Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, with reportedly 110 people moving here daily.
And those 110 newbies—(and everyone else)—has to eat right?
Hence why the local food scene and restaurant industry is booming as well.
(Chain restaurants are almost a sin to eat at in Austin, unless it’s the ‘local’ Whole Foods—i.e. the first-ever Whole Foods in the world).
Couple this growth with another claim to fame: one of the fittest and healthiest cities in the country, and you have PLENTIFUL OPTIONS for eating a clean meal.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, bodybuilder, gluten-free, Celiac, dairy-free, paleo, ‘eat real food’ or ‘eat good food’ adherent, chances are you won’t have difficulty finding something—practically anywhere—to fancy your palate.
Every time I venture to a new city, I love to check out the local restaurant and ‘happening’ scene—becoming one with the locals and city culture.
When looking for a restaurant, I often Google search “Paleo-friendly restaurants” or “real food” restaurants, and am always pleasantly surprised when an insightful ‘Eating Paleo in ____ (city)” guide shows up.
Google search that for Austin, and unfortunately, ONLY a handful of blog posts and guides come up:
Mel Joulwan’s guide.
Three Diets One Dinner’s write up.
Juli Bauer’s one-day write up.
And Yelp’s Guide.
If you are looking for some guidance in navigating the Austin paleo (i.e. real food) foodie scene, look no further. Here are several options (aside from the often listed: 24 Diner and Picnik Paleo food truck—both AWESOME places to check out as well!).
Whole Foods N. Lamar & The Domain-EVERYTHING!
405 N Lamar
Admittedly, one of my favorite places to ‘grab and go’ in town. “A grocery store?!” You say. Yup-but the kingdom of them all! Austin’s Downtown North Lamar location is the International Headquarters (i.e. the Mecca) of them all.
So what to get? So many options! Some gems for noshing include:
- The Taco Bar Station (Request a Taco Bowl/Cup with eggs + guacamole + ground sausage + veggies)
- Health Starts Here Station: Try a sweet potato bowl with chicken + sautéed kale + curry sauce or other sauce (optional)
- Made-to-Order Sashimi, and sea-weed-wrapped rolls at the Sushi station
- Lettuce wrapped hearty turkey, ham or roast beef sandwiches (extra meat), plus avocado, pickles, mustard, tomato, and whatever veggies you prefer
- Rotessire chicken with sides from the salad bar and hot bar (try the roasted beets, Health Starts Here sweet potato hash, kale and avocado salad, roasted butternut squash, and more).
- Fish Market. A grocery store and fine dining? Only at Whole Foods. Fresh fish is grilled and presented
Wholly Cow Burger -Burgers
3010 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
If you don’t want to wait in line at Hopdoddy, Wholly Cow is your best bet for a good quality burger: Grass-fed. They even have a burger specifically for you and me: The Fit Cross (i.e. Paleo Burger). A grass-fed patty sandwiched between two portabella mushroom caps with bacon, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles and mustard. And, unlike Hopdoddy, they have sweet potato fries! (Brownie points). If you’re not feeling the beef, go with a simple grilled chicken breast—an alternative to red meat.
Counter Café- American
626 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
Another great egg-based breakfast and lunchtime burger! Order your eggs anyway with nitrate-free bacon or sausage, and for lunch, try the classic Counter burger or curry-seasoned Chicken Burger—(add a fried egg, bacon, grilled Portobello, onions or jalapenos if you so please). And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the grilled Texas Quail or more conventional grilled Pork Chop alongside a house or spinach salad
909 W Mary St, Austin, TX 78704
Yum is all I have to say. Thai-Fresh is one of “those” places you can depend on to serve quality and local, including:
- Grassfed Beef from Bastrop Cattle Company
- Chicken from Dewberry Hills Farm and Buddy’s Natural
- Local pasture-raised eggs from Milagro Farm
- Pork from Peach Creek Farm
- Seafood from San Miguel Seafood
- Seasonal Veggies from local Texas farmers
A super-casual environment, order up your meal at the cashier, while you are tempted by dozens of coconut-based ice creams and vegan, gluten-free sweets and treats lining the counter. Thai-Fresh is also a coffee shop, so if you need to set up shop and work for a bit, or need a place to chill out and read the paper, you’re in luck. On the menu, for starters, you have to try their Coconut Soup (Lemongrass, galangal root, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves & mushrooms in a spicy and sour coconut broth) and Raw Kale salad (Texas organic kale with raw pecans, cranberries, ginger, bell peppers, sesame seeds—sans soy-sauce dressing). As for the mains, bring on the curry! Pick your meat (grassfed beef, pastured pork, gulf shrimp, pork belly, bone-in chicken, or lamb/goat. If you like spicy, go for the red curry (flavor of roasted chilies & fresh Thai basil), or a milder flavor—opt for a stir fry (Mixed vegetables, san soy sauce). Their fresh salads are also anything but boring. I recommend the Crispy Pork Belly Salad (Crispy pork belly, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, mint, cilantro and shallots), or Mixed Green Salad w/ Lemon Thai Basil, topped with chicken, shrimp or pork.
