Friends, Followers, and Foodies:
For years and years I’ve searched all kinds of keywords and guides to find restaurants that had good clean food.
When I google “paleo” in New York City, I get steakhouses. When I google “farm to table” in Austin, I get restaurants who use some food from local farms but also use a lot of conventional products and bad quality oils. There is no directory out there to help me find the kind of restaurants that I want—ones that use only great ingredients and no crap. But now there is, because I created it!
Introducing Good Food Find, which is a list of GFF-approved restaurants!
How to Make the Good Food Fighter Approved Austin Restaurant List
- No Canola oil. Also, no corn, sunflower, safflower or soybean oil. Grapeseed oil (organic & expeller pressed) is passable but not preferred.
- Grassfed meat, pastured chicken and sustainable farm=raised fish and other seafood (or carefully vetted ocean or freshwater fish).
- Farm to table. Sources primarily from local, independent farms.
- Organic or traditionally farmed produce and/or follows the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen guidelines.
- Emphasis on vegetables.
- Very low or no gluten, low-grain with emphasis on ancient grains.
If a restaurant follows these basic healthy principles, they are also likely to serve real maple syrup, grass fed butter, and organic tofu—but you can always ask!
What is the Dirty Dozen?
Why are vegetable oils crap?
How do I vet restaurants?
I eat there. I check it out. I ask lots of questions. I talk to multiple staff. I interview the chefs and owners when possible. I look at their website. I call to follow up.
It’s not infallible, but it’s a good gauge. I wish there were an empirical method like a DNA swab that I could examine under a microscope to detect the presence or absence of pesticides and bad oils on food. If only the Good Food Fighter’s X-ray vision and Kale-inator (my superpower wand) could provide real data. But the best I can do is sneak into the kitchen. 😉
Good Food Fighter Approved Restaurant List
So, without further ado, here’s the List (in alphabetical order):
Austin Beer Garden Brewery (ABGB). They have some of the most unique and flavorful salads I’ve ever tasted—at least five to choose from on any given day! They are actually fun to eat, not just yummy. You know the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced because the menu changes every single day. The chef loves mixing sweet and savory. Today they are featuring a Spinach and Wagyu Flank Steak salad with blackberries, peas, tomatoes, radicchio, avocado, red onions, pomegranates, goat feta, and hemp seeds. One of my favorites are their Stuffed portobellas, today with pesto, artichoke hearts, spinach, roasted red onion, garlic, and feta. And check out this pizza: Lamb + mint-peashoot pesto, artichokes, red bells, pinenuts, taleggio, fontina, roasted red onions, basil, balsamic reduction. Where else would you find that? The chef has even been known to put cantaloupe on a pizza. If you’re going to have pizza, this is a trustworthy place, and their gluten-free crust is better quality than you’ll find almost anywhere else (smart flour made of sorghum, amaranth, and teff). Unfortunately, they use canola in their fryer, so avoid their fried foods. Website.
Chez Nous. These guys were doing Farm to Table 40 years ago—before the term was coined—and still are today. But they don’t advertise it, so when you have the best meal of your life, you probably don’t realize that it is also local, organic, and grassfed. Also, authentically French. Their Escargots are apparently magnificent and rival the ones my son ate in Paris. Snails aren’t my thing, so I often get their sumptuous Côtes d’agneau (lamb). Their soups and salads are rich and hearty. A few caveats: they serve bread with every meal, and it’s hard to resist, especially with their homemade butter. Also, they deep fry in peanut oil which is not my favorite. Otherwise, it’s olive oil all the way. Website.
Curcuma. They call themselves a modern approach to ancient traditions of healing with food. It’s a trailer but if enough people go there it’ll one day become a full-fledged restaurant. Built on the ayurvedic principles, every menu item utilizes superfoods and adaptogens as functional ingredients to maximize the potential of our bodies. They avoid all preservatives and processed foods and make everything from scratch including Golden Mylk (coconut milk with turmeric). Try their Kitchari Bowl: warm quinoa & mung bean topped with massaged organic spinach, avocado, pickled onion, ginger chutney, crispy chickpeas & turmeric tahini dressing. I don’t know about you, but I only like my spinach massaged😝. They also feature the vegetarian response to bone broth—Root Broth: astragalus, dandelion, burdock, ginger, turmeric. They use only the highest quality oils: extra virgin olive, extra virgin coconut, and avocado. Website.
