Thursday, February 28, 2013

THE PALEO RESTAURANT GUIDE TO AUSTIN, TEXAS

One of the biggest challenges in living a paleo lifestyle is knowing where to go to eat out and how to order. I have taken some of the guesswork out of the process with this Paleo restaurant guide to Austin, Texas.

I met with the restaurant chefs, owners and managers for an in-depth discussion on what they put into their food. While not all of the options are necessarily 100% paleo, (i.e., I can almost guarantee these places aren't cooking their food in ghee and tallow), these options are free of gluten, dairy, legumes, grains and added sugar.
As a disclaimer, always alert your server of any allergies you may have.

All of the restaurants on this list are flexible and aware of the Paleo diet. They are happy to make substitutions and modifications to make their food paleo for you. They were all very accommodating to my requests, as they will be for you. Don't be afraid to ask! You are a paying customer, after all.

Aside from a link to the restaurant's website and location, my paleo guide format goes something like this:

1. A short description of the restaurant, its category, theme, atmosphere and service.
2. A list of suggested dishes that I have discussed with the management as "paleo options."
3. My personal recommendations and suggestions for future visits.

This guide is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide of 2013. Here is the link to last year: City Guide 2012. I originally wrote this guide for visitors coming to Austin for the South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) but it will also serve to help any paleo eaters who live in or might be visiting Austin. Through the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, we have teamed up to provide a widely comprehensive guide to all kinds of restaurants in Austin. The paleo scene is so big that we split the assignment of the Paleo category between two bloggers! Check out the second half of this guide at ATXGlutenFree.

Austin is becoming an epicenter for the Paleo movement, with PaleoFX March 27-30, 2013 and PrimalCon June 6-9, 2013. It is also the home to some big Paleo names including Keith and Michelle Norris, Melissa Joulwan, Abel James, Tracy Barksdale, Amy Kubal, Corben Thomas, Dan French and more. Plus you know this place is something special. For whatever reason you are here, there are tons of great places to eat Paleo without worry.

multiple locations
  • This Austin charm is the perfect place for porch setting with your friends on the weekend. Meet your ladies for lunch, your buddies post-bootcamp in Pease Park, or for a mother-in-law brunch. There really is something for everyone here. 
  • You will see tons of salads and sandwiches on this menu with one common theme--freshness. Follow your heart and they'll gladly serve your sandwich naked, without cheese; sub this-for-that, etc. Build your own burger or chicken sandwich without the bun--any way you like it. Go ahead and order one of the many paleoifiable free-range, hormone free 3-egg omelets from the breakfast menu. It is served all day!
  • I recommend: The Avocadeaux Salad (minus corn relish). Fresh crawfish tails and creamy avocado atop a bed of greens with a spicy remoulade sauce. Something fresh and light to shake up your boring paleo-salad go-to order. I crave this salad all the time.

Aster's Ethiopian
2804 N. IH-35, Austin, TX 78705
N.W. Corner of IH-35 Access & Dean Keaton
  • You know the hole in the wall with rave reviews on yelp? You wonder why but it just seems too seedy to ever step your big toe inside? That's this place. But then you go and you just get it. It is all about the food. Set on the feeder road of I-35 (of all places), Aster's Ethiopian is a dive featuring a remarkable buffet of African fare that will undoubtedly take you by surprise and make you a fan of Ethiopian cuisine.
  • I wouldn't dare try to pronounce any of these things, but I can tell you that they are gluten-free friendly and certifiably delicious. For the girl who LOVES spicy food, you know this recommendation counts. For meat dishes, try the mild Alicha SigaWott, a tender beef stew with traditional African flavor. DoroWott is Ethiopia's National dish of spicy chicken in Berbere sauce. For your dark leafies, the Gomen is a rich stew of collard greens; Atakelt Wott is a tumeric stewed cabbage; and bedergan is spicy mashup of nightshades. And they're all awesome. 
  • I recommend: Doro Wott and all the veggies mentioned above. Or just get a sampling of all of it at the lunch buffet!

Buenos Aires Cafe
1201 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702
  • Bueno'sAires Cafe is a funky, romantic, Argentinian gig set among some very-cool Eastside establishments. If you are waiting for a table, either stay and order yourself some wine from their well-curated menu or head across the street for a drink at Eastside Showroom.
  • Their staff is knowledgeable and accommodating, eager and willing to make substitutions for your paleo palate. The Parriada for 2 is just about as paleo as it gets. Served on a large platter you can grab at with your fingers, this communal feast includes Argentinian short-ribs, flank steak, pork loin, quail and veggies. You can sub the accompanying cheese for some of their aceitunas (marinated olives).
  • I recommend: La Parriada for 2, Shrimp Prosciutto, wine.

