Paleo(ish!) Eating Around Austin, TX

There hasn't been a lot of activity on this blog because I've been spending my summer preparing for a conference in Austin, Texas. While there last week I decided to keep track of the restaurants I went to so I could give some pseudo-paleo restaurant suggestions. These are paleo-ish because, as this food was not prepared in my home, I can't confirm the ingredients. I was not too worried about vegetable oils being used because it's difficult to get around that when eating out, especially when finding restaurants in a town you are unfamiliar with. Plus there may have been some cheese, wine, and quinoa (scandalous!) consumption, which are all paleo grey areas...the quinoa especially. But I figure, if quinoa is the worst thing I had, then that's not too shabby!

Melissa at The Clothes Make the Girl already has a helpful list of restaurants in Austin to try, which I referred to several times. I did find some of my own unique contributions, so I hope this list is helpful for anyone traveling in Austin.

I couldn't check into my hotel till 3, and my pork jerky breakfast wasn't going to hold me till then, so I walked down to Hopdoddy burger bar...apparently this place is popular, because it was packed! And for good reason...the burger I ordered was as perfect as a burger could be. I ordered the classic burger plus and requested no bun, and the girl taking my order suggested I do a lettuce wrap. They provided a nice stack of lettuce so I could keep re-wrapping as I ran out of lettuce. I asked if they had side salads, and they didn't, but she suggested the quinoa salad...and I decided to try it! The salad was pretty had chopped fresh veggies, sundried tomatoes, and fresh basil, though for my taste I would have liked a tangier dressing. I also had a hard cider to cool me off since it was a particularly humid day.

For dinner I went to 24 Diner and had roasted chicken and the veggie of the day, which was zucchini and summer squash. The chicken came with mashed potatoes, but I asked to sub a side salad which they did for a little extra. The portion was huge...I actually turned the leftovers into a snack. I had their roasted shallot vinaigrette on my salad, which was very good, and it inspired me to try and re-create it when I got home. I had McPherson Cellar's viognier---had to support Texas High Plains winemaking!

I don't have a lot to report on breakfast because I went to Whole Foods and picked up some seasonal produce, nut butter, and some other things to have at the hotel in the morning instead of going out. My hotel, the quirky vintage Austin Motel, didn't offer a breakfast like some hotels do, and those breakfasts are typically pastry-heavy anyway. I did go to Jo's Coffee which was on the corner near my hotel for a couple of lattes, but otherwise breakfast was just sort of snack stuff. I did eat out breakfast at the Hyatt on my second day, which was the hotel at the conference. This was pretty pricey (as to be expected), but the omelet was pretty close to what I would cook at home if I had leftover chicken! It was a smoked chicken omelet with tomatoes, and there was some jack cheese in it (whoops!) and served with hash browns and toast. Of course, I didn't eat the toast, but I may have eaten all of sampled the hash browns.

After such a heavy breakfast, I had a later lunch and chose to have a salad to balance out my breakfast. I went to Magnolia Cafe and had the California salad, without the cheese, with their cilantro vinaigrette. The portion was huge and the chicken was nicely seasoned. The dressing was delicious---I'm going to have to figure out my own version. It was almost like a pesto, but with cilantro flavor.

I have an honorable mention that I didn't really eat at, but stopped by to do a little work. I went to the coffee shop called Dominican Joe, which had the perfect coffee shop atmosphere---the kind that makes you feel like you are at your favorite coffee place back home, except you are actually in a different city altogether.

Dinner was at Snack Bar, which was right next to my hotel. When I ordered my food, I had planned to eat alone. Then a group of people came in and I noticed they had conference badges so I introduced myself and we all ended up eating together, which was really great. I had the Farm Salad, which had melon as the "seasonal addition." I wanted to try the brussels sprouts with aioli, but the portion looked pretty big and at the time of ordering I didn't have anyone to share with. Guess that means I will just have to go back!

The next day was my presentation, so afterward I went for a nice lunch at Kerbey Lane. Luckily it was not too hot out, so was able to eat outside and read all about how the soccer team did because I missed the game since my talk overlapped the game. I had the Bacon Pesto Chicken, and for some reason I missed the fact that there was cheese melted all over it...I think I was distracted by the word "bacon." Thankfully cheese doesn't cause me problems, unlike wheat. The pesto and tomato sauces on the chicken were really good...the tomatoes tasted really fresh. The veggie of the day was broccoli, so I asked for an extra portion in place of the mashed potatoes. I ended up getting a double portion of broccoli, but they still gave me mashed potatoes. It wasn't a big deal, I just ate around them. I also got the hand-cut sweet potato fries with aioli, which were really good because they weren't greasy at all! This meal filled me up for the rest of the day. I was heading to my car, when I saw a cute vintage clothing store called Uptown Cheapskate. I went in and treated myself to a vintage dress and top.

That sums up my paleo-ish suggestions for Austin. One of the best parts of visiting Austin is the focus on using local ingredients. Plus most places seem to be compromising for various dietary restrictions, and offer a lot of gluten-free options.

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