District Kitchen. Chef-owned restaurant featuring middle-Eastern inspired New American Cuisine. They use locally sourced ingredients and sustainable seafood. Try the Moroccan Lamb Kabobs (half price at happy hour) and butternut squash bisque with coconut milk and pumpkin seeds. For more unusual offerings try the Bone Marrow on sourdough with chimichurri and bourbon fig jam. One caveat—it’s hard to pass on the bread here because it’s so good, but you can definitely go paleo if you want to! Website.
Emmer & Rye. This is a grain-based restaurant—so not for the Paleos amongst us—but the focus is ancient grains. That means that they are serious about bringing you a version of grain that you can’t find in most stores and restaurants—you would have to go directly to a mill. They actually mill their grains in-house, mostly using White Sonora Wheat, Blue Beard Durum and, of course, emmer. They have a fermentation specialist in-house so they are making the grains as healthy and digesteable as possible. They cook with local grapeseed oil and olive, some sesame. All food is sourced locally—pigs come from Yonder Way Farm and their chickens come from Springdale Farm. Website.
Flower Child. This is the first restaurant I’ve seen that displays a sign committing to use only organic for the 12 most heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables (the Dirty Dozen). Their menu is mostly salads, sandwiches, and some curries. Try the brussels & squash salad, the ancient grain GF mac & cheese, and their spicy Japanese eggplant. They offer a daily drink like fresh squeezed kale and apple or lemon ginger. They have a location at the Domain and a new one opened downtown in the Google building in mid-December. It’s counter service and there’s often a line out the door. Website.
Lenoir. Unique menu with lots of items you won’t find elsewhere like antelope carpaccio and rabbit with turnips. The menu changes based on availability of local, seasonal ingredients, which is an important litmus test for quality. They source seafood directly from the Gulf through Heritage Seafood, owned by a former chef at the famous Uchi Austin. All produce is local where possible, most sourced from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Rabbits are raised locally by a guy named Sebastian. They use mostly olive oil for cooking, but also the less desirable grapeseed and bran oils. Unfortunately, they use canola for frying, so I would steer clear of their fried choices and ask if your entrée can be cooked in olive oil. Website.
L’Oca D’Oro. Italian-inspired cuisine comes from chefs with high pedigree, sporting NYC’s Gramercy Tavern and Franklin’s BBQ on their resumés. Seasonal produce is delivered daily from farms like Hausbar, and fresh caught Gulf seafood is brought by local fishermen three times a week. They butcher most things in house, and their flour comes directly from Barton Springs mill. Their pasta is housemade and features ancient grains like White Sonoran. They cook with olive and grapeseed oils and animal fats. They have entrées like grilled Mahi Mahi with beet agrodolce, fried brussels sprouts, and bottarga, but they change every day. My husband and I went for our anniversary and indulged in two ancient grain pasta dishes with housemade cheese and surprising flavor combinations like carrot ragout, and pickled artichoke. Co-owner Adam is deeply committed to food ethics and rarely serves beef because of its enormous environmental impact. Instead, he brings in local pork and butchers it in-house. Website.
Odd Duck. Originally a food truck, this is now a special occasion restaurant—beautiful, tasteful, intimate. It’s odd food and a unique experience, and only for the adventurous. The ingredients all come from local Austin farms (listed on their website), so the menu changes based on what’s in season. Everything is made from scratch. If available, try the redfish ceviche and quail and chilled melon, and the crab tostada. Website.
