Paleo Austin Restaurant Guide

 

In the Paleo community, Austin has become known as a mecca for primal livers. I’ve been here for about 9 months now and while there is a solid group of Paleo-ites around town, there’s a much larger population of foodies, vegans, and Standard American Diet eaters. I haven’t found it THAT much easier to eat out here while following Paleo/AIP than in Chicago (where your options are extremely scarce for a city of 8 million).

 

All that said, I have explored a few amazing places that I wanted to share with my readers who either live here or are going to be visiting Austin in the future for one of the city’s crowd-pulling festivals and conferences. I will say that Austin supports local business more than any city I have ever lived in, and that even the most unassuming food trucks and pizza joints are dedicated to sourcing local produce and sometimes even organics! For example, East Side Pies (an East Austin hole-in-the-wall pizzeria) has gluten-free and dairy-free pizzas that can be topped with an abundance of local veggies. Try to find that in most American cities!

 

I’ve categorized my list by types of restaurants/establishments that hit the main bases when you’re in town or looking for a casual bite or beverage. None of these places have a dress code (it’s Texas, after all) and many allow pets if there is outdoor seating! I’ve tested all of them (most several times) and have given my honest review as someone who appreciates food quality and sourcing, good service, and also duh delicious food.

 

DISCLAIMER: There is NO “perfect” Paleo restaurant. Many restaurants source local organic ingredients and have grain-free and dairy-free options, but they may use less than desirable vegetable oils for cooking purposes. When we eat out, there’s a certain amount of known risk we take with food quality. All of the below places are dedicated to some degree to providing the community with the highest quality product at this point in time. For example, all of the ice cream locations use non-Paleo sweetener such as organic cane sugar or agave nectar, but they are offering dairy-free ice cream using local ingredients, and that is something to be desired across the country!

 

Lettuce-Wrapped Grass-fed Burgers

 

Counter Cafe *TOP PICK* 626 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

This little (and I mean little) cafe is right across the street from the famous downtown Whole Foods and is such as nice surprise! There are two picnic tables outside, so I’ll bring my dog and have a lettuce-wrapped grass-fed burger (juicy, delicious, local ingredients) with a side of sweet potato fries (they are fried in rice bran oil there). I add avocado, red onion, and extra lettuce to my burger, and it totally hits the burger & fries craving. The oil used for the fries aren’t Paleo so you can skip those if you’re a die-hard, but rice bran oil is definitely better than soybean oil or soy-canola blends which is what most restaurants use! AIP? Get the lettuce-wrapped burger with avocado, bacon and red onion. Ask them to leave off the black pepper from the patty seasoning. 

 

 

Wholly Cow 3010 S Lamar Blvd

Located in a mini-mart, this unlikely burger hangout is just down Lamar less than 10 minutes from downtown. Its counter service with tables inside and outside (pet-friendly). My husband has had the lettuce-wrapped burgers and fries and loves them. They are made with Texas grass-fed cattle. I did not get to try the burger because the spice mix in them contains nightshades (fine for Paleo, big no-no for AIP), BUT they were sweet enough to offer nightshade-free call-ahead burgers if I ever did want to give them a try! AIP? Call in advance and ask them to make you a special nightshade-free patty!

 

Hopdoddy 1400 S Congress

Prepare yourself for a wicked wait, line out the door at this trendy South Congress burger restaurant. They offer all types of burgers, including lettuce-wrapped grass-fed burgers. I’ve eaten her twice and both times had a reaction, so I’m going to assume they either spice their beef with a nightshade or there’s cross contamination. I wanted to include it for the traditional Paleo person who doesn’t avoid nightshades and doesn’t tend to react to minimal cross contamination though. I’ve been here with a group of coworkers and with my husband and everyone LOVES their food every single time. And it’s really neat they let you order drinks from a bar while you stand in line waiting to order your burger. They have some local ciders on tap too. AIP? Call first and ask how they season their meat. I’ve had a reaction the last two times I’ve eaten there and the burger was the only possibly culprit!

 

Coffee

 

Caffe Medici *TOP PICK* 1101 W Lynn Street

Pretty sure this is the best coffee in Austin. You may be thinking, “Yeah, right. In that hippie town, there’s probably a hundred amazing local coffee shops.” You would be wrong. I’ve tried a lot of them – even the ones people rave about, and I promise their coffee is the best. It’s never better, never too hot or too cold, and they use the most delicious almond milk in their almond milk lattes (which have been my pregnancy treat – decaf of course). They also sell several grain-free energy bars from a local brand called Bearded Brothers (my favorite flavor is Raspberry Lemon). Parking is a bitch, but you can park at the restaurant across the street until 10:30 am and after that there is street parking in the neighborhood and about 8 spots available in their parking lot. Here’s another place I like to sit outside with my dog in the sunshine and spend an hour chatting with strangers at the next table over. Favorite drink: Almond milk latte (iced or hot) made with a carageenan and soy-free almond milk

