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With Michelin stars now gracing our nation’s capital, it’s clear we’re serious about our food. But if the heels being swapped out for running shoes and bike lanes filled with active commuters wasn’t any indication, we want our food and lifestyle to be more functional — and a sure-fire way to marry the two is by following our primal cravings, paleo-style.
Thankfully, DC’s dining scene has a ton of paleo-friendly options, you just have to know how to play the game. To help you get started, we assembled our top picks to satisfy a paleo palate. Whether you’re in need of a date night, happy hour spot, or a place to spend Sunday Funday (just keep reading), here’s your paleo guide to DC.
If you’re looking for the ideal paleo date night, take your cave king or queen to The Partisan in Penn Quarter. For a minimum of two people (and $50 a plate), you can order the coveted Pig Feast — a selection of the favorite parts of the pig from Red Apron Butcher. If you’re not prepared to enter the realm of food coma, their menu is stocked with our favorite plants and animals — we recommend the Sun Dried Duck, Japanese Eggplant, and Bacon Cured Spare Ribs.
Browsing through the aisles of Union Market, any paleo foodie can easily find something to devour. However, if you’re looking for something more sit-down style, head to Bidwell for an unforgettable experience. Their seasonal menu is 90% gluten-free, with inventive dishes crossing the line between land and sea. Best of all, Bidwell is a farm roof-to-table restaurant, growing all of their fruits and vegetables (literally) atop Union Market! You can’t get much fresher than one story down, now can you?
Black Restaurant Group has, in more ways than one, contributed to our pride and joy that is the DC food scene. However, our favorite spot might be the one that started it all: BlackSalt Restaurant. Situated next to the fish market of the same name, this gem strives to source their seafood from sustainable sources. The menu boasts everything from tuna tartare, sardines, clams, scallops, and more mussels than you can count — so if you’re a seafood-lover and a paleo-follower, make the trek to Palisades to scope it out.
Meats & Foods might just be Bloomingdale’s best-kept secret. They make their own sausages and cure their own bacon, so we couldn’t possibly leave them off this list. Fitt Tip: there are only a few picnic tables available, so you may want to reserve this as a grab-n-go option. Or, purchase a few pounds of their made-from-scratch bacon, and use it to step up your meal prep game.
With craft breweries being all the rage, you might feel left out when the squad spends the day at Atlas or DC Brau. Have no fear — DC’s first cidery, ANXO, opened its doors in 2016 and has only developed their space and their community from there. Enjoy a few snacks or a charcuterie plate, then wash it down with your gluten-free cider of choice.
From bone broth to bone marrow, cave (wo)men are a waste-not-want-not kind of people, you know? At The Pig in Logan Circle, the non-traditional menu celebrates using the whole animal with dishes like Braised Pork Cheeks to Spicy Dry Cured Pork Neck. Bonus: as part of EatWell DC (the same group that brought us The Bird and Commissary), all your veggie side dishes are sourced from local farms.
This family-owned Indian restaurant makes you feel like you’re walking into their home with a cozy setting — family pictures gracing the wall and chalkboard messages from the owner to his daughter. On that very same chalkboard, you’ll find the menu laden with meat curry options fit for kings and queens, from goat to lamb to chicken prepared in tons of styles — butter, masala, spicy… you name it. Pair your main with vegetable sides like smoky eggplant and peas or spicy pumpkin, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to return tomorrow and the next day. Just remember to pass on the rice and chickpeas if you’re truly a paleo purist.
If you’re just starting the paleo diet, Mediterranean food is an excellent gateway to dining out. First, many dishes naturally come gluten-free — including kabobs, a variety of spreads (sans the pita), and more seafood than you could name. Second, there’s never a shortage of vegetables! Mike Isabella’s restaurant near U St. offers a mezze menu made for your inner foodie, including Charred Octopus, Marinated Salmon Kabobs, Marinated Lamb, or a whole pork shoulder for the entire table.
The sister restaurant to Farmers Fishers Bakers and Founding Farmers, this Chinatown restaurant brings the same farm-to-table experience we’ve come to know and love. Stop by for their never-ending weekend brunch, feast over a steak straight from Roseda Black Angus Farm in Maryland, or enjoy the day’s catch of sustainably-sourced seafood.
If you’re on a quest for authentic Thai food—as in, an entire fish served on a platter authentic—Thai X-ing might be your best choice in The District. Come with an appetite — every night of the week is “chef’s choice” with the pre-fixed menu easily topping five courses. Without an ounce of dairy in sight and each dish easily made gluten-free, you’re sure to find a feast to enjoy.
At Rocklands, a meat-lover’s paradise, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is how many different meats you want to order. You can keep it simple and order meat by the pound, with options like grilled lamb, pit beef, and barbequed pork or chicken. Or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, opt for The Belly Buster, complete with two ribs, sausage, a quarter chicken, and brisket. Hold the potato roll and get the collard greens instead. Don’t worry — there’s meat (bacon bits) in those, too.
**Updated by Tarah Romano, November 2018