Contigo
2027 Anchor Lane
Austin, TX 78723
  • Contigo is all about community. Picnic tables abound this open-air ranch-style spot that feels like more of a playground than a restaurant. Driving up to this way East gem, you are immediately greeted by the sound of laughter and a feeling of calm. That feels pretty paleo to me.
  • Ben from Contigo outlined the best options for eating paleo here including the Mussels in yellow curry, Brussel Sprouts, chili flaked olives and spinach salad. From the charcuterie board, the divine crepinette is a hot salad of ground pork, earl grey currants, crimini mushrooms and herbs. Also try the face bacon and tenderloin terrine. For your "big plate," go for the Dewberry Hills Chicken, or the burger or sausage with no bun.
  • I recommend: The porchetta. This Saturday special is why I wanted to write about Contigo in the first place. This may be my "last meal on earth" dish. Here's why: It is a 2" thick, 6" diameter slice of pastured pork roast, wrapped in pork skin and roasted until the outer crust becomes a chicharon. What's a chicharon? Check out this post. The whole thing is juicy, salty crunchy and full of that au jus goodness. GET THIS if you are here on Saturday.

El Chile
1809 Manor Road
Austin, TX 78722
  • Cheap happy hour! Get yourself to the friendliest Mexican porch for half-price ceviche and guacamole while enjoying a tequila on the rocks in the not-yet-hipsterfied part of East Austin known as Manor. 
  • I recommend: Relleno de Cochinita Pibil: A roasted poblano pepper stuffed with achiote pork topped with ranchero sauce. Sub guacamole for the rice and beans. This is my favorite mexican dinner to eat.. ever.
Foreign & Domestic
306 E 53rd St
Austin, TX 78751

  • Critically acclaimed and favorited by all of it's patrons, Foreign and Domestic is a treasure for the gourmands of Austin. With an intimate open kitchen and a wall of windows, this Hyde Park gastropub delivers the most beautiful presentations of food sculpture from their kitchen. Every dish is exotically magnificent, yet all the ingredients are locally familiar. 
  • Owner and chef, Ned Elliot, happens to be friends with Keith and Michelle Norris and knows his paleo. Say the word and he will make sure anything you eat fits the bill. 
  • I recommend: Beef Heart Cru: This appetizer, which I did not share and took down as a meal, is an adventure in flavor and texture. The beef heart from Burgundy Pasture in Grandview, Texas, is served as a tartare atop a squid ink-herb spread and poached egg, then sprinkled with sweet pickled fennel, mango, parsley and green onion. Make each bite count by loading your fork with little bit of everything: the cold, velvety heart, the buttery, creamy yolk, and the sweet pickled fennel. Swirl it around in the thick, rich squid ink: It has the richness of reduced wine and the sweet tanginess of fermented garlic. Each bite teaches you more about the best one of the senses God gave you: taste. 


Freebirds:
(multiple locations)

  • Not unlike Chipotle, with more of a groovy-Austin vibe, this fast-paced, lunch-line service joint has the friendliest staff. I had the pleasure of meeting the dude behind the line who also ate paleo, so he advised me on what to eat and what to avoid. This place is fast and cheap, but beware of leaving with your mouth on fire. You might want to break paleo with a fistful of tortilla chips if you overdo it on the habanero sauce. And it's so "Austin." 
  • My paleo dude, whose name I cannot recall, informed me that all the protein is locally and sustainably sourced. Even though it is grass-fed, avoid the steak as its marinade contains gluten. The fresh salsa also has gluten, so avoid that. Go nuts on the veggies, chicken, ground beef and slow-roasted carnitas: They're paleo. Bonus for your paleo order: since you didn't get rice, beans, a tortilla or cheese, your guacamole is free. And they literally shoot it on your meal with a guacamole gun!
  • I recommend: A burrito bowl with slow-roasted carnitas; no rice or beans; add veggies, lettuce, roasted garlic, lime, cilantro, lettuce, habanero and guacamole. 

