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“But none of that really mattered. I had found my tribe. It felt like a family reunion for the family I'd never really known, a homecoming at the place where I was always meant to be but hadn't known how to find.”
~ David Levithan
Remember How It Felt to Relax in a Restaurant?
Do you remember that feeling? Deciding on the way home from work that you were too tired to cook, calling a loved one to join you, and sighing with contentment as you settle into the restaurant chair. You open the menu and have more options than you can possibly eat, with no fear of retribution. It's just about enjoying the food, the conversation, and the service. Wouldn't it be great to feel that again? That's the goal of this guide.
When you're on a healing diet, restaurants are no longer safe havens. They are a minefield of potential food triggers, menus filled with food you can't eat, and staff who often don't understand your needs even when you try to make them clear. One wonderful benefit to the growing paleo movement is that there are culinary entrepreneurs among us! However, they are rare. I'm honoring them in this post.
Don't Judge a Restaurant By Its Name
Just because a restaurant says it's paleo doesn't meant it truly is. When I double-checked menus, I found lots of non-paleo ingredients. Some “paleo” restaurants even had wheat on the menu – crazytown! In the end, I came up with three categories. The first list are restaurants that truly are 100% paleo. The second list are 100% gluten-free restaurants with a paleo philosophy. The third list are 100% gluten-free restaurants where at least half the menu can easily be adapted for the paleo diet. Any restaurant that served gluten in any form – no matter their name – didn't make the lists. For those of you following the paleo autoimmune protocol, I also made notes below on how AIP-friendly each restaurant is.
100% Paleo Restaurants. Woot Woot!
You read that right. This is a list of restaurants where everything on the menu is 100% paleo. That means the menu is free of all grains, gluten, legumes, dairy, soy, refined oils, refined sugars, and processed and artificial foods. The focus is on high-quality real food: fresh vegetables, high quality meat and seafood, healthy fats, and paleo-friendly herbs and sauces. In other words: Restaurant Heaven. When I started researching this list, I thought I'd be lucky to find 2 or 3. The fact that there are 10 – and some of them have franchises – is a sign of a global movement of people who want to eat for health. These restaurants also care about food quality and sustainability, prioritizing local, seasonal, organic, wild-caught, grass-fed, and pastured ingredients whenever possible. My dream is to eat at one of these someday soon, and all of them eventually.
- Mission Heirloom in Berkeley, CA – This restaurant is Shangri-La to people following the AIP. While their menu changes all the time based on seasonal ingredients and inspiration of the chef, over half their menu is AIP and labeled accordingly. The rest of the menu is created with an AIP base, so can often be adapted by removing or replacing some of the toppings. In addition, the kitchen was consciously designed to be toxin-free, and they use unique cooking methods to maximize nutrition in every meal.
- Cultured Caveman in Portland, OR – This restaurant began as a kickstarter project to become one of the first 100% paleo restaurants in the United States. They pride themselves on accommodating people with food restrictions, so ask their help if following AIP. They even make it easy by having a website menu where you simply click on an item to see the full list of ingredients.
- Palaeo – Primal Gastronomi: 7 locations in Denmark – Peter Emil Nielsen is on a mission – to create healthy, fast food around the world. He's starting with his home country of Denmark, but that's not where he plans to finish. The menu is 100% paleo with 1 exception: you can order cheese as a topping or milk in your coffee, but neither is automatically included in any meal. I've spoken with Peter and he said patrons can definitely adapt the menu to AIP, but you need to be clear with his staff, because they won't know what AIP means.
- Tallow & Thyme in Canberra, Australia – This former Paleo Café is operating under a new name, but the menu remains 100% paleo. Even better, their menu has an allergy-key and lists AIP-adaptable options on the menu. They do offer the option of adding butter or cheese to your meal, but neither is part of the normal menu.
- The Paleo Place in Sunshine Coast, Australia – Another 100% paleo restaurant in Australia. I think I know where I should plan my next vacation! This one if open for breakfast and lunch, and it says right on the menu to ask the staff for advice on tailoring your meal to AIP, which means they are trained on the protocol and want to accommodate.
- Utama Paleo in Perth, Australia – This is a newer restaurant on the paleo block, but it's getting rave reviews already. Occasionally, a menu item offers the option of adding some shredded Parmesan, but this is optional. If AIP, ask the waiter for ingredient details to help you make your selection.