Peoples Pharmacy. Good clean food to go. All gluten-free. Some of the best soup in town including a grassfed beef chili served almost everyday, basic but tasty boxed salads, and made to order power smoothies. They offer paleo tortillas with their breakfast tacos. Their fresh nut milks are sweetened only with dates. Their coconut chia pudding is the perfect healthy treat, and they make some of the best flourless chocolate cake in town. The South Lamar branch uses avocado and algae oil and the other locations use mostly olive. Lots of people don’t know they have a deli. There’s no indoor seating but you can find a bench outside and the Westlake location has picnic tables. Website.
Picnik. I met Naomi, the owner, five years ago when she was just starting out. She launched the concept serving food from a shipping container on a small hillside on South Lamar: mostly salads and a daily stew. There was no stove on site. She has since expanded this location, opened a trailer on South Congress, and offers a range of breakfast and lunch foods. In 2016 she opened a beautiful restaurant on Burnet St. Wherever you live, it’s worth the drive and the price. Fantastically delicious food free of all the common allergens and cooked with two of the healthiest oils: avocado and coconut. Try the heavenly hash, the chicken thighs, and the avocado toast. Even the furnishings are carefully sourced—notice the rope chandeliers. Their butter coffee is famous— Whole Foods and Central Market carry it—and they sell grab ‘n go snacks and unique local culinary gifts. Website.
Snap Kitchen. Food to go, all packaged and ready to heat and eat. The chef finds creative ways of turning comfort foods paleo, like breakfast sausage on cauliflower buns and chicken pad thai with spiralized sweet potatoes. Most dishes are made with olive oil and some with sesame oil. There are a few offenders, like the salad wrap which comes with a canola-oil tortilla. Their website is impressively transparent–every ingredient is listed, allergens are called out, a picture shows what you’re getting, and their nutrition profile lists calories, protein, carbs, and fat. One caveat: the meals come cold and many need to be heated. Microwaving alters the structure of proteins in a detrimental way. I recommend transferring your meal to a casserole dish and heating in the oven. Website.
True Food Kitchen. A health-driven, seasonal restaurant merging nutrient-rich ingredients with a flavor-forward menu. The food values here are meant to reflect the nutritional philosophy of Andrew Weil, the father of integrative medicine. It’s based on the Mediterranean diet—celebrated for its healthy track record—with an Asian influence. Ingredients are selected to comply with the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, to prevent and counteract chronic inflammation, a root cause of most diseases. Grapeseed oil is their staple for high-heat foods. Not my favorite but better than all the industrial seed oils. Try their 5-grain housemade tortilla chips with kale guacamole, the ancient grains bowl and shitake lettuce cups. Their seasonal salad is to die for if you like things like brussels sprouts. Website.
Wink. Upscale dining in a friendly environment where the whole crew can tell you all about the food you’re eating. Mussels and scallops come from the Northeast, like Prince Edward Island, where they are probably best. The kitchen cooks with butter, olive oil, and grapeseed oil. Menu changes daily to reflect seasonal availability. Beef comes from Bastrop Cattle Company and the game, from Broken Arrow Ranch. Try something new and creative, like the red snapper in cauliflower risotto with Kumato tomato, mache, and dry chili coulis or red deer with lentils, banana, dandelion greens, lemon oil, and balsamic. Website.
The Good Food Fighter ALMOST Approved Austin, Texas Restaurant List
There are lots of restaurants who do some things right but cut corners–important corners–on other things. A lot of chefs and owners understand the impact of oils on health and know that industrial seed oils are poor quality. But they aren’t willing to spend more on ingredients they don’t think customers will notice. After all, you can’t see the difference, and who asks what kind of oil their dish is stir fried in? I do, that’s who. And you should, too. The only way restaurants are going to improve is if customers make it clear that they are paying attention and that they care. If enough people speak up, changes will happen. Ask where the fish comes from and if it’s sustainably raised. If the waitstaff seems befuddled and has to ask the kitchen and no one’s really sure, it’s not the quality you want. Speak up. Be part of the food revolution!
