By: Courtney Dabney
Making the switch to a clean diet of fresh unprocessed foods sounds simple enough – until you decide to dine out. Well, that used to be the case anyway. But in the last few years, Fort Worth restaurants have become much more savvy about finding local, organic ingredients, preparing simpler, less-fussy plates, and offering a variety of gluten-free, paleo and vegetarian options on their menus. Restaurants like Spiral Diner and Righteous Foods may be the go-to choices for clean eats in Cowtown, but they aren't the only option in town. Here are some clean favorites from restaurants around Fort Worth.
Café Modern – Shakshuka Poached Eggs.
Weekend brunch, with its carb, sugar and processed meat-laden menu choices, is particularly dangerous when you are determined to eat clean. That’s why this classic Middle Eastern baked egg dish is the perfect guilt-free comfort food. At Café Modern, cage-free farm eggs are gently poached in a savory house-made tomato sauce thickened with garbanzo beans and flavored with cilantro and parsley. Chunks of goat feta cheese are crumbled on top for a delightfully tangy finish. Just remember to tell the server you want to skip the crostini—the dish is just fine without it.
3200 Darnell St. (inside the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth)
La Perla – Quinoa Salad.
If you are looking for the ultimate clean-eating power lunch item, the quinoa salad at La Perla is an ideal choice. It’s light, fresh and won’t leave you dealing with a mid-afternoon slump. It’s also a great post-workout food. Red quinoa is cooked until fluffy and then served cold. Flavored with chunks of avocado, jalapeño, cucumber and pickled onion, the grain salad also soaks up a citrusy house vinaigrette. It’s lovely over a mixed green salad or served up as a side dish all on its own. If you would rather not go meatless, order a chicken tinga taco (sans tortilla) to kick up the protein level.
910 Houston St.
Fred’s Texas Café – Portabella Burger Salad.
While Fred’s might not be the first restaurant that comes to mind when you are looking for clean eats, it doesn’t mean that you have to skip out on live music and dinner with friends when the invite pops up. As much as I love a greasy Fredburger with fries, the menu does offer at least one healthier choice. Opt for its meatless Portabella mushroom burger—made with a whole, fresh Portabella cap—and have it served up on a salad instead of a bun with the house-made balsamic vinaigrette. If you prefer, swap the shredded cheese for an unaged cheese like Oaxaca, or skip the cheese and dressing entirely.
915 Currie St.
Cannon Chinese Kitchen – Basket-Steamed Tiger Shrimp or Lane Snapper.
It can be difficult to find American Chinese cuisine that isn’t breaded, fried or dripping in sauce, but at Cannon Chinese Kitchen, eating clean is much easier. Available on the lunch menu, my favorite guilt-free pick is the basket-steamed seafood, which illustrates how delicious fresh ingredients and simple preparations can be. The shrimp (or fish) is steamed in a bamboo basket alongside cabbage, bok choy, carrots and sprouts and flavored with a simple garlicky sauce. To keep it clean, skip the rice. Instead, order the smashed cucumber salad as a lovely accompaniment.
304 W. Cannon St.
Fixture - Kitchen and Social Lounge - Hearty Fields Bowl.
Several items on Fixture’s menu could be considered clean or at least diet friendly, but before you order yet another kale salad, step off the beaten path and try the Hearty Fields Bowl. The base of the dish is braised farro, a nutty ancient grain that tastes like a more robust version of barley. The bowl also contains kale, grape tomatoes and seasonal veggies and is seasoned with a simple dressing of lemon juice and oil. It’s a refreshing break from entrée salads and satisfies even without animal protein. If you don’t want to skip the meat, farro salad can also be ordered as a side accompaniment.
401 W. Magnolia Ave.
Velvet Taco – Ahi Poke Taco.
When you need a taco fix but tortillas are off limits, Velvet Taco is the place to go. The raw Ahi Poke option is actually served in a lettuce wrap. Made with all of the familiar and delicious elements of a traditional poke – ginger, soy, avocado, seaweed salad and sesame seeds – this “taco” is bursting with so much flavor, you won’t miss the tortilla one bit.
2700 W. 7th St.
HG Sply Co. – The Zucchini “Pasta” and Meatballs.
Dallas’ paleo-friendly transplant opened in Fort Worth’s River Run area less than a year ago, and it has plenty of tasty treats for its clean-eating customers. I asked Chef Eric O’Connor to give me his suggestion for the cleanest item on the menu, and he suggested The Zucchini “Pasta” House Bowl because of its fresh ingredients and minimalist preparation. After one too many plates of mediocre zucchini noodles, I wasn’t so sure I would be a fan, but I found the bowl absolutely satisfying and flavorful – and brimming with a medley of roasted eggplant, garlicky grape tomatoes, rainbow chard, green olives, pickled sweet peppers and caramelized onion. The hemp-oat crumb topping is gluten free, and the dish pairs well with either the quinoa “meatballs” or Texas dorper lamb meatballs (also gluten free).
1621 River Run, Ste. 176
Sushi Axiom Fort Worth West 7th – Midori Roll.
It may be easier than ever to find gluten-free soy sauce and brown rice sushi rolls on Japanese menus around town, but the cucumber-wrapped Midori Roll remains one of my long-time favorite, rice-free rolls. It can be a little slippery to manage with chopsticks, but the refreshingly crispy crunch of thinly sliced English cucumber wrapped around regular and white tuna, salmon, crab and avocado is hard to beat.
2600 West 7th St.
YOUR DINING-OUT CHEAT SHEET
For lunch, stick to either a combo of Greek Wedge and Bulgher & Berries or the Tzatziki Medley (hold the bread).
1310 W. Magnolia Ave.
Order the Mr. Pink or Mr. Orange without the tortilla and add a side of street corn.
928 Northton St.
Terra Mediterranean Grill
Be wary of anything sautéed, sauced or too processed. The grilled whole branzino is a good choice and comes with arugula salad and cauliflower, or get the oven-roasted trout, but skip the butter sauce. And of course, say no to the rice and pita bread.
2973 Crockete St.
Ellerbe Fine Foods
The dinner menu changes seasonally, but a starter citrus or spinach salad is usually safe. If you opt for a main course, stick with its steak or grilled fish and swap out any “white” sides for vegetables.
1501 W. Magnolia Ave.
Del Frisco’s Grille
Your safest choices here are the fire-roasted artichoke, kale and Brussels sprouts salad, or seared salmon, but ask for all vinaigrettes and other sauces on the side.
154 East 3rd St.
By: Courtney Dabney