1201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
An experience, to say the least. Odd Duck is an unconventional restaurant—instead of ordering one dish, you order several bites for your whole table from a menu that can be specifically catered to your dietary preferences (tell em you are gluten-free and/or paleo and they will be happy to accommodate). A few notables include: Smoked oyster pizza, scamorza, collards, bacon; the crab salad and smoked redfish with avocado and mustard seeds; sweet potato fried skins; pulled pork; and of course, duck egg salad.
Magnolia Café-Breakfast & American
2304 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX, 78703
The dive everyone went to after a late night mixer or crazy college excursion (1 a.m. field trips to Mount Bonnell?). While they are known for their pancakes, they have just about everything you can imagine on their extensive menu. Perhaps not a 5-star restaurant, but still something to please your fancy for a local restaurant with some traditional staples: Omelettes made how you like, and a gluten-free menu with accomodations easily made to your liking: Chicken or shrimp with the Love Veggie platter or California Salad are my go-tos (no jack cheese please).
1400 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
My favorite burger joint in town—be prepared to wait in a line, but worth the wait for the presentation of ground meat. Try any patty (bison, beef, turkey) atop their organic spinach & arugula (Beets, Texas Goat Cheese, Toasted Pecans, Sugar Snap Peas, Gala Apple) or baby kale salad (Baby Kale Leaves, Arugula, Feta, Roasted Butternut Squash, Roasted Corn, Pickled Red Onions, Spiced Pepitas, Dates). Make sure you request “grass-fed” for your burger patty; and if you are feeling 80/20 in particular, order up their famous Truffle fries.
Salty Sow– Americano
1917 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722
Eclectic. That is the only way to describe Salty Sow. Eat “family style” and order a little bit of everything. Must-haves include the Truffled deviled eggs, Pastrami salmon, Triple fried duck fat fries, Warm olives—and that’s just starters! Their Chicken Liver Mouse and Smoked Salmon are wonderful accompaniments as well as the roasted organic beets, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, pot-licker collard greens and crispy Brussels sprout leaves. Onto the main event, the duck breast, beef shoulder, crisp chicken thighs or petite-bone-in filets can’t be beat! Again, like most restaurants in Austin, tell ‘em you are Paleo and they will kindly accommodate.
Piranha Killer Sushi- Sushi
207 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX 78701
Give up on eating sushi because of the rice? Think again! Piranha will gladly make any roll or order you like rice-free (cucumber and seaweed based rolls). Go to town! All the classics you know and love (California, spicy tuna, avocado, salmon—you name it, you’ve got it). Try the sashimi roll: salmon, crab, scallions wrapped in hand-peeled cucumber, Rainbow Row (crab, cucumber, avocado, topped with assorted fish), or Love at First Sigh roll (charbroiled fish over a classic California roll—made how you like).
Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar-Seafood
1400 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Seafood in Austin? You betcha! Perla’s is a bit more on the ‘finer’ side of the dining scene. Oysters of course are a popular hit here, but everything is pretty darn good. Fresh, simple market catches of the day include Yellowfin seared tuna, Equadorian Mahi-mahi, North Atlantic Swordfish, Texas Gulf Redfish and Hawaiian Kona Kampachi, along with steaks. Order alongside the Oak Grilled Brussle Sprouts, Roasted Parsnips or Grilled Asparagus, and you’ve got yourself a meal.
1003 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704
You can’t come to Texas without getting barbecue. Although Franklin’s gets all the hype (and is plenty worth the wait if you are a tourist; people are known to wait for 3-4 hours to be seated daily), there are plenty of other barbecue places to be had. Terry Black’s has been around the block now for quite some time (the most popular location is in Lockhart about 30-40 minutes away, but if you can’t make it, check this one out). Take a look at the menu—to ‘make it Paleo’, all you got to do is order your meat—sans sauce. Brisket, turkey, chopped beef can’t be beat. Grab a side of green beans or cole-slaw if you must and you’ve got yourself a meal.
