How to Find Real Food Restaurants (5 Questions to Ask!)

Summer is (almost) upon us, which means more opportunities to be away from home for travel and fun (one can only hope)! While on whatever adventures you have planned this year, you may find yourself needing to pick a decent restaurant. If you’re slaving over real, fresh, local, homemade food for your family when you’re at home, then why compromise those values when you’re out to eat? The good news is, you don’t have to!

Today, I am summarizing what I usually (politely) ask at restaurants in order to get a feel for how they do things. The answers to these questions are very good indicators of how “from scratch” their offerings really are! And, don’t worry about any annoyed waiters spitting in your food when you’re looking the other way. Restaurants that do things right are darn proud of it and usually glad you’re even asking! :)

How to find Real Food Restaurants on 100 Days of Real Food

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How to Find Real Food Restaurants (5 Questions to Ask!)

  1. Do you make your salad dressings from scratch? Or, which ones are made from scratch?
    This one is a biggie, and even if they have just one dressing that’s made from scratch, it’s better than nothing and always the one I order (even if I’m really craving ranch or something else). Trust me, you don’t want the bottled stuff from their supplier!
  2. Do you source any of your meat or produce from local farms?
    If the answer to this is yes, then ask which menu items. Sometimes restaurants have farm lists on the wall, but come to find out, only 1 or 2 items are routinely sourced from those locations. Unfortunately, a little bit of “greenwashing” can occur in this department (and we learned about this from our friends who are organic farmers and have seen their name listed at a restaurant that doesn’t really use them).
  3. Is any of your bread 100% whole-grain (or partially whole-grain)? Is any of your bread made from scratch?
    I honestly think you’d be hard pressed to find 100% whole-grain bread offered at any restaurant (at least around here). I think the next best option is for them to at least have bread that’s made from scratch—even if it’s white. Whether they make it in the restaurant (again, unlikely) or get it from a local bakery, that would be your best bet if 100% whole-grain is not available.
  4. Do you make your soups in-house?
    Chain restaurants are taking packets of powder and adding water to them for their “soups”…no, thank you!
  5. Do you ever change your menu based on seasonal ingredients?
    This is a good sign of a restaurant who is at least cognizant of ingredients changing with the seasons. I love restaurants that change their menus regularly based on what’s fresh and available!

One other thing I notice when eating out is the sanitation score. Those scores are usually pretty high, so you know if it’s anything less than a 97/96 then they did something wrong. So I usually ask, “Why is your posted score a 92?” Often it’ll be something simple like a labeling issue in their walk-in fridge, which may not be too concerning. However, it’s always good to know before they prepare your food.

My Favorite On-the-go Wipes: Handzies

Handzies on 100 Days of Real Food

On that note, something we always love to have with us at restaurants (especially when traveling) are some packets of Handzies! I’m a big hand washer, and depending on where you’ve been prior to eating, you sometimes need more than a little squirt of soap to do the job. So, we love how this company offers little packets of “soap and water” derived from natural ingredients—read: no unwanted chemicals or unnecessary additives includedthat are perfect for wiping down your hands, the table, a chair (or high chair), or whatever needs a little refresh before you dig in.

Please share below what questions you ask restaurants that I may have missed!

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4 thoughts on “How to Find Real Food Restaurants (5 Questions to Ask!)”

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  1. Great ideas, but I am confused about bread made from scratch.
    The grocery store bread most of buy isnt hand made.
    I would opt for whole grain in any form as white flour has very little food value. Just a thought…

  2. Kristine Clarke

    Where do you find a sanitation score? I’ve never heard of this or seen it posted in any restaurant. Thanks for information!

    1. Kristine, I think this varies by state/community. Where I live restaurants are graded. I only eat at those with a grade of A.

  3. Hey Lisa, have you ever found that chain restaurants can still apply real food principles, even when they’re corporate-owned? If so, which are the better restaurants?