For the downtown luncher like myself, life is usually a pretty sweet deal. When the metaphorical noon whistle blows, I am a-twitch with anticipation, knowing that within mere blocks of the office it’s possible to belly up to everything from biryani to bahn mi, a veritable United Nations of ethnic goodies, with all kinds of eclectic variations thrown in for good measure. Even so, truth be told, some days all I really want is the comfort and familiarity of a decent hamburger.

The most basic of cubicle meals, the holy trinity of a burger, fries, and milkshake, remains an elusive prize, especially if you’re a) not interested in patronizing a McDonald’s franchise or b) reluctant to pack on nearly 1600 calories and 62 grams of fat, greasy goodness. And despite an endlessly evolving buffet of chow choices, there are definitely times when this basic meal combo is the most practical (and yummy) solution.

Good news dieting diners! Sensible options abound at Jackson’s Lite ‘n Tasty (515 SW Fourth Ave), a modest luncheon counter with even more modest calorie counts. Owner Carlene Jackson spent several years working in state government as an administrator, and was often forced to eat on the fly in order to keep up with a demanding schedule. Even while she was dashing from one meeting to the next, often grabbing less-than-nutritional grub at a drive-up window as time allowed, Jackson, a restaurant neophyte, knew there must be a better way. And so she began formulating her own recipes for grab-and-go cuisine.

At her new downtown eatery, the menu of burgers, fries, salads, shakes—not to mention freshly baked desserts like cookies, cakes, and peach cobbler—comes with a side of less fat, sodium, and calories, thanks to the judicious use of lighter, low-cal ingredients, house-made buns, and super-lean, Oregon-sourced beef that’s hormone-free. Jackson’s quarter-pound cheeseburger ($3.99) weighs in at a svelte 345 calories and 11 grams of fat as compared to an average of 620 calories and 35 grams of fat for its similarly sized fast-food counterpart. And before you ask, it’s a soul-satisfying burger that delivers beefy bounty, and not some horrifying hippie-fied mash up. As one recent Jackson's customer declared on Yelp, "If you are craving a burger for lunch but don't want to feel gross and greasy after, this is the place!"

The UnFries ($1.99) are baked, waffle-cut, and spiked with a peppery seasoning that really clicks, with a small order tipping the scale at a managable 120 calories, while the milkshakes ($3.99, made with low-fat ice cream and milk) are only 220 calories and every bit as rich and rewarding as anything spawned from a corporate kitchen. The salmon burger ($6.99) and grilled chicken sandwich ($4.99) are also worthy investments and likewise locally sourced. 

Not content with just flipping patties, Jackson is looking to spread her good-eats gospel by partnering with local businesses and organizations in an attempt to get their harried employees to reach for something more nutritious than a box of deep-fried chicken pieces of dubious origin. True, Jackson’s Lite ‘n Tasty lacks a drive-up window, but the food is still fast and filling—and you won’t hate yourself for stopping in. 

Jackson’s Lite ‘n Tasty 
515 SW Fourth Ave 
503-241-2419 
jacksonslitentasty.com 
M-F 11am-3pm