Freedmen's
2402 San Gabriel St
Austin, TX 78705

  • For a town known for a place where people stand in line for 3 hours for BBQ (Franklin's), Freedmen's had some balls opening up here. But I sure am glad they did. As you may recall from my BBQ post from the summer, where I attended the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival, I love me some meat. So when I say that Freedman's is my new favorite BBQ joint, you better trust me. And if you are into bourbon, this place has 60 different kinds available. Definitely check out the mixology behind this gorgeous bar. I love the vibe in the bar - it makes you feel like you are dining with wealthy ranchers. Succulent meat, expertly crafted drinks, warm and welcoming service, and the decor of Texas decadence. I am so glad they're here. 
  • Because Freedmen's is located inside an historical building, owner Cuatro was unable to build a formal kitchen. There is a tiny prep room, but the real magic happens in the back parking lot on the pit. You would think with no other cooking tool but the grill, the menu would be limited to traditional BBQ fare. On the contrary, this menu is only limited by the creativity of pitmaster Evan LeRoy, who knows all about eating Paleo. From a charcuterie board including head cheese to a cocktail made with smoked pears, Freedman's boasts locally sourced, seasonal fare that can all be served gluten-free. Simply ask for appetizers without the accompanying bread. The sugar-free pickles made in-house are the dill, spicy carrots and okra. Steer clear of the turkey as it was brined in buttermilk, the mustard sauce as it contains beer, and I dare you to not order the bacon-peanut brittle. 
  • I recommend: The Holy Trinity Plate is a great place to start, especially during happy hour. A healthy serving of tender brisket, spicy pork ribs and juicy sausage will whet your appetite. You must order the grilled cabbage slaw: slightly spicy and kissed with local honey. The 2-day BBQ sauce has reduced to its natural sweet perfection for--you guessed it--two days.

G'raj Mahal
91 Red River, Facing Davis
Austin, TX 78701
  • Food truck turned Rainey-street picnic party, this BYOB outdoor eatery takes it's food sourcing very seriously. Their chicken and lamb is halal blessed and the beef and chicken are pastured. Nestled among the bustle and fun of Austin's newest nightlife scene, you'll start your night right here at G'raj Mahal.
  • Opt for the vegan (what!??) curry sauces to add to your protein. That they are vegan doesn't mean you are cheating on your paleo diet, in fact, you are only ensuring that you aren't eating dairy. They cook their protein in ghee, so don't worry--you haven't crossed over to the dark side.
  • I recommend: Under Goan Specials, I like the Coconut Curry. Delightfully spicy and well matched with seafood

Gabriel's Cafe
AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center
1900 University Ave
Austin, TX 78705
  • Escape the UT Campus madness at this seemingly undiscovered gem. Overshadowed by the many culinary awards and achievements of the Carillion, this AT&T center lunchery is a great place for a mid-day date. The food is the same gourmet quality as you would expect from Chef Josh Watkins, only the vibe is more casual.
  • The Bibb Salad plus chicken, minus goat cheese is a great option for a light paleo lunch. The fine burgers and sandwiches sans buns will do it for you. Any of the tacos without cheese or a tortilla are paleo, and you may sub avocado for the borracho beans.
  • I recommend: Tinga Tacos; no tortilla. The Chu Chee Salmon looks like an awesome paleo dinner with bok choy and curry swimming in coconut cream, although I haven't tried it yet. Also, their bloody mary is nutrient dense enough to cure your hangover but spicy enough to kickstart your next bender.

Koriente
621 E 7th St
Austin, TX 78701
  • This Asian-fusion restaurant and tea house is perfect for paleo eaters who are picky about their order. With an explicit gluten-free menu, wheat-free tamari in house and the option for "low carbers" to sub veggies for rice, you're sure to find something you like here. 
  • The Obaka Bowl A or B or the Mixmix Bibimbap are a mish mash of asian flavors, meat and veggies, made paleo by subbing more veggies for the rice. Same goes for the spicy chicken bulgogi and the ahi tuna dish. 
  • I recommend: Spicy Obaka Bowl A (definitely the beef) with extra veggies instead of rice. At lunch it comes with unlimited miso soup, salad and ginger pickles. Yes there is soy sauce in there, but at least it's fermented!

Manuel's
Downtown:
310 Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701
Great Hills:
10201 Jollyville Road
Austin, Texas 78759

  • Craving Mexican food on a date? Manuel's is sure to impress. Set in historic downtown on Congress, Manuels will please your paleo tastebuds for Brunch, Lunch or Dinner!
  • For a Mexican brunch, their fluffy 3 egg omeletta is looking mighty delicious with ham and spinach or jumbo lump blue crab meat. Huevos revueltos with venison chorizo. Lunch and dinner: Pechuga de Pollo, Lomo de Res, Lomo de Puerco are all viable options of their pastured, local fare grilled to paleo perfection. Opt out of beans and rice and ask for their sauteed espinaca (spinach), instead. 
  • I recommend: Chile Relleno de Mar without cheese. Scallops, shrimp and crab nestled in roasted poblano with a chile de arbol crema. The crema makes this a paleo splurge, so if you are seriously on the wagon, I'd opt for their Pescado con Espinacas Guisada de Limon- a bed of sauteed spinach sauteed in a garlic-lemon bath 
Picnik
1700 South Lamar Austin, TX 78704

