LA is a terrific place for gluten-free vegetarians and vegans (think Cafe Gratitude, for instance), but for low-carbers, paleo/primal/keto and grain-free folks, not so much. At least not the LA Westside, where I live and work. Sure, if you’re doing regular ol’ keto, with tons of dairy and processed foods, you can pretty much find a bun-less burger anywhere, but if you’re a little more focused on nutrient-density, high-quality ingredients and minimal or no dairy, things are teeny bit more complicated.
Because I’ve struggled quite a but finding spots I truly enjoyed, I’ve compiled a list for folks either visiting or living in the city who are new to this way of eating. I’ll probably keep updating the list as I’m discovering new places I enjoy and/or as my diet evolves but, meanwhile, here we go:
Bulletproof Cafe (Venice): a staple and a classic for keto-ers, but worth mentioning regardless. It’s pricey and there’s almost no inside seating (thank god we’re in Southern Cali!), but the nice thing is you don’t have to explain, you don’t have to modify and you know what you’re getting. They use mostly butter and ghee as a cooking fat, but they will gladly use coconut oil if you are dairy-free.
Kye’s, (Brentwood/ Santa Monica): It’s one of my favorite grab and go lunches in the entire LA area, and I’ve driven out of my way on several occasions to grab one of their grain/dairy/gluten-free nori and lettuce wrapped “Kyeritos”. The Kyerito has a layer of plastic film between the Nori and the fillings so it stays crisp (genius), and in terms of fillings you can choose among several meat and veggie, as well well as egg options. My favorites are the breakfast pesto, chicken curry (contains ghee) and the macro, all “paleo style” (no rice), of course. This is also a terrific option if you are AIP, as they have nut-free (!) options on top of everything else. Oh, did I mention they have GF boba sweetened with maple syrup? (ok, not keto but O-M-G if you are paleo or just gluten-free/low-carb).
Maple Block, (Culver City): This is a newer addition to the scene, a barbecue place smoking meats in traditional ways. You can buy meat by the piece (brisket, spare rib, sausage, chicken thigh etc.) and pick one of their compliant sides (braised beans, tomato salad etc.), just make sure to ask about the rubs and spices so you don’t accidentally order something with sugar. They also have salads that are keto, paleo and can even be modified to AIP. It’s a nice place to bring non-keto/paleo friends, if you wanna have a chill meal where your dietary restrictions don’t stand out (that much).
The Cannibal,(Culver City): This is a terrific place if you enjoy cured meats, pâtés, liver mousses and terrines. They are not geared toward gluten/dairy/grain/sugar free folks, and most of their veggie sides do need to be modified to be made compliant but – unless you have severe allergies – it CAN be done and it IS worth it. They also offer wood grilled steaks that are mouthwatering. Just be sure to make a reservation in advance because they can be assholes about it (even when half-empty).
Erewhon Organic Grocery and Cafe, (Venice/ Marina Del Rey): If you thought the food court at Whole Foods is cool, you’ll go nuts over Erewhon market. With only three locations in the LA area (the other ones are in Park LaBrea and Calabasas), it’s a well-kept secret for now. They have a salad and warm food bar, as well as packaged salads, several of which are low-carb and sugar-free (yay!), and they sometimes carry stevia-sweetened puddings/ parfaits. You can also find Lily’s chocolate there, as well as all sorts of Bulletproof bars and brownies. If you’re leaning more toward paleo than keto, then you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. They even have Rickaroons! (not keto, unfortunately) Only downside is that seating is extremely limited, so it’s best to grab and go.
The Room Sushi Bar, (Westwood): You can find better sashimi in LA, and for what you get, the place is a little overpriced. BUT, I love that they do rice free sushi rolls that can be modified to soy/gluten-free, and it’s one of your best options for a quick lunch or low-key dinner if you are in the Westwood area. They get extra points from me for having grilled salmon collars on their menu, a Japanese delicacy that’s hard to find.
In-N-Out, (Westwood, Marina Del Rey & Culver City): Well, it is fast food but it’s the best burger in LA and they are currently in the process of switching over to antibiotic-free meat. Plus, their “Protein Style” burger (lettuce-wrapped) is one of their most popular *secret menu* items. Most enjoyable if you are eating (or willing to eat) dairy and the occasional sugar (in the sauce).
Because I’m currently following a nutrient-dense keto diet (modified Wahls Level 3/ Paleo Plus), this list features eateries that are somewhere at the intersection of keto and paleo. Several other paleo bloggers have lists that are better suited for AIP and allergen-free folks.
If I overlooked your fave Westside spot, please feel free to let us know in the comments below! I’m also working on an Eastside/ Downtown oriented guide, so stay tuned!