The Blog of Jon Guerrera

Thoughts about health, goals, and anything else I'm nerding out to.

How to eat Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) in the San Francisco Bay Area

Last updated: 9/12/2016

I adopted the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet in 2014 by the recommendation of my functional medicine practitioner. The diet has a strong following amongst those combating inflammation and/or autoimmune disease.

Initially, I saw very little progress from AIP. In retrospect, it's because I was letting nightshades sneak into my diet on a regular basis. But once I started cooking for myself, and really stuck to the diet, it started working its magic, as I've detailed here.

In my experience, AIP gets easier over time. However, there's one glaring issue that actually gets worse over time, especially if you don't actively work on it...

The impact to your social life.

Do your friends want to go out for a drink later? Ah, you can't consume alcohol, so it's probably best to avoid temptation – you can always see them another time.

Did your friends invite you to eat at the cheesiest, tomato-iest Italian restaurant in your city? Sorry Jon, you won't find anything to eat there unless you enjoy chomping down on boring salads.

Want to go see a movie instead of cooking tonight? Tough. There are no restaurants anywhere nearby that will cater to your dietary needs. Either cook or have no food for the week.

AIP advocates 100% strictness for at least a few months in order to see results. However, I felt that the stricter I became, the more my social life suffered.

AIP is not conducive to a social life

I wasn't okay with this tradeoff; I decided to solve the puzzle of eating out in my city while maintaining 100% Autoimmune Paleo compliant. I've found that in the Bay Area, this is definitely possible to do. This will be a living guide that I update as I learn more.

Ok, so where can I eat?

Let's start with what we're all here for: a list of options that can give you a completely AIP meal, beyond the typical salad bar.

Nabe (San Francisco)

Nabe is nestled away in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, serving hot pot. When I emailed them asking about food allergies and sensitivities, I got a very detailed reply from an assistant manager there, explaining what's safe for me to eat. The summary of what he told me:

  1. First, order a la carte, so that you can control exactly what you receive.
  2. Get the kombu broth. The ingredients: kombu seaweed, salt, and water. None of the other broths are AIP-friendly.
  3. Order the veggie plate without any of the soy items (or, just order individual veggies a la carte).
  4. Order whichever meat/seafood strikes your fancy. Just confirm that it's not marinated.

Eating here was an absolute pleasure, and the servers were very knowledgeable about what's in each item on the menu.

Mission Heirloom (Berkeley)

This one is a no brainer. It's perhaps the only restaurant in the world right now with explicit AIP menu items. Eating here while on AIP is always a satisfying experience.

RoliRoti (Food truck, multiple locations)

RoliRoti serves rotisserie chicken from local farms. According to their website (and the person I asked at the food truck), the chickens are seasoned with rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano, and a little bit of salt & pepper. So if you're avoiding black pepper, I'd hold off on this until you've successfully reintroduced it.

Unfortunately, the only side dish they seem to offer is roasted potatoes, so I typically find a nearby salad bar to get something to put the chicken on. Regardless, the chicken is delicious.

Note: If you're sensitive to cross contamination, one other thing to look out for is them resting the chicken over the potatoes. I didn't notice this the first time I went, but now I request a chicken that hasn't touched the oily potatoes.

For more information, check out their FAQs.

Three Stone Hearth (Berkeley)

A community sponsored kitchen (CSK) in Berkeley, Three Stone Hearth puts together meals that are explicitly GAPS, following Weston A. Price's recommendations for food prep. Not everything here is AIP, but many items are, and the employees are very knowledgeable about food sensitivities. Some items can be surprisingly expensive, but it's worth a visit regardless. At the time of this writing, they have open store hours on Saturdays.

Roam Artisan Burgers (San Francisco)

Update: A commenter on this post informed me that Roam uses rice bran oil on their grill for their burgers. I personally didn't have a reaction to it, but proceed with caution if you don't want to risk it.

Pastured meat offerings and awareness of food sensitivities = good burgers. I ordered a grass-fed beef burger, no seasoning, wrapped in lettuce and topped with raw onion and avocado. To be honest, I wish they would've added more onion and avocado to make the meal more filling, but this place definitely makes the cut for having an AIP-friendly dish.

Little Gem (San Francisco)

Little Gem is fairly new as of this writing. What I really appreciate about this place is the owner's responsiveness to people with food sensitivities. Below is a snippet from my conversation with him on Yelp (see more about how to connect with restaurants in my guide to finding AIP-friendly restaurants in your city).

AIP Paleo Discussion with Little Gem SF

Shortly after this Yelp interaction, I called the restaurant directly, spoke to Eric (the owner), and we worked together to find a meal I could eat: an unseasoned steak with brussels sprouts cooked in olive oil in a separate pan to avoid cross contamination. Success!

Mealmade (San Francisco)

On AIP, it's common to run out of food in the middle of the week, and not have time to run to the store and cook up another batch of food.

On those nights where you have nothing at home to eat, Mealmade comes to the rescue. They're a paleo food delivery service that has explicitly-marked AIP options on the menu.

I've met Mealmade's founder, Jeff, and he's clearly passionate about providing high quality, AIP-compliant food. I've ordered from them multiple times and will continue to do so. As of this writing, they only deliver to San Francisco.

What's next?

I'll continue to update this guide as I go, with two goals in mind:

  1. Maintain a comprehensive list of AIP-friendly restaurants for people in the Bay Area.
  2. Put together a how-to guide for people living in other cities who want to discover AIP-friendly gems nearby. (You can find that post here.)

Leave a comment if you have any feedback, or if I missed any restaurants!

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