It's reader request time around here, and this week's reader request was for a list of paleo-friendly restaurants around Houston. (See, you do love our lists. Yes you do.)
Although I don't adhere to the paleo diet, many of my good friends do. Here's an explanation of the nutritional regimen in a nutshell, for the uninitiated: The paleo (short for "paleolithic") diet encourages the consumption of foods which advocates claim were abundant in the diets of paleolithic-era peoples. Fish, seafood, grass-fed meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms (and other fungi), roots, seeds and nuts are all fair game. It discourages consumption of foods that cavemen wouldn't have had access to: gluten of any kind, grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, processed oils and basically any and all processed foods.
To go into all the pros and cons of eating a paleo diet would take all day. Suffice it to say the diet has its proponents and its detractors. Neither I nor Eating...Our Words are advocating any kind of diet except the kind of diet where you're doing the healthiest things you can for your body. If paleo is that diet for you, here's a list of places that make it easy to stick to your clubs. (Cavemen didn't have guns.)
It's on the pricey end -- and you may have qualms about the whole Bruce Molzan angle -- but the new restaurant offers a rather large paleo section on Molzan's menu that's been getting rave reviews from everyone I know who's tried it. Look for dishes such as Paleo Paella with grated cauliflower rice, housemade chorizo, organic chicken, crispy salmon, shrimp and mussels cooked down with saffron, tomatoes, coconut milk, coconut oil and jalapeños, or a Turkey Bolognese with spaghetti squash noodles, tomato sauce with ground turkey, fresh herbs, basil, EVOO, shaved Parmesan and grilled asparagus. If you're super strict, just ask them to leave the Parm off.
Much of the menu at Roots Bistro is naturally paleo-friendly, as it focuses on raw, vegan and vegetarian dishes with a modern, upscale twist. There's still plenty of meat to be found, though. Try appetizers such as smoked mushrooms or sauteed Jerusalem artichokes with beet puree and pesto, or entrees such as roasted chicken with market-fresh vegetables and a pesto made with kale and sunflower seeds.
The paleo diet strongly encourages consumption of wild game, which is naturally very high in protein and which contains higher levels of omega-3 fats than domesticated meat sources. While Sammy's does offer plenty of wild game burgers and hot dogs, the real appeal here for paleo adherents is its salad section: You can get nearly any animal on a salad here. Llama, elk, antelope, venison, buffalo, kangaroo, ostrich -- anything goes.
As with Corner Table, chef and owner Minh Nguyen has devoted a large section of Cafe TH's menu to a paleo section, which Nguyen calls "Fan Specials." A logo next to many of the items indicates that they have been "Washington Gym-approved," referring to a gym that's a favorite of many paleo adherents in Houston, which makes choosing a dish even easier. You can also add extra meat to any of the dishes, like the "Squamicelli," which replaces noodles with spaghetti squash for a delicious paleo version of bun (your choice of chargrilled pork, chicken or beef).
Not only does the grocery side of Georgia's (both downtown and in Memorial) carry an abundant selection of paleo-approved grass-fed meats, the buffet at both locations features a great daily selection of paleo-friendly food for very little dough.
It's no secret that Snap is my favorite of the health food stores around town that sell prepackaged food, and it's because the dishes are consistently tasty. Snap Kitchen (which just opened a new location in the downtown tunnels at One Allen Center) offers an entire paleo section in its stores, which also happens to feature my new favorite juice as one of the options: Far East Turmeric Elixir, a blend of pineapple, jicama, fresh turmeric root, Thai basil and Granny Smith apples. "Healthy" doesn't even factor into my decision-making process when something tastes this great.
Thanks to the handy labeling system on the menus at Ruggles Green, you can tell at a glance if the dish you're ordering is gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian. The blackened shrimp salad tossed with pistachios and five different kinds of fruit is a favorite, especially topped with Ruggles Green's garlic-hemp poppy-seed dressing.
This is a favorite among my friends who want to eat a lot of meat and veg for not a lot of cash. Just pass on the pita (although it's really tough during the week when the fluffy bread is unlimited and free with your meal). Steak, chicken and lamb kebabs come with a lot of meat to a plate, and are best when you get a side of the colorful veggie sampler to go along with them.
Want really amazing sushi and a lot of it? Don't want to pay regular sushi prices or venture into the sushi section of your grocery store? Head to Dadami -- and bring a group -- for Korean sushi, a.k.a. hwe. The emphasis here is on raw fish and seafood of every stripe, and you will be presented with enough to feed an army for around $25 a person. The banchan (side dishes, both hot and cold) served along with your meal are usually paleo-friendly, too, with plenty of vegetables crowding the table alongside your fish feast.
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SHOW ME HOW
This is a relatively new restaurant in League City which specializes in -- you guessed it -- paleo food only. Although it's only open for lunch right now, Partners in Paleo has already been garnering praise for what fans are calling delicious, inexpensive food in a cute, cozy cafe environment.