  • The first Paleo food truck in Austin is here! In April of 2013, Picnik opened their doors and hearts to all us cave eaters dedicated to fueling our bodies with the best possible sources of food. Owner Naomi Sheifter was inspired by Dave Asprey's research and development of Bulletproof Coffee as she includes powerful upgrades in their award-winning morning joe.
  • Besides their caffinated rocket-fuel, Picnik serves up entirely paleo baked morning treats and fresh salads for lunch. Their salads begin on a bed of Johnson's Backyard's finest crop, tossed with one of their mouthwatering homemade vinaigrettes (hello jalapeƱo-raspberry!), and are topped with grassfed sirloin, organic marinated chicken or paleo chicken salad. 
  • I recommend: Literally everything, but especially the Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti. 


Quality Seafood
5621 Airport Blvd Austin, TX 78751
512-454-5827
  • Half fish market, half seafood restaurant, Quality Seafood is the guaranteed freshest fish you will find in Austin. While the location is kind of arbitrary, the food it right on point. With a fresh oyster bar and plenty of options, this family spot is a great catch. 
  • Your best option is to shoot raw oysters straight up at the bar. If you aren't into that, any of the you reel 'em dinners are the freshest paleo options (daily) for fish in Austin. Choose two sides -- something steamed and green. On Taco Tuesday you can get tacos 1/2 price without the tortilla!
  • I recommend: Grilled mahi mahi taco (no tortilla) with the spicy verde cream sauce

Ranch 616
616 Nueces St
Austin, Texas
78701

  • Ranch 616 is one of the places that made "West 6th" cool again. An eclectic joint with a real Texas flair, you'll love Ranch 616 for everything it offers, from innovative cocktails to the freshest of fish and local grub.
  • To Start: Chili Lime Grilled Prawns. Most everything from their entree section can be made paleo as it is mostly just some fabulous preparation of grilled meat. Although most of these entrees sit atop a decadent whip of boursin potatoes, the chef will happily make substitutions for another paleo side. Try adding grilled quail or fried lamb chops to any salad (skip the cheese). The jalapeno grilled chicken or Market Fish dish is paleo as ordered, served with sauteed spinach and mixed veggies.
  • I recommend: If they have it available, order the whole deep fried mediterranean seabass. This crispy crunchy fish arrives staring you in the face, reminding you of the sacrifice it made to enter your belly. It is only offered as a special, so good luck. And definitely grab a round of tequila shots you can take out of a raw jalapeno.

SNAP Kitchen
(multiple locations)
  • Snap kitchen is the place to go when looking for fast, pre-made Paleo meals and snacks in Austin and Houston. Their mission is to offer the freshest, healthiest real food in a convenient, portion controlled package. Their ingredients are local and seasonal and their meals are made fresh daily. 
  • If you are on the go, busy, rushed or just plain lazy, SNAP kitchen is your BFF. They take all the guesswork out of "ordering paleo," as their paleo selections are marked with an illustration of a caveman. My post on Snap Kitchen, when I got host an awesome giveaway, outlines a few of my favorite items there, but since that post they have so many more! 
  • I recommend: Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna Nicoise Salad - Butter & Romaine Lettuce, Green Beans, Hard Cooked Eggs, New Potatoes, Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onions, Roasted Roma Tomatoes, Capers, Red Wine Dijon Vinaigrette. Anything "Naked" and I'm dying to try the Grassfed Meatballs and peppers. They must be a new item!

Takoba
1411 East 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78702
  • Another Eastside spot with breezy al fresco seating, Takoba took me by surprise. With no expectations but a nagging request from my husband, who is utterly addicted to Mexican food, I was delighted to see their menu was packed with paleo fare. Their staff is youthful yet mellow, and too green to be snooty. In a word, they are just plain sweet. 
  • On the menu, gluten free options are marked with a careful attention to celiac-degree allergies. The gluten free tacos all come with two side items and can be ordered without the tortilla. Succulent slow roasted pork tacos done "estilo (style) de Don Alberto," are a family recipe. The paleo sides include the nopales and a side salad. What are nopales? Cactus! If you've ever had it before, I know you are doubting this suggestion, but I promise you that Takoba has done what no chef has done--they made some damn tasty nopales. All their salsas are paleo, the highlight being the Verde de Aguacate, made with tangy tomatillo and creamy avocado. 
  • I recommend: Pescado de Mojo de Ajo with nopales instead of rice. It comes with a spicy grilled slaw sweetened only by the shoestrings of apple in it. And the $12 Mexican Martini sub hibiscus habenero juice for syrup-- served in a shaker, it fills your glass 4-5 times. If you lose count, that is one damn good drink. 

