The restaurant and food trailer serve up craveable dishes beloved by sinners and saints alike
by Karen O. Spezia
Photographs by Holly Cowart
Happy February! It’s one month into the new year, so how’s that “healthy eating” resolution going? Not so much, eh? Well, it’s not too late to get back on track. And Picnik is the perfect place to start. This health-conscious restaurant, with multiple locations, takes the drudgery out of mindful eating and makes it a tasty, joyful celebration.
Picnik was born out of necessity. Its founder, Naomi Seifter, had battled lifelong food sensitivities and was searching for restaurants that honored her dietary needs. She didn’t find many. So in 2013, she opened Picnik, a cheerful food trailer serving a small menu of gluten-free foods, bone broths and beverages. Her trailer became so successful that within three years, she was able to open a full-service brick-and-mortar restaurant. Then, in 2017, she opened a second trailer and began distributing pre-bottled beverages, including her legendary butter coffee (more on that later), at grocery stores nationwide.
Picnik’s menu is 100 percent gluten-, corn-, peanut- and soy-free and built on the promise of wholesome foods that offer beneficial effects and are made with premium local ingredients. While its trailers serve a limited grab-and-go menu, the Burnet Road restaurant boasts a wide-ranging menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items, not to mention a full bar. Everything is made with high-integrity ingredients like grass-fed, pasture-raised meats; wild-caught fish; local, raw cheese; grass-fed butter; and raw apple cider vinegar. It uses only nutrient-dense coconut and Texas olive oils for flavoring and heart-healthy avocado oil for sautéing and frying. Practically any dish can be modified or customized and there is even a special menu for Whole30 devotees!
Breakfast is served all day. Since this is Austin, there are breakfast tacos, but they’re wrapped in gluten-free almond-flour tortillas. There are also gluten-free pastries, avocado toast and pancakes, including mouthwatering salted caramel-banana flapjacks. But the real showstopper is the harvest hash, a groaning platter of roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, spinach, sausage, currants, onions, apples, toasted pecans, sage and chile flakes — all tossed with a maple vinaigrette and crowned with a perfectly poached egg.
Although there’s a wide selection of teas, matchas and chai, the ultimate breakfast beverage is Picnik’s butter coffee, a smooth and silky blend of organic beans, grass-fed butter and brain-boosting MCT oil. This popular brew is known to sustain energy levels without the typical caffeine-induced crash, suppress hunger while boosting metabolism and help improve cognitive function and balance mood and hormone levels. No wonder it has a cult following.
At lunch and dinner, Picnik offers lots of yummy shareable appetizers. While fans swear by the creamy cashew queso, the roasted Brussels sprouts spiked with pork belly and the veggie-studded guacamole, don’t miss the chicken tenders.
Of course, there are several garden-fresh salads and daily soup offerings, plus bone broth in a variety of flavors. For entrées, step outside the box with the cauliflower steak, a thick slab the tender vegetable grilled with a turmeric-pistachio crust, then covered with a caper-raisin purée and a Fresno chile relish, and piled atop a generous swipe of earthy hummus. My husband usually prefers white-meat chicken, but I coerced him into trying the crispy chicken thighs, and he loved it. Two thighs are pounded paillard-thin and cooked until the skin is crisped to a succulent golden brown. Served with creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed Broccolini and a lemon beurre blanc, the dish is both comforting and sophisticated.
For dessert, don’t miss the blondie ice-cream sandwich, which has a fan base almost as devoted as the butter coffee’s. Grass-fed vanilla ice cream is wedged between two gluten-free blondie brownies made with grass-fed butter, almond flour, coconut sugar and chocolate chips.
Picnik has an impressive bar program with wine, cider, gluten-free beer and stellar cocktails made with clean, produce-derived spirits like vodka and gin made from potatoes, bourbon developed from figs and agave-based mezcal and tequila.
I’m not paleo, keto, Whole30, vegetarian or vegan. I can’t be in my line of work. But I assure you that I enjoy Picnik as much as those who are. It’s an accessible and delicious place to recommit to healthy eating — right now and all year long.