Creative Ordering

As a freelance writer, I spend a lot of time eating out — checking out new restaurants, schmoozing over lunches, and networking at happy hours. I’ve also been traveling more recently, so I’ve been having to eat out more as I’ve gotten more strict with my Paleo diet (I also strictly only eat free-range chicken and grass-fed beef, preferably local). Naturally, I’m one of the “worst” orderers at any given table.

First, let’s address that “worst” moniker. You’re at a restaurant, YOU are putting the food into YOUR body, and most of the time, YOU are paying for it. Order what you want, how you want it. Get over trying to be “easy.” Get what you want.

To help you visualize this concept, here’s a story:

The other night, Lisa and I met up at Hula Hut for some patio fun time and margaritas. I was hungry, but we quickly found out that they wouldn’t serve the full menu on the patio (no fajitas?!), so we had to choose from only appetizers.

So we ordered this:

“What did THEY order?!” exclaimed the next table over when we received our meal. Our waiter finally stammered out something along these lines: The Palm Tree Hugger Nachos without nachos, without beans, without sour cream, plus chicken (free-range!).

And a guacamole salad, of course:

Which makes for one amazing, totally Paleo meal.

We also ordered margaritas without sweet-and-sour, which made for some very tart ‘ritas. I digress.

Now, how can you creatively order at ANY restaurant to make eating out totally Paleo?

7 Tips for Paleo Eating in a Restaurant*

1. Meat or chicken. Order it without sauces, or with sauces on the side.

2. Sides: replace potatoes/rice/beans/etc. with extra veggies. If they won’t do it, ask for no sides.
(Story time! I recently tried to order a pasta dish at a really nice restaurant without pasta and with extra vegetables. The waiter indicated it wouldn’t be enough food without the pasta but I insisted that I wouldn’t eat the pasta, so he said, ‘I really don’t think this will be enough food for you. Why don’t you order this other fish dish, which comes with vegetables, and I can remove the potatoes for you?’ The new dish was amazing, and I was very grateful that the man worked with me.)

3. Seafood often comes in creamy sauces, often dairy-based. Order them on the side, or ask for your prepared way of cooking–grilled, seared, or baked.

4. Mexican food is actually really easy. Order the tacos/burrito with the best ingredients. Then MAN UP AND DON’T EAT THE TORTILLA. Even better, order it without the tortilla–they might even give you more filling. At Hula Hut, I order the Tubular Taco without the tortilla and get a HUGE pile of veggies and protein. Add in guacamole and you’re totally set with fat, protein, and good carbs!

5. Italian food got you down? They ALWAYS have a high-quality steak or chicken dish and I nicely-done fish on the menu. Think of all the crap you would have put in your body with pasta, then get really excited that you’re getting the intense Italian flavorings on a tasty protein canvas.

6. Sushi is always a win, just order without rice. Some places (Sushi Zushi, Kenichi) will even make you some cool rolls (or at least hand rolls) without rice, using thinly-sliced cucumber to fill the wrapper. JUST ASK.

7. My go-to eating out option? Ahi tuna. It’s widely available as an appetizer, salad, or entree, even at sports bars.

*I’m going to go ahead and assume you KNOW not to eat the bread or chips and salsa beforehand; you KNOW not to order anything fried; you KNOW butter is dairy and eggs and mayo aren’t. If you don’t, you should probably start HERE or HERE. Also, visit a Farmer’s Market. Don’t eat anything you can’t buy there (which is NOT the same as saying that you can eat anything you can buy there).

Post to the comments below if you have any Paleo ordering tips I forgot!

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5 Responses to “Creative Ordering”

  1. Love this list!

    Mexican food is definitely the easiest. I’ve found that Trudy’s will bring you an entire plate of grilled veggies instead of the rice and beans.

    Another tip- read all the sections of your menu. You might be able to piece something together from the appetizers and salads.

    A la carte menus can be a godsend for easy paleo ordering.

    Last tip- even if it’s not on the menu- tell your waiter/waitress what you want. If you are friendly about it, they will probably help you out. It can’t hurt to ask, and you will be so glad you did when you are enjoying a meal that is exactly what you were wanting to eat.

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  2. I experienced waiter help at the Daily Grill Thursday. In the middle of my “difficult Order” the waitress suggested something that was EXACTLY what I wanted but only listed on the lunch menu.

    I was a happy camper and so was the waitstaff:)

    Great list Lyssa.

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  3. Thank you so much for this! Eating out on paleo hasn’t been that hard, as most places serve some kind of entree-sized salad topped with protein and we get it with no-cheese-dressing-on-the-side.

    But I was convinced Mexican food and sushi were off-limits – good to know that a little creative thinking is all it takes.

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