6610 N. Lamar Blvd. in the Violet Crown Shopping Center
Another top-BBQ lister with plenty of brisket, ribs, turkey, and pork loin to go around. Order the cucumber-and-tomato salad or lemon vinaigrette cole slaw and you’re golden.
Lambert’s –BBQ & Steaks
401 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701
Rounding out the barbecue list, Lambert’s is the perfect serene dinnertime setting (i.e. more upscale dining)—with more than just brisket on the menu. Half-local chicken, rainbow trout, pulled pork, ribs, steaks, fish and shrimp with “family style” sides (like the garlic roasted broccoli, bacon-and-butter Brussels sprouts, jicama and carrot salad and bacon-braised collard greens).
South Congress Café– Brunch/American
1600 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Known for their awesome brunch (local eggs how you like with veggies or a hash with fingerling potatoes and collards), and lighter fare salads (I like the 1
Baby Kale & Avocado Salad with kale, red onion, avocado, cotija cheese, pine nuts, jalapeno agave vinaigrette, soft boiled egg), South Congress Café is the perfect way to start your day before tackling Austin’s sights and sounds. Highly accommodating as well—if anything strikes your fancy, don’t hesitate to ask for gluten-free, paleo-friendly options.
2027 Anchor Ln, Austin, TX 78723
East side is where it’s at for dinner. Contigo is known for its creative concoctions: Try an appetizer of Pork Pastrami or Pork Liver Pâté, a Small plate of Spaghetti Squash with olives, Steak Tartare, or Kale with pine nuts and orange; and for the main event: Dewberry Hills Chicken with butternut squash, turnip and sage; Daily fresh sausage or burger sans bun; or Crispy Chicken Thigh (with sweet potato, bacon, and pecans—ask for no cheese).
1209 E 11th St, Austin, TX, 78702
Breakfast and brunch consisted of the simple seasonal omelette: pasture-raised eggs with mixed greens and veggies, and requested avocado on the side of course. Best. Eggs. Ever. Other yummy choices include: poached eggs in a bowl, or fried eggs with bangers or bacon. Dinnertime winners include: the gulf shrimp appetizer (fresh!), and the seasonal salads (winter= ‘the beets’ salad with fennel, orange, mint and radish; or winter kale salad with fennel, broccoli, red onion, candied pecan, and feta), before the main event (a quality meat—roasted chicken pork loin or seared grouper with sautéed greens and roasted veggies in place of the polenta or potato mash).
2113 Manor Rd, Austin, TX 78722
Eastside Café was one of the first restaurants on the east side before the east side was cool and was actually a pioneer in the urban farming movement, using herbs and vegetables from the garden on its property (The majority of veggies are grown on site in the garden out back). Named one of Austin’s 10 Best Restaurants by “USA Today,” you’d probably never guess it judging by its simplistic home-like appearance on the outside. The staff is friendly, down to earth and will take care of you. Ask for the non-gluten menu with plenty of fresh hearty salads and fish dishes (red ruby trout, grilled salmon and the tuna steak—without the sauces or sugary marinades). For brunch, you will find plenty of eggs to go around (I love the smoked salmon eggs benedict).
Hyde Park Bar & Grill-American
4206 Duval St, Austin, TX 78751
The “Cheers” of the Hyde Park neighborhood district—Hyde Park Bar & Grill is one of those places where “everyone knows your name.” The waitstaff is super flexible, and used to requests for multiple variations of dishes (particularly gluten-free). There are quite a few dishes with special sauces and breadings on them, but simply ask for any meat you like—grilled, baked or roasted, and they are happy to accommodate: Pan roasted chicken, roasted pork shoulder, tilapia, salmon, brisket or a burger—sans bun. For sides, you gotta love their Bacon Braised Collards, Spice Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Grilled Broccoli and Steamed Green Beans for sides.
2525 W Anderson Ln #300, Austin, TX 78757
One word: Curry. Pick and choose your favorite curry with your meat of choice (Chicken, Lamb, Shrimp, Vegetables, Paneer) and preferred spice level. I go for the Tikka Masala (Mouthwatering creamy tomato curry infused with fresh herbs and ground spices) or classic coconut (Smooth onion sauce infused with fresh ginger and garlic, finished with coconut milk). All dishes come with Basmati Rice, but if you don’t do rice, simply ask for LOTS of fresh veggies. In fact, Vegetable Jalfrezi curry includes: a stir fry of cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, green beans & cabbage, sauteed with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic & curry leaves. If you’re not feeling the curry, opt for the chicken or lamb and veggie kabobs, or a fresh green salad with chicken or lamb on top.