- Paleolicious in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Keeping our international flavor going, this restaurant has a beautiful mission: To create a healthier and happier world. They list ingredients on their menu, but for AIP, you'll have to ask the staff to clarify the spices used.
- Primal Roost in Surrey, England – This casual breakfast and lunch café is 100% paleo with one exception: they offer grass-fed butter as an optional addition to coffee. Since the food is cooked off-site, they can't accommodate special orders. However, people following the AIP should be able to put together an AIP-friendly salad with the staff's help.
- Paleo Café multiple locations throughout Australia & New Zealand – Update: Sadly, this paleo franchise has broken up, but I'm told that some of their locations will continue as individual restaurants. If you have the websites of any of those cafés, please let me know and I'll add them to the list..
100% Gluten-Free Restaurants with a Paleo Philosophy
Some people start a restaurant with a paleo goal but offer a slightly expanded menu to appeal to a wider audience. These are the restaurants that fall into this category. Below, I list the non-paleo items on each menu. In order to be on this list, a restaurant has to be 100% gluten-free and mostly paleo. (A partial gluten-free menu doesn't qualify.) Just like the 100% paleo restaurants above, these restaurants prioritize high-quality ingredients from local farms.
- Picnik in Austin, TX – Picnik is famous for being the food truck connected to PaleoFx. This year they expanded to open a full restaurant, making paleo Austinites very happy. The only non-paleo items on the restaurant menu are dairy and white rice, and both are marked clearly. Not only that, but an AIP menu is available upon request.
- Kara Lynn's Kitchen in Clearwater, FL – This small restaurant was inspired by an AIP success story. The menu is mostly paleo, with quinoa being the only grain offered and the occasional use of dairy. While the menu isn't AIP, the staff should be familiar with the protocol.
- Blooming Beets: Boulder, CO – This farm-to-table restaurant was opened with the paleo template in mind. The only non-paleo item on the menu is dairy, but the majority of the menu is dairy-free. They also have an AIP menu, but unfortunately it includes spices not allowed on the paleo autoimmune protocol. The good news is that all ingredients are clearly marked, and the staff is used to accommodating special requests.
- Hu Kitchen 2 locations in New York City, NY – Another great restaurant built on the philosophy that food can be medicine. The majority of the menu is paleo and much of it can be adapted to AIP. There are a few non-paleo options, including oats, quinoa, and legumes. The only dairy on the menu is grass-fed butter as an optional addition to coffee.
- Springbone Kitchen in New York City, NY – The menu is primarily paleo, centered around bone broth, and easily adapted to AIP. Non-paleo items include wild rice, gluten-free breads, legumes and some dairy. However, they are all clearly marked on the menu and they offer paleo substitutes (like cauliflower “rice”).
- Cavé: A Paleo Eatery in Avon-By-The-Sea, NJ – This restaurant is mostly paleo, the only exception being the use of ghee and grass-fed butter. If you're dairy intolerant, confirm the cooking fat used with the staff. For AIP, you'll likely need to adapt your order. While the menu says no substitutions, I believe as members of the paleo community, it's reasonable for people with autoimmune disease to make special requests here. Mention the paleo autoimmune protocol to the staff.
- Carnivore in Seattle, WA – As quoted from their menu, they offer “an evolutionary approach to progressive American fine dining.” The only non-paleo item on the food menu is grass-fed butter. Their drink menu has a combination of paleo and more conventional options. Ask the waitstaff to help you adapt the menu for AIP.
- Revolve in Bothell, WA – Another great paleo-centric restaurant, the only non-paleo item on the menu is dairy. For AIP, clarify ingredients and adapt where necessary.
- Kitava in San Francisco, CA – This new restaurant began as a meal delivery service and expanded to a seated restaurant in 2017. They believe in transparency, so just click the meal photos on the website to see the full list of ingredients. The only non-paleo items on the menu are white rice and legumes, but they're optional and they offer paleo alternatives. They also advertise an AIP menu, but the one AIP item on the website does include black pepper, so they might not be 100% educated on the protocol. Be sure to ask questions before ordering.