Wholly Cow
619 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701
  • With "Local Grass-Fed Beef" in the title of the restaurant, you know you are onto something good when you walk into this 6th and Congress burger joint. Their principle mission is to serve the highest quality, local and sustainable ingredients available. 
  • From their burgers to sandwiches, anything can be served "paleo-style" with portobella mushroom caps in place of their hawaiian rolls. With options of doubling your meat, adding "halo toppers" like grilled jalapenos or onions, roasted red peppers, bacon, avocado or mushrooms, Wholly Cow is a paleo paradise. 
  • I recommend: The Fit Cross is a local grassfed beef patty dressed to the nines with bacon, onions, lettuce tomato and mustard sandwiched between two portabella mushrroom caps. Add some avocado while you're at it. 
If you are looking for more gluten-free options around town, I recommend you downloading this free app. Pretty soon here it'll have a paleo option! It was created by Jess over at ATXGluten Free, who wrote the other half of the paleo restaurant guide to Austin. Check it all out!

Locate Special Diet is a free mobile app (iPhone, Android) that helps people find gluten-free, vegetarian or locavore/organic options nearby in Austin, as well as 40 other U.S. cities. In the next 30 days, we will also be adding paleo and vegan options to our lineup (sign up for the newsletter to know when), and expanding to every U.S. state. Users can search for restaurants, grocery stores or places with alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, as well as filter by diet preference and type of food. View menus for various restaurants and tips from the Locate Special Diet staff and users. Get directions, call the business or view the business's website within the app.
website: http://www.locatespecialdiet.com/

I hope you enjoyed my review of paleo restaurant options in Austin. Please leave your own suggestions and tips in the comments section below!

For an interactive Map and Guide to PaleoFX, check out PrimalFenix's work on the guide I wrote for the event!



      13 comments:

      1. Oh man, now I really need to get out to Austin!

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      3. I'm coming in for Paleo Fx 2013 and am pysched to see so many Paleo-friendly places to chow down! Thanks for sharing!

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      4. Brittanie, you are so awesome for putting this guide together! My fiance & I felt like mexican food tonight so we decided to go try El Chiles. Amazing food and I never would have thought they would have something to eat there that fits my diet needs. Thank you so much for your recommendations! I cant wait to check out some of the others.

        I wanted to let you know, there is a new Paleo food trailer on S. Lamar (next to the Texas Cuban food trailer). It's called Picnik and it just opened a few weeks ago. The owner Naomi, is an awesome gal and a sweetheart who believes in Paleo. They serve coffee, smoothies, salads with local greens and organic grassfed meats, as well as treats such as cookies, muffins, biscotti and cupcakes - all gluten-free & paleo! Check them out if you haven't yet: http://picnikaustin.com/

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        1. Thank you so much for the comment Jessica! Yes I know Picnik! Naomi is awesome and I am so glad to have her here in Austin. I included her in the guide =)

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      5. All About okra nutrition. Okra is a popular vegetable of the housewives. The interesting thing is that it contains more nutrients for good health, such as fiber, mucilage, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, niacin, calcium, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, iron.Very good for health.

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      6. I never comment on blog posts but this is truly an amazing guide! I'm really impressed at the dishes you managed to put together at each place. Thanks for this :)

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      7. Wholly Cow does not serve grass-fed, all natural beef as they advertise. Beware.

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      8. This really is this kind of a fantastic resource that you are providing and also you give it away free of charge. I adore seeing web sites that comprehend the worth of providing a top quality useful resource for free.

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      9. Thank you for this! Any recommendations in Round Rock or Pflugerville would be appreciated.

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      10. Thanks so much for making this guide! I've lived in Austin for a while and have sort of narrowed down my key places to go to, but it's exciting to see so many names on here that I can head back to. Cheers!

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      11. Thanks for this! I don't live in the Austin area, but one of my go-to places to eat is Freebirds and I had NO idea that their steak and fresh salsa had gluten! (WHY?!?!) ~ Terri

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      12. I found this list while googling 'paleo restaurants Austin'. We were there a couple weeks ago for Paleo Fx 2014. We went to Buenos Aires Cafe that Saturday and LOVED it!! Thank you so much for the recommendation! Such a cool area - they were very accommodating and we got your reco of the La Parriado for 2. Excellent!! We can't wait to come back.
        Thanks again!

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