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The divided menu at SkinnyFats offers diners a clear choice: happy or healthy

<p>Tu-nuts as served at SkinnyFats located at 6261 Dean Martin Dr., Las Vegas NV 89119. The ingredients are spicy tuna over stiracha slaw loaded in a cucumber boar topped with peanuts.</p>

Tu-nuts as served at SkinnyFats located at 6261 Dean Martin Dr., Las Vegas NV 89119. The ingredients are spicy tuna over stiracha slaw loaded in a cucumber boar topped with peanuts.

Do you want to be healthy? Or do you want to be happy? Trust me, if your job is in any way related to the food and beverage industry, that’s a question you have to answer on a daily basis. The owners of the new restaurant, SkinnyFats, are clearly aware of that dilemma. Not only are they kind enough to offer choices for everyone, they’ve drawn a clear line of demarcation down the middle of their menu.

SkinnyFats is located in a commercial park on Dean Martin Drive, just south of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club. That prime piece of real estate provides a steady flow of dancers coming in for a pre- or post-shift meals. (Based on looks alone, I can only assume they’re eating from the healthy side of the menu.) But the place is also a favorite of local businesspeople and families with kids. It’s an extremely casual spot with just the slightest country-and-western vibe. And it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As I said, the menu is split down the middle, with a “healthy” side and a “happy” side. Most items on one side have at least a rough counterpart on the other. The Three Healthy Chicks, for example, consists of three egg whites served with turkey bacon, nine-grain toast and a side of fruit ($6.50). Those with less restraint, however, can order Three Happy Chicks: three whole eggs, applewood bacon, potato hash and sourdough toast ($6.50). It goes on like that. Vegetarians can get a Philly-style Portobello mushroom sandwich with sautéed onions and feta in a balsamic glaze ($10.50), while carnivores can have a half-pound hamburger topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle, avocado, a fried egg and a secret (presumably fattening) sauce ($10.50). And while all of the pizzas ($10.50—$12) are gluten-free, the healthy ones are either vegetarian or topped with chicken, and the happy ones come loaded with red meat.

When I’m being paid to eat, I make it a point not to worry about how healthy a dish is (much to my cardiologist’s dismay). But at SkinnyFats, the healthy dishes on the menu are so damn good, I barely give a second look to their allegedly happier counterparts. Why, for example, would you get your edamame dusted in ranch and accompanied by jalapeno dipping sauce ($3.50), when the version made with chili-garlic and accompanied by soy lime sauce ($3.50) is so delicious? Similarly, I wasn’t even tempted by the More Cow Bowl ($11.25), which consists of teriyaki steak, fried rice with peas, carrots, celery, onions, eggs, peppers and teriyaki-sriracha aioli. Instead, I ordered the Smoke in a Bowl ($10), made with agave barbecue chicken, peppers, onions and pineapple. It was absolutely amazing, and the portion was huge.

Even when you order a true guilty pleasure, such as a shake, SkinnyFats allows you to do it with moderation. Each of its signature recipes ($6.50-$7.50) can be made with either soy milk or 2-percent milk, and either frozen yogurt or ice cream. I split the difference, and had my Smooth Immunity (juiced oranges, lime and basil, $7.50) with soy milk but real ice cream. If you’ve never had basil in a shake before, this one will be a true eye-opener!

For the sake of journalism, my wife and I felt the need to try at least one totally “happy” dish. So, for breakfast one day, we shared the Drunken Monkey Cakes: a short stack of buttermilk pancakes topped with maple syrup, rum-glazed bananas, whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate chips, accompanied with bacon ($7.50). If you’re a sugar addict, I have no doubt you’ll love it. But it didn’t leave us nearly as happy as the healthy choices normally do.

In all honesty, the reason I love the healthy side off the SkinnyFats menu so much is because it’s not some extreme example of “health food.” It should really be labeled the “I want to live past 50” menu, while the flip side should be called the “thank God Obamacare is coming, because I’m gonna need it” section. Of course, that probably wouldn’t sell as well. And this restaurant is so good that it deserves to use whatever labeling it needs to get people in the door.

SKINNYFATS, 6261 Dean Martin Drive, 979-9797. Read more about the Las Vegas dining scene on Al Mancini’s blog, www.almancini.net and follow him on Twitter @almancinivegas.