Fast, Tasty And Cheap: Cheyenne's "Clean Eatz" Restaurant Is Healthy And Affordable

The build-a-bowls, wraps, flatbreads, and burgers at Cheyenne's "Clean Eatz" are all made fresh and ready in about the same time it would take for a burger and fries at a fast-food chain, all at a price point that’s competitive.

RJ
Renée Jean

January 01, 20247 min read

Gary Shaklee at his Clean Eatz franchise in Cheyenne.
Gary Shaklee at his Clean Eatz franchise in Cheyenne. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Wyomingites on the go have had essentially two options for quick meals on the road.

It’s either healthy food that takes too long to arrive and might taste a bit like straw at costs just north of painful. Or it’s fast food that’s cheap and tastes great, but that also has extra salt, fat and carbohydrates — which most waistlines undoubtedly cannot afford.

A simple quarter-pounder with cheese, for example, with a small order of fries and unsweetened tea totals 1,080 calories — two-thirds of a day’s calories for those on a 1,500-calorie meal plan.

For those limited to 1,200 calories a day, forget about it.

A place where fast food is healthy, delicious and affordable both for pocketbooks and waistlines has long been an impossible trinity in the Cowboy State, with few notable exceptions.

But it is something that could soon be changing. Clean Eatz franchisee Gary Shaklee has not only been shaking things up in Cheyenne’s fast-food scene since opening in August, he’s doing so well, he’s already looking to expand the concept to new areas of the state.

The build-a-bowls, wraps, flatbreads, and burgers at his Cheyenne store are ready in about the same time it would take for a burger and fries at a fast-food chain, all at a price point that’s competitive.

A Clean Eatz burger, for example, which comes with lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese, sells for $8.99. That’s actually slightly less than the $9.26 McDonalds lists on the Door Dash app in Cheyenne for a quarter-pounder with cheese that has lettuce, bacon and tomato added.

The calories are a mere 392 though, versus 630 calories the app lists for a quarter-pounder deluxe.

For a combo, sides at Clean Eatz include a veggie cup, apple slices with peanut butter, sweet potato fries, or mac and cheese, with a choice of zero-carb vitality water or unsweetened iced tea, for $13.98.

A quarter-pounder combo at McDonalds is $13.56 on Door Dash.

“Every meal that we make here is made fresh in the back,” Shaklee said. “We have an assembly team back there to make the food. We don’t use any salt in the kitchen, and we don’t use any oil in cooking our proteins.”

  • Breakfast is steak and eggs with hash browns. For the carb-conscious, hash browns can be removed.
    Breakfast is steak and eggs with hash browns. For the carb-conscious, hash browns can be removed. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Grab-and-go meals are prepared for pickup Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.
    Grab-and-go meals are prepared for pickup Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Gary Shaklee rings up an order at Clean Eatz in Cheyenne.
    Gary Shaklee rings up an order at Clean Eatz in Cheyenne. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Gary Shaklee checks the inventory of grab-and-go meals at Clean Eatz in Cheyenne.
    Gary Shaklee checks the inventory of grab-and-go meals at Clean Eatz in Cheyenne. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Gary Shaklee looks on as grab-and-go meals are prepared for the week.
    Gary Shaklee looks on as grab-and-go meals are prepared for the week. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Gary Shaklee checks the inventory of grab-and-go meals at Clean Eatz in Cheyenne.
    Gary Shaklee checks the inventory of grab-and-go meals at Clean Eatz in Cheyenne. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

How The Meals Come Together So Fast

Clean Eatz actually has two food prep areas. One is devoted to the chain’s grab-and-go frozen meals, prepared fresh every week for families to pick up on Sundays and Mondays. Tuesdays are for those who have requested customized options like low-carb meals, extra protein or gluten-free.

The quick-service food options, meanwhile, have their own dedicated area where ingredients are arranged sandwich artist-style in bins that are kept either on ice or on warmers, depending on what the ingredient is. There’s a measuring scoop in each bin to ensure consistent portions on every order.

When an order comes in, the cook tosses fresh vegetables on a sizzling hot griddle. Those get squirted with a bit of water, steam instantly rising in a cloud above them. A metal steam dome quickly comes down to capture all that steam and heat, to speed the vegetables on their way.

