The paleo diet is no joke. And if you’ve adopted this primal way of eating, more power to ya. A strict policy against all things dairy, grain, and refined sugar (among other things) means there’s little wiggle room for eating anything our caveman ancestors didn’t eat. Bottom line: whole foods are in and processed ones are out.
So there’s no doubt that exploring the local restaurant scene can get tricky for our paleo friends. Luckily, Pittsburgh is ahead of the healthy eating curve. The city’s home to quite a few paleo-friendly hot spots where you can enjoy your food without giving up the clean lifestyle.
Customization is the name of the game at Choolaah. While there’s no paleo-specific menu yet (we’re holdin’ out hope for the future), there is plenty of flexibility at the East Liberty Indian BBQ spot. Try a dish that mixes fresh, crisp lettuce with warm, roasted veggies, like the Choolaah Salad with (sustainable, Faroe Islands-caught) salmon. Hold the paneer and pita chips. This bowl has so much flavor packed in, you won’t even miss ‘em.
Acorn lives up to its mission of creating a menu with clean flavor profiles. This place was practically made for paleo dieters looking for some serious quality in their food. And ingredients are sourced locally, so you know they’re fresh. The Shadyside cafe features your favorite meats cooked with an array of roots, produce, and spices. Charred cauliflower, short rib, rainbow trout — are you drooling yet? We are.
Another build-your-own-style spot in East Liberty that makes choosing your clean cuisine almost too easy. But this time, we’re talking salads and stir-fry, so get creative. Sub rice for lettuce cups, load on the protein, then seal the deal with your favorite sauce or dressing. Want something sweet to go with the savory? Enjoy the natural flavor of honeygrow’s cold-pressed, no-sugar-added juice selection.
OTB Bicycle Cafe
This bicycle-lovin’, health-conscious cafe will quickly become a staple spot for any paleo dieters who needs a little shake up in their dinner routine. Hit East Carson St. and check out OTB’s specialty paleo menu. Designed with you primal eaters in mind (and with a little help from CrossFit Athletics), the menu ensures you’ll never second guess your order again. And the food is nothing if not creative. When your dairy-free pizza is baked on a chicken “crust” (yeah, you read that right), you know you’ve found yourself in whole food heaven.
East End Food Co-op
EEFC’s Hot Bar is the answer to all your paleo prayers. Rather than sticking to the same boring lineup, East End Food Co-op gets creative by changing its menu on a daily basis. And with themes like Comfort Kitchen and weekend Brunch, you won’t be able to get enough. The best part about a hot bar? You get to fill your plate with all the good stuff and leave behind the rest. Say hello to a lunch loaded with all the best proteins and veggies. And did we mention the paleo-approved baked goods? Your sweet tooth will thank us.
Gaucho Parrilla Argentina
Gaucho is the talk of the Strip District — and with good reason. Follow the line that wraps around Penn and into the cozy heart of a first-come, first-served cafe to place your order. Everything, and we mean everything, is cooked to wood-fired perfection. Need a tip? The Steak Plates are where the action’s at. From Flank to NY Strip, these juicy cuts are served with a ridiculously flavorful house-made chimichurri and La Casa salad.
Soba serves up a modern-Asian take on food that’ll make your mouth water as soon as you step through the door. The chefs here are nothing short of genius. Mixing up flavor combinations that take you by surprise, they’ve truly perfected the art of food. For instance, you’ve gotta go for the Scottish Salmon. Somehow, the fish, curried squash, and mint salad combo just works — and we’re glad it does. Head to Ellsworth Ave. to get your fix of some of the best paleo-friendly food in Shadyside.
Keep lunch light and refreshing with one of Hello Bistro’s satisfying salads. Pack in the greens at any of their Pittsburgh-area restaurants by choosing from an impressive list of house creations. Plus, Hello Bistro’s flexible team make it easy to switch out the not-so-clean ingredients at the counter. Want the Apple Almond Crunch Salad but not the cheese that comes with it? Swap it for your favorite veggie instead. Or, start from scratch by building your own custom bowl dressed simply with oil and vinegar.
Scratch Food and Beverage
Comfort food that’s clean and simple. Scratch Food and Beverage brings the flavor to Troy Hill with a small, yet accessible, menu of local foods. Skeptical of the lineup? The Scratch staff will happily review all dishes and ingredients with any health-conscious foodie. Give ’em a call to hear their daily options, chat with their chef, and find something perfect for your paleo palate.
Find a great burger without the guilt at this Pittsburgh favorite with locations all over the city. With all-natural, hormone-free cuts, you’re sure to get the good stuff. Seriously, the Wagyu is so tender that it practically melts in your mouth. Not feelin’ red meat? Try a chicken, wild crab, or veggie patty so heavenly, it’ll turn your burger perspective on its head. And if you’re worried about the extra carbs, don’t sweat it. Choose a lettuce bun, or go naked for all meat with no diet-breaking extras.
Gluten Free Goat Bakery & Café
Craving something sweet after a long week? The Gluten Free Goat Bakery has your hookup. As a vegan-friendly, gluten-free cafe, these pastry chefs know how to make to-die-for treats suitable for any and every lifestyle. Their paleo chocolate pudding and homemade granola both pass all clean-eating tests with flying colors. But that’s not all the Garfield-based bakery has to offer. Order ahead to create your own decadent baked goods with all the right ingredients and none of the nonsense.
Meat and Potatoes
This downtown gastropub is the obvious choice for some quality steak. Enjoy the meat, scrap the potatoes. We know what the name suggests, but trust us — the Build Your Own Ribeye is exactly what you’re after. Top with a sharp and zesty chimichurri to round out that tender ribeye taste. And with sides like creamy spinach and roasted cauliflower, you won’t be able to choose just one.
Kahuna Poke and Juice Bar
Craving some Omega 3s to get your brain and body moving? Kahuna in East Liberty is the perfect spot to dig into a poke combo made up of your favorite fish. Start your bowl off right with a base of zoodles or seasonal greens. Then, top with tofu or Scottish salmon. Swap the soy sauce for creamy avocado and a dash of sea salt for a dressing-like substitute that’ll bring out all the flavors while still keepin’ it clean.
Paleo is all about fruits and veggies. Why not shake things up by getting your daily dose in a whole new form? Head to Clean Juice in East Liberty for exactly that — fresh juice made with clean, unprocessed ingredients that are sure to quench your thirst. Looking for something more substantial? We recommend The Berry Bowl (skip the granola) for a no-nonsense açaí bowl so good, you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth in the most natural way possible.
**Updated by Cassidy Zimmerman, November 2018