Barley Swine. Committed to supporting famers and ranchers from all over Texas. This is high-end gourmet with creative plates like crispy pig ear slaw, red cabbage, avocado, sesame, and goat shoulder, sweet potato, boiled peanuts, kale. Caveat: There’s a fair amount of gluten on the menu–lotsa dumplings–but they will try to accommodate paleo and gluten-free eaters. Their tasting menu has a lot of gluten-free variety like marinated egg, green onion and fried oyster mushroom and the smoked fish salad wit h leek mousse. They can use collards instead of a tamale. They use mostly good oils—animal fats and olive, but also some sunflower and grapeseed. Website.
Blue Dahlia. French inspired good clean food. My favorite dish is the salade Nicoise with a perfectly seared tuna. Too bad it comes from Indonesia :-(. Otherwise it’s a mostly local menu and they pride themselves on their local partners and stewardship of the earth. Their ratatouille is amazing. Almost all the dishes are made with olive oil but canola oil sneaks into the Maryland crab so beware. Also, they feature tartines, the French version of a sandwich—it’s all fresh baked and delicious but all that gluten will blow your buttons off.
Dai Due. All produce, fruit, meats, cheese, olive oil and milk come from Texas and much of it from the Austin area. Seafood is caught in the Gulf or the rivers of Central Texas, and game is caught in the Hill Country. Dry goods are locally sourced, and most are organic. Friends had been raving about it and promised that I would love it so I finally went. I was excited until I realized that pork—which we don’t eat— is in everything: the butter, the venison sausage, even the pancakes. I told the waitress in jest that they should rename the restaurant “Lardland”. One caveat: they do keep canola oil in the kitchen and use it sparingly, so ASK.
Forthright. Creative menu and cozy space. Nice outdoor patio. Seasonal menu. Carefully sourced ingredients. Lots of tastings and other events. Try their superfood bowl and autumn bounty salad. Also quinoa brulee. If you’re gonna eat bread, they have great wild mushroom and avocado toast. But they use the dreaded canola-olive blend.
Independence Fine Foods. Very casual eatery with counter service. They feature a plate of the day with a meat, veggie, and carb. They have amazing desserts made with coconut oil by the former pastry chef at Four Seasons. When they first opened they used olive oil. Then they switched to the same cheap “canola-olive blend” (mostly canola) that everyone in the restaurant business buys to save money. Ask for them to switch back, and then the food will be healthy again.
Salty Sow. Welcome to contemporary farmhouse fare. The adventurous menu features foods that have fallen out of favor but are wildly healthy, like bone marrow. Yeah, sounds gross but you haven’t tried bacon & gruyere roasted bone marrow with parsley purée. You’re right, neither have I, because I don’t eat bacon, but if I did I would get that. The petite bone-in filets with mushroom and bone marrow red wine sauce looks delicious. I’m not one to eat a lot of fries, but when I do, they’re triple fried duck fat fries with a 110-minute egg and cold béarnaise. However, when I’m not eating potato, which has a glycemic index that’s higher than table sugar, I get eggplant fries with parmesan and fresh tomato sauce. Since this is clearly a very gourmet restaurant, I was horrified to learn that they use soybean oil (the worst) for frying, and canola for curing (blecchh).
Taco Deli. If you’re going to eat tacos and you want more options than People’s Pharmacy offers, go here. The corn tacos are non-GMO, and the only gluten in the restaurant is in the wheat tacos. They source food from over 20 Texas farms. You can find them at many famers’ markets. They ended up on the Almost-List because their dishes are grain-based (corn/flour), and because they use that pernicious Canola-olive blend. However, you can get the ingredients in a bowl sans tortilla, and the brisket contains no oil.
Vinaigrette. I discovered this salad bistro while on vacation in New Mexico 4 years ago. I ate in the Santa Fe restaurant and then the other one in Albaquerque. I kept going back. Even my 7-year old son loved the salads. I made a pitch to the owner to bring the concept to Austin—I was certain it would be a hit here. It opened in Austin in 2016. What’s unique about Vinaigrette is that it operates as a closed loop: Owner Erin Wade grows her own produce on a 10-acre farm in New Mexico, raises pastured chickens, and returns food waste to the farm to feed the pigs or composts it. It’s an impressively sustainable system. She is working on replicating that system in Bastrop to supply the Austin restaurant. Try the mushroom stew, the turmeric cocktail, and the Pepita kale salad. Why is this not on the A-list? They use sunflower and canola oil for some of the dishes. (Ask them not to!)
