Real Food Restaurants

Those of us who are interested in eating local, unprocessed Real Food are willing to spend a lot of time preparing that food; however, we are all busy and sometimes we would like to eat out and have someone else cook the food and clean up after it.

 Our problem is finding a restaurant that cares about the quality and nutrition of the food, not just the look and taste, a restaurant where we don’t need to feel guilty that we are sacrificing our health just for convenience. We are looking for restaurants that are trying to move toward more healthful practices in food selection and preparation, such as using local produce, organic foods, grassfed beef, etc.

Most of the listed restaurants have been suggested by readers.  I have supplemented their recommendations with website information to provide as much information as possible about the restaurant’s claims about their food.

I welcome comments and additional information that either support or refute the restaurant’s claims to using Real Food. Sometimes, I don’t include a suggested restaurant because I can’t find out enough information to support its commitment to Real Food. For those that I have personally visited, there will be links to my reviews.

The restaurants are listed alphabetically by type.  Look below the initial restaurant list for fast food restaurants (yes, there are a few!), food trucks, burgers, and coffee shops.

For more good options on Houston area restaurants, also see Made with Love Houston.

Here’s our list of restaurants and why they are included:

Feast: co-owners James Silk, Meagan Silk, and Richard Knight; their website states “We do not use ANY meat or meat product from factory farmed, intensively raised animals in our restaurant. A full list of exactly where your dinner is coming from is posted on the website and on the back of the menu.”  Among sources listed on the website (as of August 3, 2011): Countryside Farms, Cedar Creek, TX; Bryan Farms, Brenham, TX; Jolie Vue Farms, Brenham, TX; Harrison Hog Farms, Beasley, TX; and Dustin Hoeinghaus, Weimar, TX.

Harvest Organic Grille: serves healthy, organic foods, free range chicken, wild-caught fish, and grassfed beef.  They don’t use microwaves or deep fry anything.  There are many vegetarian and gluten-free selections for those who have dietary restrictions. Their motto: “At Harvest Organic Grille – Wine House & Bar, we believe healthy doesn’t have to be boring!”  They offer organic wines and beers.  There are two locations, one on Woodway, another on Westheimer.  Check out the Real Food Houston review of Harvest Organic Grille.

Indika and Pondicheri Cafe: owner/chef Anita Jaisinghani. Declaring “You are what you eat” the Pondicheri website states “Whether you are a chai, curry, or cardamom cookie, we passionately guarantee your composition is of raw, local, and uncompromising quality. We savor the blossoming need to use ingredients of purity along with a desire for hand-made quality. Together, these stamp our food with the fingerprints of true oxygenated existence. It is with utmost pride and pleasure that we roast and grind our spices, sing songs to our yeast starters, cure our bacon, grind our sausage meat, milk our paneer, and most importantly cherish our kitchen. Cooking wholesome nourishment tingles us with a fervor that indulges our ever-present lust to feed.”  The Pondicheri menu lists paneer (raw milk).  A Houston Chronicle review, July 26, 2011, of Pondicheri by Alison Cook said that Jaisinghani was an “advocate of humanely raised and local ingredients” and that the eggs were “farm eggs with rich golden yolks that sit up high, mocking their pallid supermarket cousins.”

**Added June 3, 2013** Local Foods: advertises a “gourmet selection of sandwiches, salads and prepared meals with local ingredients.”  Their website lists these local food sources: Gundermann Farms (organic), Atkinson Farms (no claim to be organic), Animal Farm (organic per Yelp review), Texas Hill Country Olive Oil (organic olives), Texas wild gulf shrimp, and Hatterman Egg Farm (free range and no soy per Urban Harvest review, have high omega 3′s and no soy per HoustonPress review), Pola Cheese (artisan cheese made in the Montrose area per HoustonPress review), and others.  Most of those listed seem to be excellent sources of local, Real Food.  Local Foods sandwich menu lists Duck Confit, House Smoked Salmon, and “Banh Mi.”  Salads include Spring Harvest Salad and Asian Chicken Salad.  Sides include Housemade Chips, but there is no information about the fat used for frying.  Beverages include kombucha, beer, and wine, but there’s no claim to be organic for any drink.

