Healthy meals for the whole family
Devotees of the Paleo diet or anyone not feeding gluten to their kiddos will find a safe eating haven at Cultured Caveman, where everything on the menu is gluten, dairy and soy free.
The large, loft-like space on N. Denver was packed on an early Sunday evening with young parents who were trying to convince their kids that zucchini noodles tasted, “just like real pasta.” (In fact so many kiddos were there, the restaurant should consider investing in additional high chairs.)
To keep all those kids busy while waiting for their dinner, Cultured Caveman features a small, well-stocked, dino-themed play area. My 2-year-old loved stamping her hands with the T-rex stamp. (The ink pad was wisely placed on top of a shelf to prevent utter stamping mayhem.) Be aware that seating around the play area is prime real estate.
After placing your order at the counter, the staff delivers it to your table. We were thankful that our appetizer flight (two dips and raw veggies for $7) arrived first. My daughter loved diving into the chunky guacamole and coarsely ground almond butter with sticks of jicama and carrots. My husband and I also enjoyed the sweet-salty-crunchy bacon almond dates (6 for $4).
Everything on the menu adheres to guidelines of the Paleo diet, which urges people to eat more like our preagricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors — lots of protein from grass-fed sources, nonstarchy vegetables and no processed foods, grains, trans fats or Omega-6 fats. This means you’ll find kombucha on tap, not sugary soda and may need to add a little extra sea salt to your entrée. And it means piles of protein on your plate, too. Each of my husband’s three pork carnitas tacos ($13 with a side) contained a mound of shredded pork the size of a softball. My husband, who is training for a triathlon and has been known to eat astounding amounts of pork, couldn’t finish his meal.
My “zoodles” or angel hair zucchini noodles were studded with five to six grassfed beef meatballs in a savory tomato sauce ($12 with a side). The ground beef mixture includes heart and liver — hey, cave people didn’t let anything go to waste, did they? I was hesitant about eating the organ meat blend, but it just tasted like a slightly meatier version of conventional ground beef. Since gluten and dairy are taboo, the meatballs did not contain any breadcrumbs or milk to make them soft and tender, my favorite style. But I liked the tasty alternative noodles and might even try them at home.
The person who enjoyed her meal the most was my toddler. We ordered her the kid-sized chicken tenders fried in grassfed beef tallow ($6 with one side). The “breading” consisted of seasoned coconut flour which provided a nice crunch. She happily dipped her chicken into the lovely ketchup provided; it was not too sweet, just slightly tangy and bursting with tomato flavor. The carrot, parsnip, cauliflower mash was unfortunately doused too liberally with white pepper for my normally veggie-loving toddler to really dig into.
Cultured Caveman does not cater to the foodie in love with stinky cheese and artisanal bread, but if you are looking for a healthy, kid-friendly restaurant, check it out. n
Cultured Caveman: 8233 N Denver. Open daily 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m. culturedcavemanpdx.com.