- Primal Kitchens throughout USA – This is the brainchild of Mark Sisson. Their first locations opened in Indiana and California in 2017, and they have plans to expand their franchises nationwide. The menu includes everything from bone broth to breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a children's menu. Since Mark helped coin the term “primal” to mean including dairy on the paleo diet, their menu does include some but the majority appears to be dairy-free. For AIP, they have a “build-your-own” meal option, but the staff isn't trained on ingredient details. Just ask to speak to the manager, who has this information.
- Paleo Foods Café: 2 locations in Knoxville, TN – This casual café is so beloved in Knoxville that they recently expanded to a second location. Dairy is the only non-paleo item on the menu, but there are many dairy-free options available, and it's all clearly marked on the menu. For AIP, they do have a “create your own” meal option.
- Primal Food and Spirits in Durham, NC – While built on an ancestral philosophy, this restaurant is more primal than paleo, with dairy featured heavily in its menu. Other non-paleo items include gluten-free bread and pasta, as well as corn. However, the staff is specifically trained to know all of the ingredients in each dish and to accommodate food allergies. For strict paleo or AIP, ask for help modifying your order.
- Snackin' Free in Murrieta, CA – The owner of this bakery-café has rheumatoid arthritis herself and turned to the paleo diet and lifestyle for own health. She opened her business to help other people with the same needs. The dine-in menu includes soup, salad, paleo sandwiches and paleo pizza. The only non-paleo item on the menu is Daiya cheese substitute (which includes canola or safflower as one of the ingredients). For AIP, your best bet is to order a custom salad and be sure to clarify ingredients in the dressings or bring your own.
- Mmmm…Coffee in Denver, CO – Despite it's name, this is more than a coffee shop. They sell soups, salads. smoothies and wraps, along with paleo treats. None of the treats are AIP, but the salads and smoothies can easily be adapted. Grass-fed butter is the only non-paleo item on the menu, and it's used in just 3 things: butter-roasted pecans, primal cheesecake, and as an optional addition to coffee.
- Bulletproof Coffee Shop: 2 locations in Los Angeles, CA – This coffee shop serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well. Their menu is mostly paleo, with rice and dairy being the exceptions. However, since grass-fed butter and ghee are signature ingredients in the “bulletproof” brand, they use it as their primary cooking fat. You can request to have a meal prepared with coconut oil instead, but since many items are stocked pre-cooked, this is a better restaurant for people who follow a primal diet and have reintroduced butter successfully.
- Butter It Up in Beckley, WV – You can tell by the name that this primal coffee shop loves its dairy, but those are the only non-paleo items on the menu. They cook breakfast to order, and they also stock fresh-cooked meals in the refrigerator, with a menu that changes daily. Because the options are limited, you may or may not find AIP options on the day you visit.
- Gather Paleo Café: Port Neches, TX – This little café is open for lunch Tues-Sat, with a menu that changes every week. The only non-paleo item on the menu is dairy, but they always have at least one dairy-free option available. Since the menu is small and frequently features nightshades, AIP options may not be available.
- The Willow in London, England – This restaurant has one of most impressive allergy keys on a menu I have ever seen, and much of the menu is paleo. Non-paleo items include gluten-free bread, dairy and legumes, but everything is clearly marked. They even have Low-FODMAP options. You'll have to adapt your order for AIP, but I have faith this restaurant can do it well.
- Feed Me Primal in London, England – This former food truck now has a pop-up shop in Croydon. They were founded on a paleo philosophy and are 100% grain-free, but they don't promise to be dairy-free, so be sure to ask when you visit. Since the menu is small and they pre-season all of their meat, AIP would be challenging here.
- Cycle Bistro in Dubai, UAE – Quinoa is the only non-paleo item on the menu of this little café. Otherwise everything on the menu is 100% paleo. If following AIP, ask the staff to help you modify your order.
- Von Walden in Vienna, Austria – This restaurant is built on paleo ideals but with a few primal tweaks. Grass-fed butter and ghee might show up as ingredients, so if you're dairy-intolerant, ask questions. I'm also told the owner is familiar with the AIP, but the menu is very small, so he may or may not be able to accommodate on the day of your visit. It's worth asking, though! Also be aware that seating is limited. This is a tiny place.