1208 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78702
A little neighborhood grocery store feel with a fresh flare. Breakfast, lunch and dinner—you choose. Order the breakfast tacos, sans tortilla (recommend the house-made chorizo, cage-free eggs, sweet potato + tomatillo-jalapeño slaw) or some scrambled eggs and fresh veggies with the Veggie Plate. Plenty of fresh salads for your mid-day meal, topped with roasted chicken or some chicken/tuna salad (if not strict Paleo). I also like the beet salad with hazelnuts, pickled onions and olive oil. Dinnertime is burgers sans buns and avocado, of course.
Bob’s Steak & Chop House– Steakhouse
301 Lavaca St, Austin, TX 78701
Looking for a local steak place? Don’t confuse “Texas Land & Cattle” or Ruth Chris with local fare—Bob’s is where it is at. Rack of lamb, roasted duck and of course, every type of filet you can imagine. Seafood is also an option, and plenty of veggies: asparagus, broccoli, spinach & mushrooms, green beans and salads.
Matt’s El Rancho-Mexican
2613 S Lamar Blvd Austin, TX 78704
Like barbecue, Austin is known for it’s Mexican food—and Matt’s El Rancho is an Austin staple. Go for the taco salad with extra guac (sans sour cream and cheese), or the Fajita Plate (beef, shrimp or chicken) with peppers, grilled veggies, grilled onions, salsa and avocado. Simple grilled fish, steaks and chicken are also easy go-to options.
Taco Deli– Mexican
4200 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78756
Casual dining with little to know wait. Order any taco (pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, salmon or Gulf Drum) in a cup or lettuce wrap with sautéed spinach, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, and/or of course, guacamole.
Galaxy Café- American
4616 Triangle Ave, Austin, TX 78751
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. While Galaxy seems like nothing special they have a menu to please the masses. Check out the gluten-free menu, with dishes you don’t want to miss including: their hormone-free scrambled eggs and nitrate-free bacon, fresh natural burgers (no bun), grilled salmon, prosciutto chicken (All natural, hormone-free chicken breast in our homemade citrus marinade, topped with roasted tomatoes, thinly sliced prosciutto and fresh basil), and Buddha Bowl (Steamed greens, extra sweet potatoes-and no rice, mushrooms, free-range grilled chicken and seasonal veggies).
515 S Congress Ave
Austin’s local version of Chipotle! Grab a ‘burrito bowl’ filled with grass-fed steak, slow-roasted carnitas, all-natural chicken or 100% ground beef, guacamole and all the veggies you like. Fresh and more local love than the big ol’ chain!
Quality Seafood– Seafood
5621 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751
As the name implies, quality seafood is what you get at this no-frills and laces hole in the wall kind of place. The outside looks like it would just be a small market or grocery store, but what finds its way to your plate is a different story. Simple and original: peel n’ eat shrimp is the way to start the meal off, followed by a seafood taco (lettuce wrapped) with avocado pico de gallo, or a ‘reel-em’ dinner of trout, bacon-wrapped scallops, mahi mahi, snapper or black drum with a side of broccoli or green beans. If you’re not in a fishy mood, they also have chicken.
1224 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Walk the streets and browse in the shops of South Congress—and if you just so happen to get hungry, stop by Snack Bar (and skip the lines and waits of most other places). Notables include: the avocado and egg BLT (sans bread), the ceviche (mahi mahi and scallops based), grilled broccolini or Brussels sprouts (flash fried), olives and pistachios, fried cauliflower, and Farm salad with chicken, shrimp, or steak, avocado and/or a local egg.
2032 S Lamar, Austin, TX 78704
Dairy free ice-cream…need I say more? Yes, there is still sugar in the sweet treats, but sometimes…it’s worth it. My fave? Coconut Chia Chai: Crunchy chia seeds speckle our spiced coconut chai tea ice cream made with The Steeping Room’s Kashmiri chai tea blend.
If you’re visiting Austin, I’m not sure how long you are in town but hopefully there’s enough options here to keep your palate satiated.
If you happen to be a local, lucky us! Find you’re fav spots, and if you happen to find some others to add to the list, let me know and we can grow it together!