 

Picnik 1700 S Lamar

Probably the most famous Paleo place in all of America, Picnik is a local fave for butter coffee, baked goods, and light meals. Their coffee IS delicious (especially if you can tolerate dairy and get the butter coffee), but it’s freakin’ expensive, so I almost never go there. During the holidays, I got their Peppermint Mocha, modified to omit the dairy and include coconut butter in it’s place. It was really yummy but I felt stupid for spending $7 on coffee, I’m sorry. Go for the novelty of it, if you’re in town, but beware of being the gal or guy who just spent a meal’s-worth of money on coffee and a chocolate chip cookie (which I guess could be considered a meal on its own?)Favorite drink: Marshmallow Chai made dairy-free!

 

Radio Coffee & Bar 4204 Manchaca 

This place has become a fast favorite for us. It’s perfect for weeknights when you want to get out of the house but don’t want to dress up and go out. There’s a ton of outdoor seating, a taco trucks, an outdoor bar (sometimes staffed), and a large indoor coffee shop with plenty of seating, WiFi and live music on certain nights. I love this place because each night of the week they have some sort of event lined up like outdoor movie night, trivia, dance parties, flea markets, fiddlers. Yes, fiddlers. We bring our dog and always find a stranger to chat with. I love talking to strangers. They have dairy-free milk options like every Austin coffee house, but their almond milk lattes aren’t as good as Caffe Medicis. They are probably my second-favorite in the city that I’ve tried so far though. They also have some gluten-free treats. Favorite drink: Their coffee isn’t as good as Medici’s, so I always get a Topo Chico and an iced decaf almond milk latte.

 

 

New American

Salty Sow 1917 Manor Rd

Some delicious ‘ish is offered up at Salty Sow, a well-known brasserie-type of joint in East Austin. I think they are most known for their duck fat fries with a sous-vide runny egg on top. My mom and husband split those and were obsessing over them. I was super jealous and ate my plain steak and salad in envy across the table. So obviously if you eat nightshades and eggs, get the dang fries, you fool! Their food quality is definitely better than the average restaurant and you can certainly eat gluten-free there. Dairy-free may be a bit harder, but they will accommodate. My mom got a pork medallion-bacon number once, and you can’t get much more Paleo than that. Make a reservation because it will always be jam-packed. This has been my least favorite AIP meal out because I think they were afraid to add any sort of flavor to my food in fear of nightshading me. But if you don’t have a ton of food allergies or intolerances, you will most certainly enjoy your meal here!AIP? Have them customize a menu item for you! They made me a simple salad with local veggies and a seared steak. They could have added a little more creativity to both plates though because they were B-O-R-I-N-G. Again, everyone else’s food looked amazing!

 

Salt & Time 1912 E 7th Street

I went to this adorable butcher shop/restaurant several years ago when I was visiting Austin for the second time. I really wanted to ravage the raw, salt-cured meat counter, but in the name of food safety and gut protection, I held back. I <3 the name and it definitely took me reading it a few times to realize, “Oooh because you just need salt and time to cure meat. How clever.” From what I understand, they have expanded the restaurant to include more seating as well as an expanded menu. They are also open from breakfast, lunch and dinner now. It’s not like they cater specifically to gluten-free eaters (lots of sandwiches and such) but they do have charcuterie boards, offal, salads, homemade pickles, and protein-heavy mains for dinner!AIP? Ask for a nightshade-free cured meat and some pickled vegetables!

 

Searsucker415 Colorado Street

I freakin’ love this place. The decor is an odd combination of Nautical-Rustic-Farm Animal and really welcoming for a giant warehouse building actually. I’m not much for going out, but the social scene is so active here that it makes me feel like I’m part of the cool crowd for a whole 90 minutes. I’m obsessed with their drink menu. I’ve only been getting them virgin since Pregnant, but their virgin Snake in the Grass (cucumber mojito) is effin’ awesome. I want one right now. They also have really delicious AIP accomodations and eating Paleo is even easier. I have had the Farmer’s Chicken (big chicken leg, roasted, juicy, crispy skin) with roasted brussels sprouts, the local greens salad with shaved veggies and grilled chicken, and the insanely tender and flavorful filet mignon, which is in my top 5 best steaks of my life. It was like butter and perfectly aged, get it. It’s located downtown, and you’ll want to make a reservation if going on a weekend. We park in a parking lot a couple blocks away for $10 and walk around downtown afterwards to people watch.AIP? I get the roast chicken, plain, without the sides and instead get it over a green salad with extra veggies.