Partners in Paleo: owner/chef Jeanette Pearson is dedicated to producing healthy paleo meals for her friends and neighbors.  The restaurant is located in League City and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 3 pm.  She serves organic produce, pasture raised meats and eggs, uses no wheat, dairy or sugar (some maple syrup), and just a little rice flour. Read the Real Food Houston review of Partners in Paleo.

Pure Catering: a catering service that delivers fresh prepared meals to your home or office, also will cater parties and dinners and offers cooking classes.  They use grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, and organic farmers’ market produce.  Everything is cooked from scratch, and the menu is largely determined by what is fresh in the farmers’ market each week.

Revival Market: owners Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber.  Weber is also the owner of Revival Farms where he practices sustainable farming following Joel Salatin’s philosophy (he visited Polyface Farm during a vacation). Meat from Revival Farms is showcased at Revival Market. Chef Pera is interested in “butchering, charcuterie, and salumi.” He is working toward stocking a “seasonal repertoire of house-made staples for the home cook’s larder that includes stocks, sauces, pickles, jams, and preserves.”  Revival Market specializes in locally raised meats and vegetables.  Even the coffee is roasted by local businesses.  Mangalitsa pork from Revival Farms is the source of the rendered lard available in the market.   For information and photos, see the Real Food Houston review of Revival Market.  There’s more detailed information about Revival Market food sources and preparation methods below.

**Added June 3, 2013** Roots Bistro: the website says they are “Local. Organic. Green.”  They are the second Green-Certified Restaurant in Houston.  They claim that “Everything from the animal chef butchers to the salt that flavors it is locally sourced and organically grown.”  However, I was unable to find any backup information about their ingredients.  Reviews on UrbanSpoon and Yelp varied widely.  Many thought it was expensive.

Ruggles Green: the restaurant is certified by the Green Restaurant Association.  The website states “We offer delicious menu items that incorporate organic, all-natural, hormone-free, preservative-free, products that are always delicious. We strive to preserve the environment through our actions in recycling, conservation, the use of sustainable products, and simple common sense.”  The website menu  adds “We serve delicious menu items that, when possible, incorporate local, organic, all-natural, hormone and preservative-free products. All of our food items are fresh and made to order.  We strive to preserve the environment through recycling, conserving, and using sustainable products and practices.”

**Added June 3, 2013** Season’s Harvest Cafe, Cypress/Fairbanks area, (no website, but they have a Facebook page featuring their menu which varies daily) is a small, family owned, farm-to-table restaurant serving local, organic foods.  There are vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free options for some menu items.  The Yelp and UrbanSpoon reviews are generally favorable.  Season’s Harvest Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, Tuesday through Saturday.

Sorrel Urban Bistro: an affordable farm-to-table restaurant from Ray Salti and Executive Chef Soren Pedersen.  The menu features “local organically grown produce and meat, sustainable fish and wild game.”  One reviewer says everything is so fresh that the restaurant has no freezer.

Tabella’s: a farm-to-table restaurant in Kemah, TX, uses fresh, locally sourced produce and Gulf seafood.  The restaurant opened in January 2012 as an addition to Clear Creek Winery and Clipper House Bed & Breakfast.  For more information and photos see the Real Food Houston post on Tabella’s.

**Added June 3, 2013** Zelko Bistro, owned and operated by Chef Jamie and Dahlia Zelko has New American Fare “prepared with the highest quality and sustainable ingredients.”  Chef Jamie Zelko has been named Sustainable Restaurateur by H Magazine.  The restaurant claims to be focused on local ingredients, and the website mentions using local, 100% raw honey; however, I could find very little specific information about their food.  Both owners are beekeepers.  The menu lists several fried foods but does not say what fat or oil is used for cooking.  Reviews on Yelp are uneven.

