Originally published July 14, 2014. Updated Friday, November 4, 2016.
If you're looking to eat right — whether that means you adhere to a strict Whole30 diet or you just try to go as local and organic as possible — there are plenty of places in town serving healthful fare without sacrificing flavor. Vegetarians, dairy-free, and gluten-free folk know to hit these spots, which usually list right on the menu if a dish will satisfy their dietary needs.
Here are 10 of our favorite spots to eat well in metro Phoenix:
The concept is simple: food that's free of preservatives and GMOs that's served to you fast. That's the idea behind Grabbagreen, a fast-casual concept that comes straight out of Scottsdale. The entire menu is all-natural, which means everything from the hormone-free and antibiotic-free proteins to the greens to come are completely unadulterated. The menu includes grain- and greens-based bowls, breakfast collard wraps, and quinoa cakes, plus a list of smoothies, juices, and elixirs to take your nourishment to the next level.
Everyone had that vegan friend in college, or maybe you had a (possibly ongoing) stint of veganism yourself. In either case, there are some bits of nostalgia you likely feel for the days of vegan potlucks. Well, at Desert Roots Kitchen, right off of Mill Avenue in Tempe, you can treat yourself to entirely guilt-free vegan wraps, salads, pasta, and other grain-based dishes. If you're looking for a spot in town that doesn't inject fat for the sake of flavor, DRK is the place. Plus, you can even pick up your weekly CSA boxes there if you're in the area.
If you're looking for food that's made with serious thought to flavor and your food sensitivity, then you'll want to head to 24 Carrots. Owner and chef Sasha Raj started this place as a juice bar but has since expanded to include a full menu and a bakery — and it's all vegan, vegetarian, and, for the most part, gluten-free. We had our doubts about food that cuts out all things animal, but once we tasted Raj's vegan bacon, we knew we were in good hands. No, it's not as good as real pork belly, but it is a good imitation: smoky, delicious, and definitely healthy. Not bad considering the chef's never tasted the real thing herself. She also sources much of her produce from local, organic farmers. In short, this place is the real deal.
Kaleidoscope was first known for its juices, but its smoothies, wraps, and salads make it a health-conscious eater's dream. Plus, no one looks twice if you wear yoga pants or arrive by bike. The "high vibe" food is 100 percent organic and even includes breakfast options like the "plumbers breakfast" pudding with goji berries, hemp, coconut milk, and chia seeds. Some of the smoothies (Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix locations only) double as meals, and there are gluten-free options as well. The Thai Tiger salad's dressing bursts with flavor, and the acai bowls are not too sweet, but filling. Plus, there are wraps, salads, and even baked snacks ready-made and ready to take home. It's also one of a handful of places in the Valley to get things like turmeric and wheatgrass shots.
This Ahwatukee establishment is a mecca for meat alternatives. Whether you're a carnivore or a cruelty-free consumer, Pomegranate Cafe can draw nearly any dieter in the door thanks to its fresh produce, dairy-free baked goods, and an extensive menu of entirely green grub. Open for breakfast and lunch, the Pomegranate Cafe makes eating your vegetables a whole lot easier.
We'd be willing to bet that the folks at Loving Hut were vegan before you even knew what the word meant. Loving Hut walks the walk. It also talks the talk — and we won't get into that here, but if you'd like to hear about the peace/love/happiness/freaky side of things, you can read a long story about it. But we're here to discuss the food — delicious, healthy Asian dishes including colorful salads, pho, sushi, and curry. Feeling like a splurge? Try the deep-fried spring rolls or won tons. We're not as fond of the "American" dishes on the menu, where soy protein takes the place of meat on hamburgers and chili dogs, but this is the perfect spot to bring that dining companion who refuses to eat Chinese food one more time.
True Food Kitchen
Brought to healthy diners by local restaurateur Sam Fox and celebrity physician and health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, True Food Kitchen is the kind of place where dietary restrictions don't have to be restrictive at all. The restaurant's menu includes plenty of options for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diners — there's even gluten-free pizza, cocktails and cider. The idea is that all the food served here adheres to Weil's anti-inflammatory diet. All we know is that it tastes delicious.
They may be putting something in the water at this mini chain of local restaurants, because every time we stop into one of the three locations in Tempe, Scottsdale, and Gilbert, we find ourselves surrounded by happy, good-looking people. Then again, that could just be because the food here is the kind of fare that's both good for you and good to eat. For an on-the-go snack, the restaurant offers fresh-pressed juices (we like the Slim Squeeze with strawberry, kiwi, and mint), while heartier options include protein plates, salads, and breads.
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Sure, Phoenix Public Market Cafe offers some delicious lemon bars and macarons. You can also go for the hefty hunk of meaty prime rib for dinner if you're so inclined. However, for healthy eaters, this downtown Phoenix spot has plenty to offer. While a little less granola than its predecessor, menu mainstays like the all-veggie Del Real sandwich and the Eat the Rainbow salad (which has its own T-shirt now) are great choices for a light lunch. You can also just try out the market vegetable selection or get a fresh-pressed juice on any given day for a treat that's local, fresh, and seasonal. Besides, even if you can't avoid the pastry case, one macaron won't kill you.
Luci's Healthy Marketplace
When it comes to order-at-the-counter salads, sandwiches, and coffee, the midtown market of choice is Luci's Healthy Marketplace at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road. This cafe meets convenience store caters to the health-conscious who cook at home as much as it does the lean-minded lunch crowd. Whether you're going green or just going out, it's easy to gravitate to Luci's.