Last week, I had the pleasure of dining at Picnik’s new brick + mortar location on Burnet. I had an order of their orange chicken + some blueberry tea. It was delicious. Everything on their menu looked so amazing, it was hard to choose. I also had the chance to sit down with founder + CEO, Naomi Seifter. Aside from her mission behind Picnik + its mission, she had some great insight into healthy eating.
The inspiration behind Picnik
As someone who always had food allergies, Naomi wanted delicious options for people like her. At 19, she was diagnosed with Celiac Disease + was having weird reactions to foods. This was all really frustrating + made it tough to socialize. There weren’t many gluten-free options out there so had to do all her own cooking. After living in Miami + spending time at her friend’s juice bar, she realized she could be part of the solution for other people who want to eat gluten-free, or just better. She created a concept for a trailer that was aimed at people with restrictions, which opened three + a half years ago. Naomi continues to get a lot of her inspiration from juice bars + holistic health writers.
Picnik’s menu philosophy
Food everyone loves made with better ingredients.
The menu philosophy Picnik stared with is different from where there are now. They started out super eclectic; It started to freak people out. Naomi’s fiancé, Kevin, has standard American palate. “The longer we were opened the more I started to realize people didn’t gravitate to [eclectic] food as much as the food Kevin liked.” Picnik aims to make classic foods people love with high-quality ingredients. They want to make real food fun again + worth the calories.
Naomi’s menu favorite
She’s all about the pancakes. “They’re not fancy or complicated. But I love them. As someone who has been gluten-free for so long, pancakes are usually awful.” Picnik has created light + fluffy pancakes that they sell to about 75% of their tables. She’s also a big fan of the chicken nuggets.
When Picnik first launched, it attracted a lot of Paleo fanatics. However, the longer they were open, they started to see a more diverse clientele. Maybe these people like butter coffee for breakfast but then go enjoy pizza for dinner. People who needed or wanted better options. Picnik didn’t want the restaurant to be as strict hoped to reach a broader audience in Austin. They want to be the place for everybody + everyone whether they are a woman with Celiac Disease or a guy going out for a good meal with his buddies. This desire is what led to the idea to go with a brick + mortar location.
As far as reception has gone, Austin has been supportive since day one. Even though the Burnet location has only been open a month, they have already had days where they were booked solid, despite their food being on the pricey side. The quality of the ingredients makes it worth it.
Going brick + mortar
“Food trucks force you to work constantly harder not smarter just because the logistics of running it.” Logistically on a food truck, you don’t have the capacity you need + have to run to restock fundamental items like plates + ice multiple times a day. 200 square feet is not great for high volume. Even after getting a bigger trailer built just to fit their needs, Naomi decided she wanted more freedom to customize food for customers. This logistical stress is part of the reason Picnik decided to go brick + mortar. By having a full kitchen to prepare food, the team is able to customize every dish as well as get more creative with how they serve meals + creating a more comfortable environment for customers.
Looking to the future
Picnik’s future is looking bright. With a little help from her vision book, Naomi has some tangible goals with hard dates. Naomi would love to create a concept with Picnik that can be placed in different cities across the country. Any place that can support the concept, she wants to place one. The model is still being tweaked, but I have faith they’ll nail it + I’ll be dining at a Picnik in LA + Nashville one day.
I am definitely someone who struggles with healthy eating + has the palate of a toddler but talking with Naomi gave me a ton of inspiration on how I can incorporate healthier choices into my everyday life. Here are some of the tips she shared.
- Vegetables can be your best friends. They can be used creatively like puree cauliflower with sea salt, butter, and garlic to create healthy mashed potatoes.
- Puree cashews are a perfect dairy substitute. Different additions can make it taste of milk or cheese sauce.
- For sweetening, maple sugar + syrup have trace minerals + are much lower on the Glycemic Index.
- Don’t fear fruit! They make great afternoon snack or a pick me up.
- Start your day with a smoothie (wild blueberries, banana, parsley, spinach, barley grass powder)
- Get grass-fed as much as possible. The nutrition for meat is in the fat, but so are any toxins. If you can’t get pasture-raised meat, go for options like shrimp or chicken rather than a marbled steak.
- Canola oil is industry standard but very inflammatory. Choose something like coconut, olive, or avocado oil for a healthier option. Picnik uses avocado oil in all its cooking.
- Focus on real food: meat, fish, fruit, veggies, and good-quality fat. Get more raw veggies in your life!
- Get into bone broth. It is so good for you! It’s really healing. It’s great for your stomach + can help with reaction to foods.
- Swap soda with soda water + apple juice or go for fruit infused waters.
What are your favorite healthy eating tips? Tell me in the comments! Head to your local Whole Foods to try some of Picnik’s butter coffee!