Fast Food Restaurants

Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants have become more open about the ingredients in their foods by publishing a list online that indicates such labels as GMO, organic, pasture raised.  With careful choice most GMOs can be avoided when eating at Chipotle.  I know of no other restaurant chain that provides as much information about their ingredients as does Chipotle.  Chipotle Ingredients Statement[Updated May 24, 2013]  Chipotle allows antibiotics in their beef [Updated August 12, 2013]

Franks & Toppings: a fast food restaurant that seems to be trying to provide healthy, real food.  The menu is mostly hamburgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches.  Where they are not a typical fast food restaurant is the food.  Here’s their statement: “We use about 80% organic USDA and ALL NATURAL products.  And our Seafood products are on BOI or Monterey Bay Seafood Guide’s Green list.”  They say their beef is 100% organic with no fillers.  Using the term ‘all natural’ may not mean too much, but perhaps it indicates a direction away from standard fast food fare.  They say they use no styrofoam, only compostable products.  Their forks and spoons are made from renewable birch wood, and they have designed their facility for efficiency and eco-friendly goals.  Even the staff’s uniforms are made with organic cotton.  The reader who recommended adding Franks & Toppings says they use olive oil to fry their potatoes, but, unfortunately, they don’t offer real cheese as a topping.  Update August 30, 2013: a reader says that Franks & Toppings is halal.

Food Trucks

Bare Bowls Kitchen food truck: on a mission to provide REAL food at a reasonable price. Chef James Ashley prepares fresh food to order using pastured meat, local farmers market produce, and pastured eggs. Chef James is also the owner of Pure Catering. Read Real Food Houston’s first review and revisit at Bare Bowls Kitchen.

Oh My! Pocket Pies: a mobile restaurant that offers a “fresher alternative to fast food” that specializes in “quality ingredients from mostly local vendors.” They use local Law Ranch Cattle Company grass-fed beef and other local vendors and serve their food in recyclable products.

Flip ‘n Patties, a food truck that offers “Filipino Street Food & Juicy Burgers.”  The burgers are made with grassfed and grass finished beef.  Their menu includes items made with meat from farm raised pigs and pastured organic chicken.  They make their own buns in-house with organic, unbleached flour.

Burger Restaurants

Elevation Burger, a new restaurant on Kirby.  The healthiest food item at this restaurant seems to be the grass-fed beef burger which they grind fresh on the premises. They use olive oil to fry the potatoes, which may be somewhat better than the standard rancid vegetable oil, but is still not the healthiest choice for frying. There’s not much information about the rest of their ingredients, so we can assume they are probably just standard fare for fast food restaurants. They do offer an option to get the burger wrapped in lettuce rather than on a bun. For more information about this new burger restaurant, read CultureMap’s review.

JerryBuilt Hometown Burgers is another burger restaurant that is claiming to provide better ingredients.  They use Niman Ranch beef and bake their buns in house with dough from Three Brothers Bakery.  Niman Ranch, a San Francisco based ranch and processor, beef is grazed for the first 14-18 months, then finished on grain.  Their chicken is from Buddy’s Natural Chicken based in Gonzales, TX.  Both Niman beef and Buddy’s chicken are fed a grain mix that includes soy, which is probably genetically engineered since there’s no claim to be organic.  JerryBuilt’s first choice for produce is organic and local, but always fresh.  I couldn’t find any information about the kind of oil used for cooking.  JerryBuilt may be an improvement over standard fast food burgers, but they’ve got a way to go before the burgers are really healthy.

The Burger Guys have two locations, Westheimer and Main Street. Their claims include using Akaushi beef (probably not grassfed, but I could not verify that), potatoes fried in duck fat, house-made sauces, and soft drinks with cane sugar. A good add-on not usually offered is the fried chicken or duck egg. Note that the claim to use duck fat for french fries is “Finished in duck fat.” I got no reply to an email asking them what they use for the first frying, which, unfortunately, is probably a much cheaper, unhealthy fat, or they would advertise the difference. A review of the new Downtown location says they shop farmers markets for fresh produce (good!) and that they make their own ice cream (could be good, but we don’t know the ingredients).  Since their beef is probably not even grassfed, I’m ambivalent about including Burger Guys on our Real Food Restaurants page. Does anyone have more information about them?