 

Dai Due *TOP PICK*2406 Manor Road

Saving my favorite for last here. Dai Due is the pinnacle of Paleo dining out. EVERYTHING is locally-sourced and/or made in house. Including the bones for their homemade bone broth which I purchase and take home on occasion. It’s real-deal bone broth – jello and delicious. They change their menu every week (sometimes even more frequently) and I’ve always found something on the menu that is AIP-compliant. They let the food shine and don’t use a ton of spices. They’re also dedicated to using only quality fats – how awesome is that!? So you’ll find your food cooked in grass-fed tallow, pastured lard, olive oil, and grass-fed butter rather than vegetable oils. And almost everything is cooked over a tiny open flame RIGHT in front of your eyes. Sitting at the bar is really fun for this reason. Eeek, I just love this place and could go on and on and on. My favorite meal so far has been grilled sheepshead fish from the Gulf coast with grilled Meyer lemon and grilled broccolini with mui choy (a mustard green type of leaf vegetable). We REALLY want to try their humongous grass-fed beef rib one night but it’s a little intimidating. Like the size of my femur.AIP? They will make you whatever your little broth-loving heart desires! Best seat in the house is the little bar at Dai Due – perfect for a date night!

 

 

Dairy-Free Ice Cream

Lick 1100 S Lamar

A rotation of 3 to 4 flavors of coconut milk ice cream, most soy and egg-free as well. Delicious, pretty expensive, but their new location is across the street from a Caffe Medici so bonus points!

 

Thai Fresh *TOP PICK* 909 W Mary 

My favorite coconut milk ice cream by far! It’s made with coconut milk, organic cane sugar, and a variety of flavors. They also tell you which ones are soy-free (anything without chocolate) and they’re all gluten-free and egg-free too. I am obsessed with the Thai Basil & the Thai Coffee and the Lavender is amazing too. To me, this is a can’t-miss ice cream place while in Austin. I get my ice cream over a ball of warmed-up sweet sticky rice, which is white rice, coconut milk and coconut sugar. Sounds weird but it’s decadent and a really unique and perfect combination of textures and temperatures.

 

Sweet Ritual 

Coconut milk, cashew, and almond milk ice creams with some fun toppings like toasted coconut. No dairy, eggs, or casein in any of their flavors and they let you know which ones are gluten free. Everything is vegan too, and it’s currently located inside a juice shop but they are changing locations early summer 2016, which is why I didn’t include an address. They use agave nectar to sweeten their ice cream, so it’s not a perfectly Paleo option.

 

 

Honorable Mentions[Places with delicious food if you are gluten-free and dairy-free but I can’t vet them outto the AIP community]- Sway (Thai)- Torchy’s Tacos (tacos, der)- Swift’s Attic (New American)- La Condesa (Upscale Mexican)- Rudy’s (BBQ – Nightshades for sure)- La Barbeque (BBQ Food Truck – Nightshades for sure)- Salt Lick (BBQ – Awesome outdoor space – Nightshades for sure)- Franklin’s (BBQ – Apparently only uses salt & pepper)

Paleo & Gluten-Free Dining in Chicago

3578902950-millennium-park-architecture-tour.jpgThe Midwest isn’t exactly applauded as being a leader in heatlhy eating. Everytime I turn a corner, I run into a donut shop while getting hit in the face with a giant sausage. That may sound like a pleasant experience to some of you though, I don’t know. 

I moved here a year ago, and while I only eat out once a month since going AIP Paleo, I did my fair share of restaurant dining last summer. I seriously spent hours Yelping and Urbanspooning “gluten free Chicago” until I was satisfied with my list of must-try’s. Chicago’s a beautiful city full of art, shopping, handsome gentlemen, and architecture. Truly one of America’s greatest, so come on down (or up or to the side) for a visit and make sure you check out some of these Paleo/GF- friendly restaurants. 

1. Bavette’s

Hands down favorite. Make a reservation 3-4 weeks in advance so you have the time to mentally prepare yourself for the best meal of your life. Plus it’s a hard joint to get into, so reservations are a must.

Atmosphere: Romantic, Upscale, Speakeasy Vibe, Open Bar Seating

Menu Items: Oysters, Steak (a must) with steak salt, bernaise & roasted tomatoes, baked sweet potato, baked white potato with house thick-cut bacon

Accomodations: When you make your reservation, let Amy know at least 24 hours in advance of any food allergies/intolerances and they will ensure your meal is clean as Jewish grandmother’s bathroom sink.

2. Butcher & the Burger

THE place in Chicago for a lettuce-wrapped grassfed burger that will leave you satisfied (yet still wanting more because they’re that damn good). Offers grassfed beef and unique cuts on rotation like duck and elk. Fries are a must if you’re willing to sacrifice your soy-free diet for a day.

