I’m sure you all recognize one of my urbanpaleochef.com banner shots, taken at a recent visit to Son Cubano restaurant. Eating out, or really anywhere but your own home, is a challenge for people who are diet-restricted in this otherwise unrestricted world. There is the occasional restaurant (Urbanpaleochick.com showcased Hu Kitchen in NYC recently) which caters directly to your needs, but for the most part, we are fending for ourselves. And the truth is, sitting down to a meal and asking the waiter to help you navigate the myriad of soy and wheat additives, and to hold the rice or beans, can be daunting and more than a little annoying. So, here are my four tips tips on how to eat out Paleo Style, and still get a great meal!
- Be careful where you’re actually going to eat. While the tips and tricks that I use, and will share with you here will work, there are some places that simply can’t cater to a Paleo eater. Example: a pizza parlor. If pizza is in the name of the place you’re planning on heading to, be prepared for a serious challenge. I recently joined a colleague of mine for lunch at a fancy Thai place, thinking that since it was fancy, it would likely have some of the more traditional Thai food. Turns out I was wrong. The waiter was so confused that he brought the manager and head chef out to my table to discuss with me my dietary exclusions. It turns out that the only thing they could feed me was steamed chicken and steamed broccoli. It was one of the most boring meals of my life (thankfully the company was great)!
- Call your dietary restrictions “allergies”. Trust me when I say this. People respect the word “allergy” in a way that you simply don’t get when you say “Oh, I don’t eat those.” So start the conversation with your waiter like this: “I am allergic to soy and wheat. I also don’t eat other grains or beans, just to be safe. So please don’t cook my food in soy oil, or serve with soy or wheat sauces.” Most waiters will be understanding, and work with you.
- Order simple dishes. As the complexity of a dish increases, so does the probability that it will have soy, wheat, or other beans or grains in it. The old standby of steak, pork chops, or chicken with a vegetable on the side should serve you well. If you’re going to venture in to burgers, remember that many burger recipes have bread crumbs in them. Similarly, some commercially prepared sausages have soy in them. So with processed foods like burger or sausage, only go to restaurants which use premium meats, just to be safe.
- Treat your service people well! I know that this should go without saying, but goodness knows my wife and I have had occasion to comment to each other that “wow, that really went well because of how well we treated the waiter.” Or some similar comment along those same lines. Treat your host or hostess well when you walk in. Be nice, complimentary, and smile. Treat your waiter well, be nice, reciprocate their attempts to be conversational. And DON’T FORGET TO TIP WELL! The way I think of this is: the extra money that it takes to get a tip from 15% to 25% is not going to hurt you anywhere near as much as it’s going to make your waiter feel appreciated. Trust me: a 25% tip to a waiter who did a good job will be remembered!
So, the above four tips are my basic go-to rules for making sure that I get a quality meal, soy and grain free! In addition to the above, there are times and places where you’ll go often enough to have a relationship with someone at the restaurant. It could be the bartender, the chef, or even the manager. Regardless, when you get good service, don’t just reciprocate by leaving a good tip, reciprocate by going back! Remember the person’s name who was good to you, be personable. These little things may make all the difference between you getting a quality Paleo meal, and you having to eat steamed chicken and steamed broccoli. And trust me, you don’t want to be eating steamed chicken and steamed broccoli!
Share your tips and tricks for finding great Paleo meals here too! Or, if you have some, go ahead and post a horror story – misery loves company, and I’ll certainly enjoy a good story!
I’ve had some interesting comments on this post, and ended up writing a follow-up post about this. Take a look here at: