How I survived Whole30 while still dining out (a bit) in Charlotte


For the second year in a row, during the month of January, I have taken the plunge and committed to Whole30. It had been on my radar for about a year before I did my first round in 2017, mainly because I was never entirely convinced that I wanted to completely cut out a massive list of foods that I love for an entire month.

In a nutshell, Whole30 is a 30-day lifestyle change where you give up sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, processed ingredients and alcohol. If you read a food label and are not sure what an ingredient is, more often than not, this item is struck from your approved eating list. This cleanse is meant to reset your system and train you to naturally make healthier food choices.

As far as following the plan to the exact guidelines, I might stray just a little bit. Do I dive head-first into a bowl of carb-o-licious pasta? Not quite — but I will nibble on snacks between meals when I feel it is necessary (which they discourage but it’s not exactly breaking any rules). I’ve also come up with several go-to meals to make at home, which have been pretty popular on my blog.

A recurring question amongst my friends has always been, “How on earth are you going to survive this as a food writer?” and “Where are you going to go out to eat”? I’m pretty determined to stay social during my rounds, so I’ve combed the city to find my top Whole30-compliant eateries.

[Related: I tried being vegan for 14 days—and it was somewhat of a disaster]

When you’re looking for a sit-down restaurant:

Ranking in at my #1 overall spot is Burton’s Grill & Bar in the Park Road Shopping Center. Not only does this casual-dining spot have a plethora of Whole30 compliant appetizers and entrees, but they also offer separate menus for gluten-sensitive, vegetarian and paleo diners. They will create a custom meal to accommodate your dietary restrictions and list all ingredients for you to double-check compliancy. When you visit, tell Marc (their GM) that Jess sent you.

Burton’s Grill & Bar

1601 E. Woodlawn Road

Spinach Salad ($10.95): spinach, red and yellow bell peppers, English cucumbers, red onion, grape tomatoes and COMPLIANT oregano vinaigrette.

Pan Seared Salmon ($18.95/$26.95): bronzed gulf of Maine salmon, charred tomato salsa, julienne vegetables, romesco sauce. Substitute Shrimp ($16.95/$23.95).

MLT Burger ($15.95): hand-packed certified angus beef, sautéed mushrooms, tomato, iceburg lettuce “bun”, broccoli. Add avocado ($1.95).

Grilled NY Strip ($28.95): aged Allen Brothers angus beef, carmelized wild mushrooms and onions, marinated tomatoes, broccoli. Substitute chicken ($22.95). 

Photo via Jess Bentley

When you’re looking for something quick and easy 

I’m often in a hurry when it comes to lunch — so if I must venture somewhere out around town, these casual spots are my go-to choices. Note: The prices listed below are for lunch, so make sure to check their website if you plan to join them for dinner.


Various Locations

Citrus & Avocado Salad ($9.29): Kale, blood orange, avocado, radish, sweet potato, red cabbage, beets, cilantro and pumpkin seeds.

Note: This is a winter, seasonal salad so make sure to visit soon if you’d like to try this menu item. Switch the honey ginger dressing for the red wine vinaigrette (which is just olive oil and red wine vinegar) to be Whole30 compliant.

Photo via B.Good

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Various Locations

Pork Carnitas Whole30 Salad Bowl ($6.95 + extra for guac): braised and hand-shredded carnitas, grilled fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, and their hand-mashed guac on a bed of fresh chopped romaine lettuce.

Photo via Jess Bentley

Clean Juice

Various Locations

The Double One ($7.95 for 16 ounce): Spinach, kale, banana, almond butter, maple syrup and almond milk with your choice of whey or hemp protein.

Note: Order this with no maple syrup (sub fresh dates) and no almond milk (sub coconut water) with hemp protein. Whole30 recommends that you eat your fruit/veggies rather than drinking them. However, technically this isn’t cheating — and sometimes a smoothie is calling your name.

I’m a big fan of this juice house, and I even partnered with them to create a recipe for their Juice Till Dinner Campaign (which just so happened to be a Whole30 compliant recipe).

Photo via Jess Bentley

Nekter Juice Bar

Various Locations

Freshly Squeezed Juices (pricing varies, see store location): Made-to-order juices that are meant to refresh and replenish.

Note: When ordering your juices make sure to ask for no agave nectar and skip the homemade cashew milk (it has agave nectar in it, too). They were very helpful with substituting, so our experience was great.

Photo via Jess Bentley

Pio Pio

1408 East Blvd. and 15025 Lancaster Hwy.

Guacamole & Tostones ($9.50): Housemade guacamole served with twice-fried plaintains.

A side salad with Peruvian shredded chicken and avocado ($9.75): A decent portion of luscious greens, avocado halves and rotisserie chicken.

Fried Yuca ($3.75): A South American classic, similar to french fries.

Photo via Jess Bentley

The Verdict

When it comes to dining out in Charlotte, finding Whole 30 compliant restaurants can be pretty tough. Not only do you have to consider substituting those mashed potatoes for a salad with no dressing, but you also need to confirm that spice rubs used on meats and vegetables do not contain any sugar or additives. I’m sure there are some Queen City restaurants that simply fell off my radar; however, I was pleasantly surprised with my experiences at the ones I mentioned.

Will I continue to do Whole30 each January? Absolutely. While doing the cleanse last year, I woke up with a swift boost of energy each morning and actually slept better than I have in years. Am I hangry? Sometimes (ok … maybe more than sometimes, but who’s counting?).

Note: Please seek professional medical advice if you have any questions regarding Whole30. This post is simply a roundup of my own Whole30 journey. Results and personal experiences may vary.

Editor’s note: This piece originally published in January 2018 and has been updated.


  1. Wrapping up my W30 in about 1.5 weeks! How did the reintroduction phase go for you? Did you discover any food sensitivities that will alter the way you eat long term?

  2. This is me and my wife’s third Whole 30 and we just discovered Burton’s as well this time around. The Paleo menu is a game changer! Also good is Zoe’s Kitchen which has a cauliflower rice bowl which you can easily substitute the dairy in for extra skhug and tomato relish. They also have kabobs that are W30 compliant with roasted veggies or potato salad.

  3. Most places that fry anything use vegetable or canola oil. Did you check with Pio Pio what kind of oil they use for their plantains and yuca?

  4. I was also wondering about the recommendation for the fried plantains and yucca, not sure those are really W30 compliant. I do plan to check out Burton’s though!

  5. Pio Pio is the opposite of whole 30. Almost Negative whole 30. Using vegetable oil to fry food, and a non compliant marinade on their chicken, the only whole 30 item on the menu is water. And even then I suspect a trace of added sugar in Charlottes tap water 😉


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