- Thr1ve Cafés throughout Australia – While this healthy fast-food chain isn't 100% paleo, it was definitely founded upon a paleo philosophy. Much of the menu is paleo or paleo-adaptable. Non-paleo items include dairy, soy, gluten-free grains and legumes – but they are all clearly marked on the menu. Coconut oil is their only cooking fat, and all of their sauces are dairy-free. They state on their menu that they pride themselves on accommodating food allergies and intolerances, so they should be able to modify the menu for AIP.
- Rough and Bare in Mona Vale, Australia – This restaurant's mission is to “create meals the way nature intended.” The only non-paleo item on their menu is quinoa, and dairy is an optional choice on their drinks menu but not used in regular cooking. Fermented foods also feature heavily, and they have a reputation for being able to accommodate AIP requests.
- Seedling Café in Melbourne, Australia – All food at this casual breakfast and lunch café is paleo-inspired, gluten-free and refined sugar-free. Non-paleo items include quinoa, dairy, peanut butter, and gluten-free bread. Since eggs, nuts and seeds feature heavily on the menu, it may be challenging to eat AIP here. But perhaps you can order something off-menu.
- Paleo Den in Melbourne, Australia – This breakfast and lunch café has a regular paleo-ish menu, but also a “build your own meal” option that makes it very adaptable to strict paleo and/or AIP needs. You choose all of your ingredients: protein, vegetables and fat. Non-paleo items on the menu include gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat, and soy milk as an optional addition to coffee.
- Café Umami in Tasmania, Australia – Founded on a paleo philosophy, this restaurant has an excellent reputation for delicious meals and knowledgeable staff. Unfortunately they don't have a menu online, so I couldn't verify the details. If you visit, ask the staff to help you choose a meal to fit your needs, whether it be strict paleo or AIP.
- Real Food Kitchen in Queensland, Australia – This former Paleo Café has expanded their menu to include a few non-paleo items like chia seeds, ghee and halloumi cheese (made from sheep and goat's milk.) But you can definitely eat strict paleo here as well. Nightshades do feature heavily on the menu, so people following the AIP will need to ask questions and adapt their order as needed. They're open for breakfast and lunch.
100% Gluten-Free Restaurants that Can Accommodate Paleo
These restaurants weren't started by paleo chefs, and they might not even know what paleo means, but they do believe in a safe, gluten-free dining experience. Like all of the restaurants in this entire blog post, gluten isn't allowed in these kitchens at all, which is so much better than a regular restaurant with a gluten-free menu. Why? Because there's no risk of cross-contamination – It isn't possible to get “glutened” here. The other requirement for this list is that half of their menu has to be paleo-friendly, meaning it can easily be adapted to the paleo diet with a few minor changes. (No more searching menus for one sad, flavorless option.) Lastly, I only chose restaurants that care about the quality of the food, sourcing local, organic, sustainable, wild-caught and grass-fed ingredients whenever possible. This is the cream of the gluten-free restaurant crop.
- Shine in Boulder, CO – This is another restaurant that prides itself on offering healing diets for everyone, from vegan to paleo. There are plenty of paleo options on the menu, and they're marked with a little red circle that says PF for paleo-friendly. However, some of these items include dairy or miso, so for strict paleo or AIP, you will need to modify your order.
- Capitol Cider in Seattle, WA – This upscale restaurant is both gluten-free and peanut-free, and they state on their website that they know all of their ingredients and are therefore able to cater to food sensitivities. There are plenty of paleo options on the menu, and the staff should be able to help you verify ingredients or adapt an order for AIP. For those of you who have been able to reintroduce hard cider, they are the largest independent cider bar in the USA, with 20 rotating varieties on tap, and 200 cider options in bottles. Hard cider is naturally gluten-free.
- Fresh Thymes in Boulder, CO – Christine Ruch, the owner of this restaurant, has celiac disease and multiple sclerosis and understands the power of food as medicine. The only oils used are coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. They pride themselves on being allergy-friendly, and the menu includes plenty of paleo options. Ingredients are listed in detail, along with allergy notes if a dish includes nuts or soy. Ask the staff questions when modifying your order for AIP.
- 5 Points Local in San Antonio, TX – They say right on their menu that they want to be able to serve all customers, from vegan to paleo. However, the menu isn't paleo automatically. I recommend treating it like an à-la-carte menu. See what's available and ask to “build your plate.”
