: Fast food with a conscience

Tired of turkey, sick of stuffing and can’t abide more pie? Right about now in the holiday season, a good ol’ burger and fries starts sounding pretty good, and you can treat yourself to such indulgent fare almost guilt-free at EVOS in San Luis Obispo.

The EVOS menu offers a lot of things other fast-food restaurants do, but it sets itself apart in what it doesn’t have: a grill or a deep fryer. Everything is prepared with commercial convection ovens, explained Tom Maupin, who co-owns this EVOS franchise location with his wife, Margie Maupin.

“The cooking is unique,” he said. For example, “the fries are put on perforated sheet pans and then very hot air is drawn over them. We don’t use any oil or grease for anything, so our food has 50 to 70 percent less fats, carbohydrates and calories, but we still maintain the taste.” Granted, the fries don’t taste like the French fries we’ve all grown up with, but Maupin pointed out that “our fries actually taste like potatoes, not grease.”

The hamburgers are cooked in much the same way, and made from beef that has been humanely raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. The chicken and turkey are free of antibiotics and hormones as well, and EVOS only uses the leaner white meat in its wraps, burgers and salads.

Soy veggie burgers are an option too, and because the food is made to order, Maupin noted that “we’ll combine any of the tastes on the menu.” That means that vegetarians can sub in the soy on menu items such as the free-range beef taco, the avocado and turkey wrap, the Santa Ana chicken Caesar, the Thai trout wrap, or even the spicy chipotle burger.

EVOS also uses organic greens in its salads, organic lowfat milk in its shakes, and only pure fruit juice and fruit in its smoothies. Certified organic ingredients are used in other menu items whenever possible, as are certified Fair Trade products. All the food is wrapped in recycled paper printed with soy-based inks instead of petroleum-based inks, and the plastic to-go bags are biodegradable.

Indeed, the company’s Web site notes “The EVOS Business Model: Profitability and Social Responsibility go hand in hand,” but it should be noted that a couple sentences later it says “we try not to take things too seriously, including ourselves.” That helps explain the franchise’s signature “Ketchup Karma” bar, which features whimsical housemade flavors such as “Mesquite Magic,” “Garlic Gravity,” and “Cayenne Firewalker.”

The EVOS in San Luis Obispo is the only franchise west of the Mississippi. The seven other locations are in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, where the EVOS concept got its start in 1994 when the founders went out to eat and “all they could find was greasy fast food,” said Maupin.

The business model of healthy fast food was developed soon afterwards, but the franchising effort took about another 10 years to evolve. It probably would have retained its limited regional focus but for a call Margie Maupin got from a former colleague she used to work with telling her about EVOS.

“Margie was very instrumental in making the connection to all of this,” said Maupin, and speculates that they might never have heard about the EVOS opportunity otherwise. He also added that the couple hopes to be able to open some other franchises in California, in part because “the reception here in San Luis Obispo has been tremendous.”