Paleo dieters don’t have to spear animals or forage for greens to eat the caveman way. But those who are following the increasingly popular diet — which restricts them to meats, veggies and other Stone Age staples — do have to hunt to find restaurants that will cater to their needs.
“It’s been much easier to eat in,” says Mark Timms, who lost weight by going Paleo for the month of September. So Timms, who’s also executive chef at the Fairmont Hotel in the West End, is putting Paleo options on his menus.
Diners at the Fairmont’s Juniper restaurant can dig in to the Paleo Amish chicken Cobb salad ($24) and other entrees that comply with the diet. Timms also rolled out a grab-and-go Paleo meal service for exercisers at the Balance Gym located at the hotel. People order from a chalkboard menu before a workout and then pick up, say, a $10 steak or an $8 omelet when they leave.
Most places are not nearly as accommodating, but 26-year-old Jane Coaston, who’s been following the Paleo regimen since 2011, says she’s seeing more palatable options at restaurants around town.
“I used to just order the protein and the vegetable and nothing else,” Coaston says. Now she’s found some reliable standbys, such as the lettuce-wrapped burgers at Black and Orange.
Lukas Umana, co-owner of Chix, first heard about the diet three years ago and has been trying to accommodate diners like Coaston. After doing research, he learned that the soybean oil in their kitchens was a Paleo no-no. So his two Latin-influenced eateries switched exclusively to olive oil.
Protein Bar culinary director Phil Fox says he can spot Paleo customers simply by their questions.
“They wonder about the oils we use and where our meats are coming from,” Fox says.
Although Protein Bar serves only antibiotic-free chicken and organic beef, some Paleo die-hards are disappointed to hear that the chain uses canola oil. About half of the menu items can be modified to fit Paleo requirements, notes Fox, who’s wary of changing too much to satisfy just one segment of customers.
“We’re hesitant to move in the direction of a specific diet because we follow our own guidelines,” he says. But he appreciates that Paleo diners are spurring a conversation about ingredients, which is important no matter what diet a person chooses to follow.
“People really want to know where their food is coming from,” he says. “And they want to eliminate processed foods. Those are both good things.”
Paleo Restaurant Dining Guide
Get in touch with your inner Neanderthal one bite at a time at these restaurants:
Chix 2019 11th St. NW and 1121 14th St. NW, chixdc.com
The whole Peruvian chicken with roasted sweet potatoes, seasonal greens and a green salad ($21.99) is an easy Paleo meal for the entire family.
Protein Bar Multiple locations, theproteinbar.com
Paleo diners must dodge the quinoa on the menu, but the chophouse chopped salad (hold the blue cheese) and the Santa Fe scramble (minus the cheddar) are quick Paleo possibilities. (Prices vary by location.)
Juniper Restaurant 2401 M St. NW; 202-457-5020, juniperdc.com (Foggy Bottom)
Start your day with the Rock Creek Paleo ($18): two eggs any style, roasted mushrooms, Pennsylvania sausage and maple pepper bacon. And end with the Paleo steak and lobster Cobb ($30), featuring avocado, boiled egg, crispy prosciutto, heirloom tomato and broccolini.
What Is Paleo?: People have varied interpretations of the Paleo diet, but generally, the guidelines approve of meats, seafood, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. Processed foods, refined sugar, dairy, potatoes, legumes and grains are all off the menu.