- Oceans and Earth in Yorba Linda, CA – Much of their menu is easily adapted to paleo and with careful ordering, AIP should be possible. This restaurant also has a unique focus on nutrient-density. They have trademarked the name Living Salad: The greens for their menu are harvested from their own greenhouse in the morning with their roots intact, and not fully picked until right before serving, to retain maximum nutrients.
- Honey Hi in Los Angeles, CA – This little café is open for breakfast and lunch, and everything on the menu is gluten-free, gmo-free, vegetable oil-free, and refined sugar-free. From there, they focus on seasonal, high-quality, real food. The menu looks easily adapted to paleo, but since nightshades feature heavily, you'll have to make special requests for AIP. Also, since they're not dairy-free, be sure to ask whether ghee or butter is used in the preparation.
- The Little Beet: 6 locations in NY and DC – This casual eatery prides itself on accommodating diverse dietary needs. The restaurant is 100% gluten-free, and from there you can go to their website and filter their menu for dairy-free, soy-free, etc. to get a sense of how to build your paleo plate. There is no nightshade-free filter, so AIP-ers will need to ask questions before ordering.
- Little Beet Table: 2 locations in IL and NY – While named similarly to the restaurant above, this is an upscale restaurant with completely different owners. The menu is easily adapted to paleo or AIP, but you'll have to communicate well with your waitstaff when you order.
- Posana in Asheville, NC – This upscale restaurant creates it's menu from this philosophy: “Nourish everyone who walks through our doors.” The chef's wife has celiac disease, which inspired them to make the restaurant 100% gluten-free. With the focus on fresh food, much of the menu can be adapted to paleo, but you will need to make your requests very clear with the staff. Dairy features prominently in this menu and is likely the default cooking fat unless you request otherwise. They also have an excellent reputation for accommodating AIP requests.
- Little Gem in San Francisco, CA – This farm-to-table restaurant is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. The menu is easily adapted to the paleo diet. Just ask questions to clarify ingredients, especially if following AIP.
- Company Café in Dallas, TX – Open for breakfast and lunch, this restaurant has two items labeled paleo on the menu and many more that can be adapted. However, they specialize in gluten-free comfort food, which means there's a lot of non-paleo gluten free bread, bread crumbs and batter used in recipes. Be sure to clarify ingredients when placing your order, especially if you're AIP.
- Nourish Café in Gilbert, AZ – This little café is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and peanut-free. They have a great allergy key on the menu with PL indicating paleo. They pride themselves on being able to accommodate people with food allergies. So if you're AIP, choose the “Build Your Own Nourish Bowl” option and clarify the ingredients in the dressings before making your choice.
- Verde Cocina in Portland, OR – A gluten-free restaurant with a Mexican flair, they go out of their way to help people with special diets. They use a PF code to note paleo-friendly options on their menu, but they often require adaptations. Since nightshades feature heavily in Mexican cuisine, people following the AIP will need to ask if the chef can prepare a nightshade-free meal.
- Fresh Levant Bistro in Raleigh, NC – The owner of this restaurant has autoimmune disease and I'm told she follows the AIP herself. However, nothing on the menu is automatically AIP. Everything is gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO. From there, the menu is coded for dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free selections (but they rarely overlap). If you ask questions and clarify ingredients, you should be able to adapt a good portion of the menu to paleo. However, AIP is trickier here. Almost nothing on the breakfast menu looks adaptable, and only a few items on the dinner menu. However, I'm told they will work with AIP customers to help them find a meal they can safely enjoy.
- Kye's in Santa Monica, CA – This is a restaurant that specializes in “sandwiches without the bread.” Instead, each is wrapped in either nori, romaine, or collard greens. You can order any of them “paleo-style” where they remove the rice and add a cauliflower/almond meal mash. For AIP, ask questions to help you modify your order.
- Oca in New York City, NY – This unique Brazilian restaurant creates skillet meals that start with tapioca starch to create the “oca” – a paper-thin pancake. You then add your choice of toppings. They have a large à-la-carte menu, allowing you to easily choose a paleo plate with AIP options as well. The only non-paleo items on the menu are corn and dairy.
- Sassy Spoon in Minneapolis, MN – This fast-casual restaurant isn't paleo, but it's definitely real-food friendly. Their beef bolognese is served over spaghetti squash, their pizza is built on a yuca crust, and both their waffles and biscuits are grain-free. However, they don't limit themselves to all paleo ingredients, so ask the staff questions to help you place a strict paleo or AIP order.
- Brightwok Kitchen in Chicago, IL – This restaurant is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free and peanut-free. The cuisine is Asian-inspired, and you “build your bowl”, choosing your base, protein, vegetables and sauce. You can definitely build a paleo bowl, but many of their sauces contain soy. If strict paleo or AIP, just bring your own sauce. I especially like that each bowl comes with your choice of 4 vegetables in addition to your protein. After all, vegetables are the base of the AIP food pyramid.
- Firefin Poke: 5 locations in Chicago, IL – Similar to Brightwok, this is another “build your own bowl” restaurant, but the focus is on the “poke” – a Hawaiian seafood tradition. You choose your base, seafood, dressing and toppings. Every offering is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free and salt-free. If you choose mixed greens as your base, it's paleo. Most of their sauces do contain soy, but they list the ingredients for you on the menu. For strict paleo or AIP, bring your own sauce. Note: while there are a few stools at Firefin, it's largely a takeout location.
- Asian Box: 8 locations in CA – Another “build a plate” restaurant with Asian flavors. Everything on the menu is gluten-free and dairy-free, with exception of an optional addition to coffee. Since everything is made in-house, including the sauces, you should be able to ask for a complete ingredient list to help you choose paleo and/or AIP. Note: The Asian Box is designed to be a takeout restaurant.
- Inday Restaurant in New York City, NY – This “build your own bowl” restaurant focuses on Indian flavors. You choose your base, proteins, sides, garnishes and “crunch”, and they have some great variety in their bases including cauliflower “rice” or a roast squash “steak”. This looks easily adaptable to paleo, but I recommend asking questions, especially if you're AIP as nightshades feature highly in Indian cooking.
- Agno Grill in Philadelphia, PA – This “build your own plate” restaurant focuses on Mediterranean flavors. To make a paleo meal, start with salad as your base. You'll have a choice of meat and vegetable toppings. When it comes to sauces, they have both paleo and AIP options. Just clarify ingredients with the staff.
- Pok the Raw Bar in Dallas, TX – This restaurant provides “sushi in a bowl”. Fresh fish is flown in daily, and they try to source their vegetables locally whenever possible. Everything's gluten-free, and they offer 3 paleo bases (cauliflower “rice”, kale, and kelp/zucchini noodles), 2 paleo proteins (tuna and salmon). The sauces are the wildcard, because they don't list ingredients on their website. For paleo, clarify ingredients when making your selection. For AIP, I recommend bringing your own sauce.
- Five on Black: 5 locations in MT & CO – Are you sensing a theme with the 100% gluten-free “build your own meal” restaurants? They're great, because it makes it much easier to accommodate special diets. This restaurant focuses on Brazilian flavors. You can definitely order paleo here, but since much of the menu automatically includes spices, you'll need to ask the staff questions to modify your order for AIP.
- Eat Fresh Kitchen: 4 locations in FL – Another “build your own plate” restaurant with lots of paleo options. For AIP, ask the staff to clarify the ingredients.
- GrabbaGreen: 20 locations throughout USA – This is an exciting chain because they are adding new locations all the time. Their menu is gluten-free, GMO-free, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free. Their proteins are seasoned very simply with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. To make a paleo meal, choose the build-your-own option and bring your own dressing. (Their dressings contain non-paleo ingredients, such as soy, seed oils, dairy, and agave, in addition to nightshades.) If you're AIP, you'll want to have reintroduced black pepper successfully to eat a full meal here, but for strict AIP, you can get a smoothie or side salad with fruits and veggies only.
- Seoul Spice in Washington, DC – Our final “build your own meal” restaurant focuses on Korean cuisine. For paleo, build a salad, and add protein, veggies, sauce, and toppings. Since all of the meat appears to be pre-marinated, you may not be able to eat AIP here. Ask about the ingredients.
- Bedrock Eats & Sweets Market Café in Memphis, TN – Dairy features heavily on the menu, and some entrées contain corn or oats, but this restaurant does lean toward a paleo philosophy. Avoid the waffles (they contain whey protein and soy lecithin), but with help from the staff, you should be able to find a strict paleo offering elsewhere on the menu. I don't recommend this restaurant for people following the AIP, since eggs and nightshades also feature heavily in their recipes.
- T. Loft: 4 locations in KS & MO – This chain of health cafés offer fresh-pressed juices and simple meals made from whole food ingredients. They actually have a “Primal Bowl” on their menu, which is their automatic paleo option (it's also dairy-free.) But since they make each meal to order, they should be able to adapt many menu items for paleo and AIP customers.
- Mason Dixon Bistro in Huntsville, AL – This little bistro began as a gluten-free bakery and then expanded to include breakfast and lunch. Their menu includes a key: P, DF, EF, V, SF. P stands for Paleo. However, it would appear that they don't consider goat cheese to be dairy, so if you're truly dairy-intolerant, you'll want to confirm ingredients when you place your order (this is true when it says DF for Dairy-free on the menu also). For AIP, salads are your best bet, but you will need to make some modifications and clarify dressing ingredients.
- Gluten Free Miracles in Lexington, KY – Another bakery that expanded to offer breakfast and lunch. Their menu includes a paleo bread option for sandwiches and a paleo pizza crust option as well. However, they sometimes run out of these selections, so they recommend calling in advance to verify what's in stock. For AIP, salad is your only option – just ask them to skip the nuts and clarify salad dressing ingredients.
- Pushkin's Restaurant in Sacramento, CA – This little breakfast and lunch place isn't paleo to begin with, but it has a menu that can be easily adapted. Just clarify ingredients and make substitutions as necessary. For AIP, a special-order salad is your best bet.
- Impact Kitchen in Toronto, Canada – This restaurant is where real-food vegan and paleo diets intersect. The meals start with vegetables and flavorful non-dairy sauces, with meat and seafood options for the paleo crowd and gluten-free grain and legume options for the vegan crowd. The only dairy on the menu is butter and whey protein as optional additions to beverages. They also have a reputation for accommodating AIP requests. Just clarify ingredients with the staff and adapt your order accordingly.
- In the Pink in Malmö, Sweden – Another restaurant with a real-food philosophy that strives to accommodate both vegan and paleo diets. Some of the menu is paleo “as is” and other items are easily adapted. For AIP, clarify ingredients and modify your order as needed.
- Gasthaus Zum Wohl in Vienna, Austria – This restaurant is 100% gluten-free and while they advertise also being 100% lactose-free, that's not the same as dairy free. They do have cheese and clarified butter on the menu. They also have an allergen key and I've been told that P stands for paleo, but that tag is listed next to the cheese plate and many bread options. So, definitely clarify all ingredients when placing your order. If you communicate well with your server, many of items look easily adapted to paleo.
- Farmstand in London, England – This casual eatery is gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. The menu looks quite paleo-friendly, and it's based on an à-la-carte model. You choose your main course and 2 side dishes. Just confirm ingredients with the staff and modify accordingly. Since the food appears to come pre-spiced and marinated, it might be challenging to eat AIP here.
- Noglu in Paris, France – This little café is 100% gluten-free with dairy-free options. The menu is small and changes daily, but they always have a burger and salad on the menu, which can be combined for a paleo meal. Just be sure to clarify ingredients with the staff. Since much of the menu is prepared in advance, it might be hard to eat AIP here.
- Caffé Strada in Melbourne, Australia – This little restaurant began as a bakery and expanded to a café that serves breakfast and lunch. You will need to adapt the menu for paleo or AIP, but it has plenty of possibilities. Ask questions to clarify ingredients.
Paleo-Friendly Food Trucks
I put these in a separate list, because they have limited hours and limited menus, and you don't get the added relaxation of sit-down service. However, they are still a great option for quick, inexpensive, paleo food.
- Cultured Caveman in Portland, OR – Open M-F for lunch, the entire menu is 100% paleo and also includes some AIP options. (Click the menu item for a full ingredient list). Also remember that Cultured Caveman has a larger menu at their full restaurant location.