Meanwhile, the cook starts building the rest of the dish. If it’s a bowl, choices include rice, cauliflower rice, spinach, rosemary potatoes, pasta, or kale and quinoa for a base. That gets topped with steaming hot meat, whether its bison, chicken, salmon, shredded beef, shrimp, or a black bean burger, that has been pre-cooked and is being kept piping hot and ready to go.

Toppers for the bowl range from cucumber salad, green peppers, and pineapple salsa to things like queso sauce, sweet chili, and honey-roasted carrots, to name just a few of the many options.

By the time the base of the bowl is built, the vegetables are getting their second squirt of steam-producing water. The hot fresh vegetables are done a few seconds later and tossed on top of the waiting bowl. The whole order goes into a to-go sack with plastic silverware and a napkin.

The timeframe is close to that for a typical fast-food meal, like a cheeseburger and fries, but without the extra salt and sugar that is so common to processed fast foods.

“We cater to everything,” Shaklee said. “We are allergy friendly, which is really basic, like chicken, rice, and broccoli or beef, asparagus and rice, all the way up to kind of decadent dishes like brisket mac and cheese or buffalo chicken mac and cheese.”

Expanding Soon To Laramie

The Clean Eatz concept is already doing so well in Cheyenne, Shaklee is exploring options for new locations in other parts of the Cowboy State.

“I’m really interested in the state of Wyoming as a whole,” Shaklee told Cowboy State Daily.

First on his list is probably Laramie, where there’s a waiting crop of University of Wyoming students who he believes will literally eat up what his restaurant has to offer.

“I’m looking to get in with the athletic department and the student base at UW,” he said. “I think this would be a tremendous opportunity, a tremendous option for students over there.”

Customers in Cheyenne, meanwhile, have told Shaklee he’s thrown them a lifeline. That’s something he understands on a personal level.

Before he opened his store, he and his wife were frequent customers at a Clean Eatz in Colorado, where they were living and working at the time.

“My wife and I started on the meal plan, and we did that for about a year, year and a half,” Shaklee said. “You know, we bought hundreds of grab-and-go meals and pizzas, and I got hooked on everything. I never ate a meal that I didn’t like.”

Not having to do all the prep work to follow a healthy diet was an enormous time saver, Shaklee added.

“Families are busy with full-time jobs,” he said. “Their kids are going to sporting events after school or other activities. You know, life happens, and spending two to three hours for meal prep is not anybody’s favorite thing to do. So, we take the work out of it. These meals change every week so there’s good variety.”

Shaklee also loved that he could just scan a barcode on his meals, and they would auto-populate in his fitness app.

“I didn’t have to spend, you know, 30 minutes tracking my meals and tracking my macros every day,” he said.

When it came time to plan an exit strategy for his retirement years, Shaklee looked at a wide variety of options, none of which felt too appetizing. He’d been an officer with the Fort Collins Police Department, so he thought about corporate jobs and security jobs for his last 10 working years, and all of that was just sounded meh.

“I wanted something I could be passionate about,” he said. “You know, they say if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

As he thought about that, it suddenly occurred to him one day that the answer was right in front of him, in the Clean Eatz meal he was getting ready to eat.

“I’ve been putting in a substantial number of hours getting this cafe opened and running,” he said. “And I have loved every minute of it. The feedback has been tremendous.”

  • Ingredients for build-a-bowls and wraps are arranged sandwich artist style for quick service prep.
    Ingredients for build-a-bowls and wraps are arranged sandwich artist style for quick service prep. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Tossing the vegetables halfway through the cooking followed by a little more water and about 30 seconds more under the steam dome.
    Tossing the vegetables halfway through the cooking followed by a little more water and about 30 seconds more under the steam dome. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Water is squirted on vegetables on a hot sizzling grill. A steam dome at right is then placed over the vegetables so they will cook quickly without adding any extra oil.
    Water is squirted on vegetables on a hot sizzling grill. A steam dome at right is then placed over the vegetables so they will cook quickly without adding any extra oil. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • he finished vegetables are placed on top of the bowl last of all before sending the bowl on its way.
    he finished vegetables are placed on top of the bowl last of all before sending the bowl on its way. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • The finished bowl with Greek goddess dressing.
    The finished bowl with Greek goddess dressing. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter