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Sherlock Zone takes a trip to the mall

It's that time of year. Trying to find the perfect gift for family members and friends. It's time to do time at mall. It's hard enough to figure out what to buy without having to figure out what to eat at various mall restaurants. Sherlock Zone, our fearless food detective, has done some investigating at restaurants typically found at malls across the country.

First off, he advises, forget about the food court. Just about everything for sale there will take you out of the Zone.

Here are some tips about what to order at restaurants.

PF Chang
There is a bounty of good things to eat here.
For appetizers there are lettuce wraps, served with either chicken or tofu.
Zoneful salads include chopped chicken, seared ahi and Vietnamese crab.

Featured entrees that are in the Zone are spicy chicken ginger chicken with broccoli, Norwegian salmon, orange peel shrimp, and Kung Pao Shrimp.

Sides include spinach stir fried with garlic, Asian tomato-cucumber salad and Shanghai cucumbers. There are also a number of vegetarian plates featuring favorable carbs.

Ruby Tuesdays
Grilled chicken or salmon salads are good choices.
Entrees include grilled salmon, skewered shrimp and chicken fresco.
There are a lot of good carb sides: Fresh steamed broccoli, roasted spaghetti squash, grilled zucchini and green beans. Ruby Tuesdays also has a substantial salad bar.

Olive Garden
Entrees include herb grilled salmon, mixed grill with streak and chicken (you may ask for just chicken) served with fresh vegetables, garlic herb chicken and broccoli and swordfish picata.
The menu is more limited here because most meals feature pasta.

The restaurant also has a limited menu for Zoners, but it can be done.
A good salad to try features, chicken, black beans, guacamole, cheese and salsa.
Diners may also order a burrito bowl, which has everything contained in a burrito, minus the tortilla. If you must have a tortilla, make it corn and limit it to one.

Cheesecake Factory
Cheesecake Factory has a new SkinnyLicious menu that gives quite a few choices.
Good starters are chicken lettuce wrap taco, served Mexican or Asian style and a pear and endive salad with grilled chicken.
Entrees include white chicken chili, Tuscan chicken with vegetables, lemon garlic shrimp (get extra asparagus and pass on the pasta), and French vegetable salad with oodles of vegetables and available with chicken on top.

Salads at Applebee's that will keep you in the Zone are fiesta chicken chopped salad, grilled shrimp and spinach salad and Oriental chicken salad.
Entrees include savory cedar salmon, Napa chicken and Portabellos and zesty Roma chicken and shrimp.
For all the entrees ask for extra vegetables instead of rice or potatoes.

Sherlock hopes to help you stay in the Zone while shopping at the mall. If you have a restaurant you want our food detective to investigate, first go to, click tools and then restaurant reviews to make sure he hasn't already done so. Sherlock Zone has been sleuthing for us for 10 years. If you don't see the restaurant, email Sherlock at, and he will get right on the case.