- Jurassic Cart in Portland, Or – Open Tues-Fri for lunch & dinner. The only non-paleo item on the menu is goat cheese. You'll have to adapt the menu for AIP, but they advertise that they are happy to accommodate dietary needs and preferences.
- Picnik is Austin, TX – Open 7 days a week, the only non-paleo items on the menu are quinoa in one meal and grass-fed butter is an optional addition to coffee. However, all of the food is prepared in advance and therefore cannot be modified. The only AIP option is bone broth. AIP-ers will have better luck at their full restaurant location (see above).
- Mitchel's Paleo Food Truck in Antwerp, Belgium – Open Thursdays and Fridays and 100% paleo. The menu changes daily, so you'll need to ask if they can accommodate AIP.
- Elemental Eats in Wellington, New Zealand – 100% paleo, they move around to various locations. Follow their Facebook page for details. Nightshades feature heavily on the menu. Whether they can accommodate AIP will depend on how much of the food is prepared in advance.
- Craved by Caveman in Melbourne, Australia – Australia's 1st 100% paleo food truck, they also move around to various locations. Follow their Instagram page for details. Whether they can accommodate AIP will depend on how much of the food is prepared in advance.
Let's Thank Them with Our Business
The majority of new restaurants fail within the first 3 years, and when you're catering to a niche audience you're taking a higher risk. Let's thank these restaurants and keep them in business! We can't expect them to be there for our birthday, if we don't support them throughout the year. If you're lucky enough to live nearby, become a regular customer. For the rest of us, we have a wish list of places to visit. Time to plan some travel!
Minimum Requirements to Add a Restaurant to this List
I would love to expand this list, but my standards are high, my friends! If you know of a restaurant that meets these requirements, comment below. And fair warning – I won't approve comments from restaurants that don't qualify. There's a reason this list is special.
- In order to make the list of 100% paleo restaurants, every item on the menu has to conform to a strict paleo template.
- In order to make any of the lists, the restaurant has to be 100% gluten-free. That means no wheat anywhere on the menu. Having a “gluten-free menu” is not enough to qualify.
- At least 50% of the menu has to be paleo-friendly. No gluten-free pizza, pasta or vegan/vegetarian food joints.
- It has to be a restaurant that serves meals (not a bakery, juice shop, coffee shop, etc.).
- The restaurants on these lists include food trucks, cafés and upscale eateries. The one thing they all have in common is that you can spontaneously stop by and grab a meal. While there are great paleo catering and meal delivery services, they require advance ordering and therefore don't qualify for this list.
I realize that you might have a favorite restaurant that doesn't meet this criteria. That's OK! It is indeed possible to find local places that can accommodate our special diet, and it's a real gift when that happens. Here's the thing, though: In restaurants, there are a lot of staff involved with food preparation, and it's really easy for one to make a mistake or simply be misinformed. The less allergy-friendly the restaurant, the higher the risk of exposure to intolerant foods. I created this post to discover the places where relaxation can be returned to our restaurant experience. These restaurants are the dream!
5 Tips for Ordering in Non-Paleo Restaurants
While it's exciting that there are any 100% paleo restaurants on the planet at all, most of us don't live near one. So, here are my best tips for ordering a paleo and/or AIP meal in a non-paleo restaurant:
- The Eat Well Guide helps you find farm-to-table restaurants. Those are people who care about food and health and are more likely to accommodate special dietary needs.
- Tip Well. When you greet your waiter, tell them that you have food allergies so will need him to ask the chef some questions. But also tell him before you order that you tip very well for this extra service (and be sure you do!)
- Look at the menu like everything is available à-la-carte. Most of the menu items will include foods you can't eat, but you can likely find a meal you can create.
- Use the word “allergy”. This is something restaurant staff take more seriously than “food intolerance.”
- Keep it simple. Don't talk about your diagnosis or every single ingredient that affects you negatively. Instead scan the menu for something that you believe you can eat and then ask him to chef to check for any hidden ingredients that you can't eat. For me, I always have them doublecheck it's gluten, dairy and nightshade-free, and I explain this means no butter and no red pepper spices, including paprika. Your list might be different.
More Travel Tips
I've written a series of articles to guide you through the autoimmune protocol, step by step. It includes FAQ, mistakes to avoid, book reviews, and more. Click here to see the whole list.