This might come to shock you, but when I first started the paleo diet I almost never cooked. I had two technology jobs, a full courseload, and the only kitchen appliances I had in my closet-like apartment were a micro-fridge and a microwave.
But I still managed to get healthier simply by making better decisions while eating out. I think cooking is a great way to bring a paleo diet to the next level in terms of eliminating all vegetable oils/gluten/sugar and eating nutritious and inexpensive foods like home-made stock and bone marrow, but it's not required! Especially in NYC, many people have jobs that pay well, but leave them little time to cook. Eating out is a reality in NYC.
Fortunately, there are plenty of nutritious options. Since I've been saving money by packing a lunch, I can't say I know all of the, but here are a few good medium-priced (if you have a job that leaves you unable to cook, I at least hope you can afford to eat medium-priced) meals I've had:
- Chipotle was a major staple for me when I did eat out in college. The meat is high-quality, though they never give you enough. Order a salad topped with meat and their delicious veggies.
- FreefoodsNYC is a good choice too, especially given the raw options. I ate there recently and had wild salmon, roasted root vegetables, a flax pizza with vegetable pate, and a marinated mushroom topped with cashew cream.
- The Pump Energy Food recently put out a funny commercial that starts out well enough with a skewering of cereal, but then goes downhill with a misguided criticism of fat. Their menu is a little lower in fat than I'd like and they do have some crap artificial sweeteners and soy protein. Salads can be topped with bison, braised beef, or several other lean meats, then some vegetables like balsamic-marinated mushrooms, and some spicy sauces. Unfortunately the only option they have for "good fat" toppings that is half way paleo is guacamole. When are people going to realize that lard is a good fat?
- It sounds like newcomer 4Food will offer some low-carb options and have grass-fed beef.
- Sushi places usually have sashimi as an option.
- In Koreatown you can easily get such delicacies as short ribs and pork belly at numerous little delis, though the quality of the meat tends to be mixed.
- Eat on the street! Food cart Schnitzel and Things offers bratwust and some delicious beet salad. I also enjoy the Taiwanese food at the cart NYC cravings, though I find they get disgruntled if you try to refuse rice. And of course, Hallo Berlin, which has even more delicious Bratwurst!
On the more expensive side, I think it's even easier. Fine restaurants usually accept food limitations with grace and NYC is currently awash in love for fatty meaty foods. Momofuku is a favorite of mine and the Eating Paleo in NYC group recently had a meetup there where we dined on fatty pork wrapped in lettuce leaves. I also hear The Breslin is amazing.
Breakfast at The Breslin
On some level it's also about learning to say no. When the breadbasket comes to the table, it seems ungracious to send it back, but sometimes health comes at a price.