Coffee Shops

I’ve learned from a reader that there are two coffee shops in the Houston area that serve unhomogenized, lightly pasteurized milk with their coffee.  They are Pearland Coffee Roasters and Catalina Coffee Shop.  If you really like your coffee, you might want to try these out.  Let me know what you think about their coffee.

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Revival Market has generously provided a lot of information about its food.  Here are their answers to questions from Real Food Houston:

38 Responses to Real Food Restaurants

  1. Amy says:

    Oh My Pocket Pies Food Truck, usually found in the Height on 19th street serves locally sourced, wonderful food, including stuffed savory and sweet hand pies, and grass fed beef and shrimp burgers. They purchase their beef From Law Ranch Cattle Company, and even have the buns specially made for them in a local bakery. They use environmentally friendly packaging to serve it in and work hard to make sure everything is fresh.

  2. Amy says:

    Escalante’s Mexican Resturant on Westeimer in Highlands Village has some locally sourced meats and veggies. They also have good prices.

    • Carolyn says:

      Amy,

      Thanks for the suggestion, but I can’t find enough information about Escalante’s to be able to add them. Their web site doesn’t help much. I’ll keep looking.

  3. Jared says:

    Hey Carolyn, heard about you & your site here from Michael Gold in the Paleo In HOuston group on Facebook, what a great idea! Love to see some of my fave local REAL Food Restaurants listed here, nice work! I have one to add to the list that for sure meets the standard, in fact sets the bar for a PURE Standard, Chef James of http://OurPureCatering.com a Local made from scratch personal chef/catering service (also seen cooking up amazing breakfast/lunches at Urban Harvest Farmer’s market) using ALL Local Organic/Sustainable product & amazingly good & reasonable priced! Check it out! I am also working on a new REAL Food-On-The-Run Primal/Paleo friendly Snak Pak with Chef James that I’d love to share with you & your readers here, again using all Local sourced ingredients! Thanks for creating this great resouce! Cheers to our Healthy & FUN Success!

  4. Jen says:

    Carolyn. I visited Ruggles Green. It was a great find. Thanks for the suggestion. I will be in town for two weeks and making most of my own food (brought a lot with me!) But plan to check out Georgias Farm to Market to refresh! Thanks again!

    • Dottie Cline says:

      When shopping at Georgia’s Farm to Market on I-10, always read source of their food. On 2 separate occasions, I started to buy their packaged garlic; however, did not purchase the garlic bacause of the label: “From China.” Needless to say I did not buy their garlic, and made me wonder about the source of their other products.

      • Carolyn says:

        You are right, always read the labels, no matter what store you’re in. I do, even at my favorite health food store, which stocks many items their customers want but that may not be really healthy. Even reading labels won’t tell you everything you might want to know (such as if it contains genetically engineered foods), but it will allow you to eliminate some of the worst items. I don’t know of a store where I could be confident I didn’t need to read the labels. There’s a possibility that it might become illegal in the US to label country of origin–that would make our food choices even more difficult.

  5. Christyna says:

    Onion Creek, Dry Creek, & Cedar Creek use milk from the same local dairy operation as Catalina. Several of their menu components are organic (such as their salad greens).

    Your readers may also be interested in Central City Co-op as a source for organic and local produce & local meats and cheeses.

    • Carolyn says:

      Christyna,

      I apologize for not responding to your suggestions sooner. I’m trying to get more information about the Creek group of restaurants. Maybe I can add them to the list soon. Your suggestion about Central City Co-op is also good. I think the Central City co-op rates a post as well as a listing. Look for it.

      Carolyn

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  7. Irene Molina says:

    What about new restaurant, Harvest? Looks to be organic and natural

  8. pauline lind says:

    One of the most dangerous things about eating out is getting food that has been microwaved which destroys all the nutrition in the food. Microwaves are kept out of sight, but you can tell it has been used by the extreme heat and the texture of the food. Most of our common foods have been irradiated before it leaves the warehouses. Microwaves are killing us while we think of them as convenient, fast, and safe. False government approval – just like GMO foods that are slowly killing people all over the world.