Atmosphere: Casual, Fun, Awesome 90’s music, BYOB, Best for small groups

Menu Items: Lettuce-wrapped grassfed burger w/ fried egg, avocado and caramelized onions. Pick up some local Two Brothers Prairie Path Ale (gluten-free) before heading over for lunch or dinner.

Accomodations: Ask them to clean the grill for you or cook your burger in a separate pan.

3. Smoque

You came to Chicago for some good arse BBQ, right? Probably not, but that’s what you’re gonna get. The line may be long but it goes quick and you get to chat with the friendliest Midwesterners at this humble BBQ hole in the wall.

Atmosphere: Casual, Indoor and Outdoor Seating, Counter Ordering

Menu Items: Rack of Ribs, Half Chicken, Bring your own BBQ sauce if you’re AIP

Accomodations: Email the Smoque guys 2 days before you plan to eat there. They will prepare your meat without the AIP-offending ingredients like red pepper and paprika and send it through the smoker without the sauce. 

4. Little Goat

Stephanie Izard is one of the most popular chefs in Chicago for good reason. Her focus on complex flavors and high quality ingredients makes you wish you had ordered one of everything. 

Atmosphere: Casual Diner, Bustling, Quirky Servers, Kid Friendly

Menu Items: Bunless Goat and Beef Burgers w/ kimchi, fried egg & avocado, Goat Cheese Hashbrowns (not AIP but a necessary order if you’re plain Paleo), Gluten-Free Sourdough Pancakes, Stumptown  Coffee

Accomodations: Stephanie is one of the most willing chefs in the area when adapting recipes for her customers. She will clean the grill, pan, etc for you and make any substitutions to your liking.

5. Green City Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning farmer’s market across from the Lincoln Park Zoo (7 am-1 pm). Fresh local produce, dog friendly, big oak trees to lay a blanket under with a big group of friends. 

Atmosphere: Open grassy park, Crowded, Social Event (arrive by 10 am for best picks)

Menu Items: Michigan apples, Paleo Soda, Bacon-fried pastured pork rinds, Fresh Grassfef Beef, Pastured Chicken, Lamb

Accomodations: The farmers are always more than helpful when answering your questions about farming practices and recipe suggestions for some of the more obscure items. 

6. HB [Home Bistro]

It’s like if Alton Brown + George Bryant had a restaurant baby. Flavor bombs, redonk desserts, and they treat you like family. Plus another BYOB. This place is new school Chicago – make a reservation weeks out.

Atmosphere:Tiny, homey, perfection for escaping winter for a few hours w/ a bottle or 3 of wine

Menu Items: smoked chicken thighs w/ almond butter & shaved brussel sprouts, bacon-wrapped  and almond stuffed dates, pork belly anything

Accomodations: Takes great care to understand your allergies/intolerances and adapt menu items to suit your needs without compromising flavor. They’ll remember you next time too!

7. Raw

The only vegan food I’ve ever had that doesn’t make me miss my meat. Two locations downtown offer endless colorful and nutrient-dense clean eats. I can spend at least 30 minutes reading the brightly hued packages and trying to figure out how they made delicious as F lemon squares out of cashews and sea salt. 

Atmosphere: Grab & Go, Female Overload

Menu Items: Collard Greens Burrito with cashew cream cheese, fresh coconut water, Kombucha, sprouted sunflower seed & maca energy bars, gluten-free desserts

8. Au Cheval

Butcher and the Burger may be the best Paleo-style burger option, but it’s hard to beat the coolness of Au Cheval. Or the duck fat fries. Or the beer list. No reservations so don’t go in a big group. 

Atmosphere: Late Night/Happy Hour,  Sweet Beats, Pretty People

Menu Items: The single cheeseburger (actually 2 thin patties) on lettuce with a side of duck fat fries.

Accomodations: I wouldn’t get too picky here, or your hipster server may slap you with his suspenders, but you may want to ask them if any gluten-containing ingredients go in the fryer. 

9. Grange Hall Burger Bar

Grange takes farm-to-table to the next level by making you feel like you’re eating just-picked raddichio in a barn. Big ol’ grassfed burgers (get it on the house salad), homemade pies (not GF) and ice cream (do it), and the friendliest servers.

Atmosphere: City ho-down, Yupster Hang-out (Yuppies + Hipsters)

Menu Items:  Grassfed burgers & hotdogs with fried avocado and jalapeno jicama slaw

Accomodations: Well-versed in gluten-free & Paleo lingo. Be as demanding as you please.

10. Cassava

The ugly sister of Paleo starches gets a makeover at this Lakeview empanada joint. Everything is gluten-free and they feature nitrate-free bacon, grassfed beef, and use ONLY coconut and olive oil in their products. 

Atmosphere: Plain, Good for a quick lunch

Menu Items: Bacon, egg and cheese empanada, beef & cheddar empanada

Accomodations: You can’t do egg or dairy free here, so AIP need not apply.