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Eating Out

April 11, 2011

Photo by Robert S. Donovan

Some people find a few good restaurants, and they’re done. When they wish to eat out, its not really a matter of where, but rather, which one of these tried and true places do they feel like? Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. Yes, for super casual / fast food, I have a few go-to’s. If I’m spending less than $12 on a meal, then I’m not overly fussy. But anything more than that, and the main criteria for me is trying someplace new. The adventure of trying a new place is just part of the dining experience for me, and I generally try not to frequent the same spot more than once. There’s so many great places to eat in Vancouver, why not explore? I’d rather end up eating a mediocre dish, having tried a new restaurant than to have the great same old, same old.

This approach to eating out when paleo / primal clearly poses some difficulties in terms of  tracking down new, “edible” food. Whenever we eat out, we risk at minimum, gluten and vegetable oil exposure. Grains manage to sneak their way into all sorts of things without popping up on the menu. I recently had to scrape bread crumbs off otherwise delicious bone marrow. Flour is quite commonly used to thicken sauces. And everything seems to be cooked in canola oil. However, since I don’t eat out often, these are compromises I’m willing to make. And as someone I was dining with, who had a vague notion about my eating style said, “You sure don’t seem to be suffering on that diet of yours…” (while watching me devour some meat and veggies). And that’s exactly it, I don’t think that paleo / primal is restrictive at all. Its more that the food pyramid’s upside-down, and grains are ubiquitous.

What makes for a good dining experience for me, is a place like, Pied-â-Terre, where there’s several paleo/primal options to choose from and minimal substitutions required. That’s rare, though, especially at reasonably-priced and more mainstream restaurants, which can make spontaneous dining out difficult. I’ve always said though, that in a pinch I can eat at any restaurant – there’s always be some sort of salad plus meat on top option.

The problem I ran into recently was when a friend and I were choosing a restaurant from the Entertainment Coupon Book. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s actually a pretty good deal in terms of savings on eating out, as well as local attractions. She gave me a list of 7 or 8 restaurants to choose from. The problem is that the coupons almost always apply to the entrée (Buy 1 entrée and get the 2nd free). So there goes my standby salad option. It was surprising how few entrées there were without grains being the staple of the meal. There was really only one place that wouldn’t require any substitutions, an upscale Italian bistro – the veal was very tasty. There’s so much more to Italian cuisine than pasta…

For fast/casual fare, most good burger joints like Vera’s are accustomed to wrapping burgers in lettuce. Most pubs will also have decent burger choices. The hot food section of upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods and Urban Fare also have some decent options. For a nice dinner out, there’s always a steak house, or I’ve also had good experiences with Italian and French bistros. Also, good Indian restaurants cook with ghee, and have various meaty curries.

A lot of people think it’s difficult to eat out primally. Although it does take some effort, and your meals may not be 100% compliant, for me it’s worth it to get to experience the local Vancouver food scene. And if you so choose, you can always find a  few go-to places and become a regular – maybe you can even convince them to start cooking with butter…

When you eat out, do you stick to a few favourites, or do you opt for trying new spots?

Shared with Food Renegade.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsay July 8, 2011 at 2:22 PM

I live in a small town and I find it hard to eat out but I love to try new food and restaurants. I usually have to order steak and vegetables because there is nothing else on the menu that I can eat. But it doesn’t stop us from trying new things!

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admin@primalist July 9, 2011 at 7:36 AM

Isn’t it funny how when we’re used to eating really well, steak & veggies becomes sort of common fare? :p I’m the same way, I like trying new things, but I’m coming to terms with steak & veggies being one of the best paleo/primal dining out options:
http://www.theprimalist.com/primal-dining-at-hamilton-street-grill/
And dining out can definitely be harder in a small town, especially when you like variety and trying new things. I guess I sometimes take that for granted here in vancouver where the food scene is so big.

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