    • Carolyn says:

      I agree that microwaves should not be used to cook food, although short heating of leftovers may not be as damaging. I don’t use a microwave oven at home. For eating out, I can recommend Harvest Organic Grille in Houston where there are NO microwaves, NO fried foods, and NO frozen foods. If you know of other restaurants that don’t use microwaves, please let us know.

  9. Farmer says:

    “We use local produce when ever possible.” This is the most common answer given when a chef hardly uses anything local. Its a big excuse. Our farm has been listed as a supplier since Revival Market opened their doors, but they have never purchased anything from us and they have never tried to contact us. I have tried repeatedly to reach them but my emails go unanswered, and I’m tired of businesses using our farm’s respected name for their green washing.

    • Carolyn says:

      It’s hard for us to verify information about restaurant food sources and methods of preparation. I rarely get responses to my requests, and, in the case of Revival Market, apparently even the answers I do get are not correct. Anything we don’t buy and prepare ourselves should be approached with caution. Thanks for your input.

      • Farmer says:

        I think Revival Market is great. I just wish they would not use our name considering they are not buying from our farm and has never contacted us. The excuse, “We use local produce when ever possible” is pretty lame considering we deliver in their neighborhood every week. How much more convenient could it be for them to offer our produce?

  10. Sarah says:

    JerryBuilt Burgers (two locations, one in Houston and one in The Woodlands) serves locally-sourced (as local as possible) pasture-fed meats, organic veggies, etc., and makes their own lemonade (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and plain) with fresh berry puree that they make themselves. Refills are free, even on the lemonade!

    They may not be perfect (I would prefer coconut oil instead of sunflower oil for cooking the french fries, and I don’t know whether their buns are made from soaked/sprouted grains), but it’s a place I can feel good about eating at. Prices are reasonable, too.

    They even have a “roll the dice” promo after 8pm–if your roll is higher than theirs, your meal (your entire party, up to 10 people) is free! Our family ate there this evening, and we won a free meal (worth almost $60)!

    • Carolyn says:

      JerryBuilt Burgers sounds like a good choice for eating out and not doing too much damage to the diet. I’ll try to check them out. Thanks for the tip.

  11. Amanda S says:

    Thanks for this great resource! I only have a day in Houston and this has given me more than enough places to check out! Glad to know real food is alive and well here.

  12. Ruvi Samaniego says:

    Season’s Harvest in northwest Houston uses local and organic produce, dairy and meats.

    • Carolyn says:

      Preliminary research on Season’s Harvest looks like it would fit in Real Food Restaurants. I will need more information before listing. Thanks for the tip.

      • Lauren says:

        LOVE Season’s Harvest. Probably my favorite healthy restaurant in Houston right now. I used to really enjoy Ruggles Green as well, but while I was there for lunch today I asked the girl behind the counter what kind of oil they use in their salad dressings. I expected her to say olive oil, and she did, but then she mentioned that they also sometimes use soybean oil. Sigh.

  13. Monique says:

    So glad I stumbled upon this site – thank you for the information!
    Here are some restaurant suggestions you may consider adding:
    Roots Bistro
    Corner Table
    Local Foods
    Zelko Bistro

    • Carolyn says:

      I really appreciate your suggestions. I have looked them up and have included three on the Real Food Restaurants page. Corner Table is not included mainly because I couldn’t find out much about it. If more information becomes available maybe it could be listed in the future. Have you eaten at any of these?

      • Heather @ Stuffed Pepper says:

        Corner Table uses soybean oil. :( they claim to be paleo, but they’re paleo buffalo wings are cooked in soy. I was disappointed to find this out, since I have a soy allergy!

  14. Monique says:

    Yes, I have been to all except for Local Foods. I plan to try it this weekend. Several of my friends have been there and really like it. Corner Table is a Bruce Molzan restaurant (of Ruggles Green). He uses many organic ingredients and grass-fed beef on his menu. I’m sure more information will become available over time. It has not been open for too long. There is also a good selection of Paleo entrees on the menu.
    Thanks!

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  17. Roy C says:

    FlipnPatties uses beef from Gramen Farms!!! And they use organic ingredients when they can. And they have delicious homemade buns for their burgers and may use organic ingredients for that too!

  18. Roy C says:

    Oh yeah. It’s a food truck

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