We've read "Fast Food Nation." We've seen "Super Size Me." And, we've been queasy about fast food monoliths like McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell ever since. But, does fast food always have to mean bad food? (Not that Mickey D's fries aren't tasty - It's just that a large portion contains 520 calories, with 220 of those calories coming from fat.)

2005_03_food_pretamanger.jpgWell, it looks like McDonald's has found its saving (gourmet and good-for-you) grace as an minority investor in - of all things - a British import: Pret a Manger. With 10 locations throughout Manhattan, Gothamist has found refuge in its gleaming stainless steel shelves, lined with pre-packaged fare that focuses on fresh, natural food, free of additives and preservatives. We are drawn to its neat rows of sandwiches in bright white triangular boxes, plastic-encased salads and bottled organic fruit juices. It reminds us of an old-time Horn & Hardart automat in a bizarre way - mind you, with slightly unnerving Bollywood meets "The Sopranos" decor in the seating area.

Our favorite foodstuffs at this super-fast, super-fresh, organic-leaning chain? We're fond of the Coronation Chicken Salad Sandwich spiked with sweet mango chutney, as well as the Tuna Salad on crispy baguette with the added crunch of cucumber slices. The spicy Turkey Chili and hearty Lentil Soup are also fave picks when the weather is cold. And, who can argue with fair trade, organic Sumatran Dark Roast Coffee at prices that beat the Starbucks down the block?

On top of it, if Pret's marketing materials are to be believed, we don't need to feel the least bit guilty about indulging in their wares. The chain's apple juices hail from the Hudson Valley. Their yogurt comes from the happy, healthy cows of Ronnybrook Farm in Dutchess County, New York. And, their chicken comes from Bell & Evans Farms in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Still not convinced? Try this on for super size: At the end of every day, Pret a Manger donates the food they didn't sell to City Harvest. Fast food you can feel good about. Pip pip and cheerio!