Only 15 restaurants in a Foodie City like Austin?
This list will definitely grow. People will send me recommendations. Hopefully, restaurants which are not quite there will get there and then I’ll feature them. Please send me suggestions! Found a restaurant that should be on this list? Let me know and I’ll vet it. Did you discover something unpalatable about the restaurants listed? Let me know and I’ll follow up. Confused about why your favorite restaurant isn’t on here? They probably use canola oil—or worse, soybean. Or they’re heavy on the breads and pasta. Or they use a food service chain to supply their meats and produce. Check back often!
If you don’t live in Austin, Texas
Print out my criteria! These are basic food principles that apply everywhere. Now you know what to look for. Ask a lot of questions and do some homework. I will soon grow my list to other cities, like craigslist, so that everyone, everywhere can find good clean food.
Moral of the Story
You get what you pay for. If you want dirt cheap food made with pesticide-laden produce and meat pumped with chemicals and then cooked in genetically modified soybean oil, you can spend less money. But this kind of diet will eventually catch up with you. Inflammation and gut issues lead to a huge array of health ailments. And they all cost money and compromise your quality of life. We have been trained by McDonalds to believe that food should be cheap. But the price of real food is much higher. Most people don’t appreciate the value of good health until they lose it. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Embrace life by choosing food that sustains you.
Get more tips here on what to do when you eat out to avoid unhealthy food and toxins.
If you patronize Good Food Fighter-approved restaurants, you can enjoy a fantastic meal while nourishing your body and preserving your health. Bon Appetit!
angela doran says
Can you check on Honest Mary’s? I know they source locally but not sure about the oils. It is a fabulous place!
Nina Miller says
You should come visit ;-). WHere do you live?
Nina Miller says
Honest Mary’s is doing a lot that’s right—they patronize local farms for some of their ingredients, almost all their items are gluten-free, they adhere to the Dirty Dozen (buying organic for the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables), their meals are veggie-heavy, and their meat is antibiotic and hormone free. So definitely a step up from a lot of restaurants. However, they’ve decided to cater to a certain kind of customer, and that customer is price sensitive. To keep costs down they cook with sunflower oil and purchase their chicken from the country’s hugest supplier, one that specializes in factory farms. I’ve asked the owners if they could offer a better oil for a surcharge and find local suppliers for their meats, but at this time, those things would be logistically and financially prohibitive for them. If their customers start to request local meats and healthier oils, things might change…
Hope this helps!
Yum. I wish I lived in austin to experience all those great culinary delights.
I cannot thank you enough for sharing your list of acceptable restaurants in Austin. I have an autoimmune and I’m newly on a strict anti-inflammatory diet(Plant Paradox). All of criteria on your good food fighter list is required on my diet too:) Going to restaurants while one vacation sounded dreadful at first because I don’t care that I can get plain salad at most restaurants, but this list saved me. I find that most people on strict diets are forced to prep their own food, which is both a pain when you’re busy and not always possible when you’re travelling.
I went to Austin Beer Garden and Chez Nouz after reading this. ABGB had delicious salads but OMG Chez Nous was heaven on earth. I got this amazing seared fish that still had tons of flavor while being compliant with my dietary restrictions, ALSO they were super accommodating about switching out the side veggie for me because I’m off nightshades too. It’s hard getting full from restaurant food when you’re avoiding unhealthy things, but definitely did at Chez Nouz.
Andrea Serra says
I happened across your blog yesterday while looking for healthy places in Austin. I am reading Deep Nutrition and trying to cut out sugar and vegetable oils. I was happy to see your list. Then this morning a co-worker told me about The Well (no sugar, only oils are olive, coconut and avocado). I was so excited to share. Haven’t tried it yet.