Charlotte’s health food scene has blown up over the last couple of years. And we’re not talkin’ steamed spinach and baked chicken. Artisanal Brussels sprouts and grass-fed/pasture-raised everything is the local Queen City dweller’s obsession these days. And for good reason.
Fortunately, for those following the trending paleo diet, finding a compliant meal in Charlotte is a hell of a lot easier than taking your spear out and hunting. Head to any of these local spots and dine the way cavemen could only dream about.
Take a bite of (or cram your face with) Viva‘s perfectly cooked rotisserie chicken and yucca fries, and you’ll make this Peruvian joint a part of your regular noshing routine. Seriously… we can’t get enough. With doors in Elizabeth, Montford, Ballantyne, Waverly Center, and Huntersville, you have five opportunities to change your entire perspective on how NOT boring chicken can be.
Because you can’t be a carnivore in the South without a palate for solid barbecue. Turns out the owners of Midwood Smokehouse and Yafo Kitchen (mentioned below) are one in the same. So, while very different concepts, you can expect the same quality of experience and flavor at any Midwood Smokehouse location (Plaza-Midwood, Park Road Shopping Center, Ballantyne, and Huntersville). Keep it paleo with a side of the smoked veggies or collards with just about any of their meat options. Our personal favorites are the Carolina Pork, Beef Brisket, Chicken BBQ, Smoked 1/2 Chicken, Burnt Ends, Pork Ribs — okay, yes, we’re listing all of them. It’s impossible to choose.
Cavemen rejoice! Burtons is a rare find in Charlotte known for its scratch-made, chef-inspired eats. Arguably more impressive is the extent to which they accommodate various dietary restrictions. In addition to its traditional menu, guests can adapt and customize dishes with their gluten-free, vegetarian, and, yes, paleo-specific menus. So dust yourself off for date night, head over to the Park Road Shopping Center, and chow down on an in-house custom cut of steak.
Odds of vegan cavemen existing? Slim to none, but who cares when places like Living Kitchen are around? One sip of their raw coconut milk chai latte (fresh coconut milk made in-house) and we were sold. Living Kitchen—with locations in both Southend and South Park—is killing the plant-based game. No meat? No problem. From smoothies to sweet potato sushi to the raw Lemon-Berry Cheesecake, Living Kitchen’s flavorful menu has plenty of paleo-friendly options. Vegan or not, here we come!
Bang Bang Burgers
Now serving both the Elizabeth and South End neighborhoods, hit up one of our favorite burger joints in the QC for a paleo, protein-packed meal. Might we recommend their Burger Bowl topped with a 100% grass-fed beef patty? Loaded with mixed greens, fresh veggies, egg, roasted sweet potato, and an olive oil/lemon dressing, you won’t even miss the bun.
The paleo lifestyle isn’t always all steak, bacon, and Brussels sprouts. Cavemen may not have been able to blend up their fruity finds into a delicious smoothie, but that’s doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have if they could have. More than a juicery, Clean Juice has an expansive menu of smoothies, acai bowls, oat bowls, toast varieties, and, just at the Davidson location (for now), salads! The oats and toasts may be out of bounds, but you won’t feel left out given the assortment of amazing smoothies and acai options. Bonus: Clean Juice is loud and proud about using all-organic produce, uses unsweetened almond milk as their liquid base, and will let you edit your order to meet your needs (even swapping granola topping with shredded coconut, sliced banana, or a fat dollop of almond butter).
Consider it Chipotle’s Mediterranean counterpart. Between the colorful vegetables and direct eyeline into the kitchen (where everything is prepared fresh), you can count on tasting the rainbow at this fast-casual concept in both SouthPark and Plaza Midwood. Keeping it paleo at Yafo is as simple as drooling and pointing. Build your own bowl and load it up with whatever your veggie-loving, grain-free, soy-free, carnivorous heart desires. OR, load up on a hunk of their rotisserie chicken with a menage of their insane sides (Brussels sprouts with chopped dates, roasted cauliflower, thick-cut crispy potatoes… the list goes on). Fitt Tip: don’t skip out on a (generous) drizzle of their homemade tahini sauce once you get to the end of the line. That sh** goes with everything.
It’s not fast food — it’s real food, real fast. Their seasonal menu delivers nutrient-dense dishes comprised of sustainably-sourced, local ingredients… it’s basically the hardcore paleo-lover’s fast-casual mecca. Nearly every menu item—if not distinctly paleo in its own right—can be modified to fit your needs. Hit ’em up in Uptown, Ballantyne, or off Rea Rd.—you won’t be disappointed!
Seoul Poke Bowl
Poke is about as trendy as avocado toast. Even better? Poke is paleo-friendly. And Seoul Poke Bowl in South End makes it easy to stick to your diet. Pick your base (if you’re paleo, you’re lookin’ at the salad base), add your fresh sushi-grade protein (they have bulgogi beef as an option if fish freaks you out), and add countless caveman-approved toppings for a complete meal.
Fin & Fino
This upscale(ish) social seafood house delivers. In addition to their fresh seafood (caught daily and always sustainably sourced), their menu highlights seasonal flavors and foods — true to the caveman way. Though it’s not a paleo-specific menu, there is no shortage of compliant options at this popular new Uptown spot. Fitt Tip: ask for the shrimp cocktail. It’s off-menu and very simple, but the shrimp are enormous and some of the most flavorful we’ve ever tasted.
**Updated by Finley Amato, October 2018