“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 worries about food reactions. Wouldn’t it be great to feel that again? That’s the goal of this guide.
When you’re on a healing diet for autoimmune disease, 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 mean it truly is. When I double-checked menus, I found lots of non-paleo ingredients. Some “paleo” restaurants even had wheat on the menu! 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.
Note: In each section below, restaurants are listed alphabetically by US state first, then alphabetically by other countries.
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. It’s a small list (and honestly it’s gotten smaller since I first wrote this post in 2017). Niche restaurants are a challenging business, so if you live near one of these, visit them today!
- Festal Paleo Café in Vancouver, Canada – This is the first 100% paleo restaurant in Canada. They began as a meal delivery service and expanded to a restaurant location in 2017. Their goal is to feed people for both health and joy, and they have a wide and varied menu. For AIP, ask the staff to help you modify your order.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 care about food quality and sustainability, prioritizing local, seasonal, organic, wild-caught, grass-fed, and pastured ingredients whenever possible
- Sapiens Paleo Kitchen in Scottsdale, AZ – This dinner restaurant blends a paleo philosophy with French cuisine. Dairy is the only non-paleo item on the menu, and everything can be ordered dairy-free. They make all of their food in-house from scratch, including their sauces and paleo breads. They also pride themselves on accommodating special diets, so if you’re following the AIP, ask the staff to help you adapt your order.
- Nectarine Grove in Leucadia, CA – 90% of the menu at this little café is paleo, with a few non-paleo options to satisfy vegan customers (legumes, dairy, and gluten-free grains). There’s a clear allergy key on the menu, with P standing for paleo. You’ll find salads, burgers, bowls, breakfasts, paleo pizzas, bone broth, kombucha and kefir on tap, as well as an in-house bakery. For AIP, ask the staff to help you adapt 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.
- 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 have an AIP menu, and they know the protocol inside and out. Their AIP offerings are grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nightshade-free, nut-free, and seed-free. There’s even a key at the bottom of the menu noting where black pepper is included in a dish (a stage one AIP reintro), and which dishes can be prepared without it.
- Bulletproof Cafe in Santa Monica, 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.
- Just Be Kitchen in Denver, CO – Built on the idea of bringing healthy fast food to Denver, they serve breakfast, lunch, and have a broth bar as well. The only non-paleo items on their menu are grass-fed butter and cheese as optional add-ons. For AIP, ask the staff to help you adapt your order. They pride themselves on helping people with special dietary restrictions. I also love their mission statement: “To serve mindful mouthfuls from a conscious kitchen with kindness on a plate.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”).
- Picnik in Austin, TX – Picnik began as a food truck, and in 2017 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.
- Ruggles Black in Houston, TX – Open for lunch and dinner, this restaurant is designed to be paleo and keto-friendly. The only non-paleo items on the menu are dairy, gluten-free soy sauce, and optional gluten-free bread. You’ll find lots of American favorites including tacos, burgers, pizza, and fish and chips – all made with paleo ingredients. For AIP, ask if the chef can make something special for you.
- Wilde Kitchen in Brisbane, Australia – This breakfast and lunch café was also founded on a paleo philosophy. Non-paleo items on the menu include dairy, gluten-free grains and chia seeds. However, their menu contains many strict paleo offerings, and has a clear allergen key. For AIP, you’ll have to adapt the menu; clarify ingredients with the staff. This café also gets bonus points for nutrient-density: many of their meals include fermented vegetables, and they boost their smoothies with collagen and their bone broth with liver powder.
- 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.
- Bare Whole Foods 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- The Preacher’s Son in Bentonville, AR – The chef of this restaurant has celiac disease which inspired the 100% gluten-free menu. It’s not a paleo restaurant, but there are plenty of paleo options, and since everything is cooked to order, they should also be able to accommodate AIP here. Just communicate your needs clearly with the staff.
- Intentional Foods in Mesa, AZ – The mission of this restaurant is to be allergy-friendly. Their menu contains no gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, or nuts. They also make everything in-house, to be sure there is no cross-contamination. While much of their menu contains non-paleo ingredients like grains and legumes, they allow substitutions. I spoke with the owner, and she said they try to accommodate as many dietary restrictions as possible. They can make anything to order, with the exception of their chicken salad which is prepared in advance. So, this restaurant is AIP-friendly, too.
- Asian Box: 8 locations in CA – This “build a plate” restaurant specializes in 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.
- Healthy Creations Café in Encinitas, CA – This breakfast and lunch café also has a detailed allergy key on their menu, showing vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and dairy-free meals. However, there are more paleo options than appear at first glance. You can turn their sandwiches into a paleo meal by substituting paleo bread or coconut wraps. Their power bowls can be made paleo-style with a roasted cauliflower base. And most of their salads can be made paleo with minor substitutions. They do make everything in-house, including sauces and dressings, so should be able to give you details on ingredients. For AIP, the trick will be whether the food is all prepped in advance or if they can accommodate special orders. Call ahead to inquire.
- 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.
- Sibling by Pushkin’s 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.
- As Quoted in San Francisco, CA – This breakfast and lunch café was founded on the belief that food can be medicine. In addition to being 100% gluten-free, most of their menu is also dairy-free, nut-free, and soy-free. They feature local seasonal vegetables, pastured meat and eggs, bone broth-based soups, as well as salads and sandwiches. While not a paleo restaurant, there are plenty of paleo options. Just clarify ingredients with the staff and adapt your order accordingly.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Seoul Spice in Washington, DC – This “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.
- Fresh Kitchen: 10 locations in FL – Another “build your own plate” restaurant with lots of paleo options. In addition to being gluten-free, most of the menu is dairy-free and refined sugar-free as well. They make their own sauces, and olive oil is their primary cooking oil. For AIP, ask the staff to clarify the ingredients.
- 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.
- Roots Café in Westbrook, ME – This breakfast and lunch café makes everything in-house with attention to quality. Paleo options are eggs, lettuce-wrap sandwiches, smoothies, soups, and salads. For AIP, a custom salad is your best bet. You may need to bring your own dressing.
- 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.
- Nourish Café in Columbia, MO – This small café serves breakfast and lunch and is built on a philosophy of food as medicine. They pride themselves on serving all health-focused customers from paleo to vegan. In addition to being gluten-free, they’re also soy-free, corn-free, refined sugar-free, and refined oil-free. They serve sandwiches, wraps, salads, bowls, and smoothies. Much of the menu is easily modified to paleo. Just ask questions when you order. For AIP, it depends on whether the meat comes pre-seasoned. Call ahead to see if they can accommodate special orders.
- Rebel Roots Kitchen in Whitefish, MT – This clean eating café is located inside The Palace Bar and run by a former bartender who loves healthy food and wanted to share that with her community. Everything on the menu is gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. The vegetables are organic, the meat humanely raised, and the fish wild-caught. It’s a small, casual, Asian-Hawaiian inspired menu, and while it’s not 100% paleo, it’s very paleo-friendly. Cauliflower rice is the base for many dishes. Since this is a one-woman show, hours vary depending on the season.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 NY and IL – 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.
- Café Avalaun in Cleveland, OH – This restaurant is owned by a family who follow a primal lifestyle for their own health. The chef is even a certified health coach and familiar with many healing diets. While this isn’t a paleo restaurant, it is paleo-friendly. The menu has a detailed allergy key with some items labeled paleo. For the ones that aren’t, many can be modified with help from the staff. The chef also prides himself on accommodating special dietary needs, so if you’re following the AIP, ask for help with your order.
- Bastion Eat Well in Portland, OR – In addition to being gluten-free, they’re also soy-free and refined sugar-free, and the only dairy on their menu is ghee. It’s a breakfast and lunch restaurant with many paleo options including soups with a bone broth base, and grain-free versions of waffles, fried chicken, and tacos. For AIP, a personalized salad is your best bet. Clarify ingredients when ordering.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bounty on Broad in Memphis, TN – This upscale restaurant has a menu that changes seasonally, and everything is served family-style. That means it’s the perfect place to go with a group of friends, in order to sample more of the menu. It’s also “quietly gluten-free”, meaning many people who eat there don’t realize that no gluten ever crosses the threshold. They’re simply eating delicious, farm-to-table meals.
- Gather Kitchen in Dallas, TX – This restaurant is 100% grain-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. Paleo labels are are marked clearly on the menu, and they even have Whole30 options. It’s a “build your own bowl” restaurant. You choose a base, veggies, protein, sauce, and garnish. For AIP, ask questions about the spices used in cooking, and bring your own sauce.
- Vibrant in Houston, TX – Open for breakfast and lunch, this restaurant is gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, non-GMO, and refined oil-free (they only use coconut, avocado and extra-virgin olive oil). Paleo options include soups, salads, eggs, salmon, and house-made sausage. Their breads and pancakes aren’t paleo (made with gluten-free grains and legumes), but their pastries are made with coconut and nut-based flours. For AIP, double-check ingredients, but it looks like their Golden Bone Broth Soup is AIP, and their salads can be adapted as well.
- Pharm Table in San Antonio, TX – This restaurant is based in Ayurvedic philosophy with a focus on nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods. There are plenty of paleo options on the menu including a “probiotic plate” of house-made ferments. However, due to the spices used throughout the menu, it would be challenging to eat AIP here. I recommend calling ahead of time to see if they can do a custom 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.
- 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.
- Covent Garden in Brisbane, Australia – An upscale restaurant that specializes in high tea, shared plates, charcuterie boards, and artisan entrées. They pride themselves on being allergy friendly and say they are committed to providing everyone with a stellar dining experience no matter your dietary requirements. Just be sure to communicate clearly with the staff.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tawa Bakery and Restaurant in Abu Dhabi, UAE – A 100% gluten-free bakery that also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is no paleo key on the menu, but there are plenty of options that look paleo-friendly (and even AIP-friendly) if you clarify ingredients and adapt accordingly.
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! There’s a reason this list is special. If you know of a restaurant that meets the following requirements, comment below.
- 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 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 casual 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:
- Research restaurants in advance. The Eat Well Guide helps you find farm-to-table restaurants, which serve high-quality food and are more likely to accommodate special dietary needs. Find Me Gluten-Free is a smartphone app where customers rate restaurants on their gluten-free options and safety measures.
- Tip well. When you greet your server, tell them that you have food allergies so will need them to ask the chef some questions. But also tell them 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 your server to check with the chef regarding any potential 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.
Other Travel Resources
This recipe roundup was first published in 2017 but is updated annually. Last update 2/8/23.