Low Carb Restaurants

I love eating, and I love hanging out with my friends, but I sometimes dread the “let’s grab dinner tonight” line. Most of friends are super considerate and will let me choose the restaurant, but even that still leaves the problem of finding a restaurant that I can eat at! So here’s my list of the general types of restaurants you can eat out at on a low-carb diet. Within each category, I’m also listing some of my favorite restaurants in New York for low-carb dieters!

  1. Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurants: I usually go for a meat kabob (I like the chicken ones). They unfortunately serve the dishes with rice and don’t give you enough meat for a whole meal. I’ve found Naya Mezze & Grill (at 56th and 2nd Ave) to be great. I love their Chicken Shish Taouk (chicken breast cubes marinated in garlic & lemon served with garlic sauce & rice for $19.00 or there’s a lunch special as well). There’s so much chicken that I simply can’t eat it all, and the garlic sauce is amazing! They also give you quite a bit of grilled vegetables to go with the chicken. Many of the halah carts on the street corners in New York are also good for grilled meats.
  2. BBQ restaurants: the low-carb diet allows for huge amounts of meat consumption. BBQ restaurants are great for this. The main thing to be careful about is BBQ sauce, which can contain huge amounts of sugar. I like the Texas BBQ restaurants (such as Hill Country at 26th between 5th and 6th Ave in New York) because they generally don’t serve the meat with any sauce). South Carolina BBQ is also good as their sauce if more vinegary than sweet.
  3. Korean restaurants: Korean BBQ is delicious. If you haven’t had it before, it’s basically small thin chunks of meat grilled on a mini grill at your table (although some less authentic places grill them in the kitchen instead). Some of the meat is marinated in sauce, but it usually says on the menu. Good ones to try are the pork belly, galbi (has some sauce), and bulgogi (sometimes has sauce). In New York, there’s a whole slew of Korean Restaurants at 32nd between 5th and 6th Ave. My favorites are Kang Suh and Kunjip.
  4. Rotisserie Chicken restaurants: you can of course get rotisserie chicken in most supermarkets, but there are also restaurants that specialize in rotisserie chicken. My favorite in New York is Pio Pio, which can be found in multiple locations in the city. I personally think their chicken (and especially their special green sauce) is way way better than any chicken you can make yourself or buy in the store – they just make it super moist! Many Peruvian restaurants also specialize in this type of juicy rotisserie chicken (try Flor De Mayo between 83rd and 84th st on Amsterdam Ave and at 101st st and Broadway in New York – get the pollo a la brasa).
  5. French restaurants: I love French food, and it’s mostly low-carb (well, except for the dessert part). Unfortunately, most French restaurants are upscale and tend to be fairly expensive, although most offer some form of lunch deal (still above $30 for lunch though). My favorite is Gordon Ramsey’s Maze (he’s the chef that does Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares on tv). A less well-known French restaurant that I enjoy is La Sirene (a BYOB bistro located at Broome St. and Varick St. in New York). You can order a large variety of fish and meats cooked to perfection served with delicious vegetables from most menus.
  6. Upscale Italian Restaurants: it’s a shock, but real Italian restaurants serve more than just pizza and pasta. The traditional Italian meal would start with a pasta and then follow it with a meat or fish course served with some vegetables. Upscale authentic Italian restaurants often offer this meat/fish course (e.g. Felidia at 58th between 2nd and 3rd ave (get the veal there!) and Scarpetta at 14th st between 8th and 9th ave in New York).
  7. German restaurants: wursts and sausages. I especially like Hallo Berlin (on 10th ave between 44th and 45th st), which serves an Atkins platter for around $15 (comprising of 3 sausages, some meat patties, and several pickled vegetables). DBGB (Daniel Boulud’s gastropub at Bowery and E. Houston) also has a good selection of upscale fancy sausages.
  8. Diners: you’ll have to give the waffles and pancakes a miss, but they generally serve a large selection of egg dishes at all hours of the day and night.
  9. Salad bars: some people really like salads, for me, it’s just ok. Salads are of course great for a low-carb diet as long as you keep to a olive oil and vinegar dressing.
  10. Steakhouses: good ol’ meat. What can I say – you just can’t eat a lot of the sides, but some places will have low-carb-friendly sides like grilled asparagus and sautéed spinach. My favorite steakhouse in New York is Del Frisco’s at 49th St. and 6th Ave.
  11. Argentinian restaurants: argentinian restaurants are almost like steakhouses. A lot of what you can eat at them are the beef dishes. The Chimichurri Grill at 49th St and 9th Ave has a good skirt steak.
  12. Specialty health restaurants: I generally tend to find them not all that friendly for low-carb diets because they often have sandwiches on their menu. Many of them feature tofu and soy products, which have been linked to various hormonal issues. Fuel Grill and Juice Bar (at 38th between Broadway and 6th Ave) offers around 10 low-carb plates (which they serve with pita, but you can discard that!). I tend to find their food a bit bland, but they’re at least trying to accommodate us low-carb dieters! There’s also Pump Energy (2 locations in New York), which offers quite a wide selection of low-carb foods, but again it’s a bit bland.
  13. Cafes/Delis: I didn’t now how to name this category of restaurants. What I mean by cafes/delis is those corner stores with a cold salad bar and a hot food bar. It’s like the cooked food section of Wholefoods, where you can spoon whatever you want into your box, and then you’re charged by how much the food weighs. Some good places other than Wholefoods include Dishes and Cafe Duke (both with multiple locations in New York).