What the Thrive & Dine Ratings Mean

$            Entree prices $10 and under

$$          Entree prices $11 - $20

$$$        Entree prices $21 and over

3 Forks      Meets the highest standards for Thrive & Dine's criteria as defined below. Mostly (or all) organic ingredients, sustainable food practices, local grown produce and minimally processed foods.

2 Forks     Meets most of Thrive & Dine's criteria and you can order most menu items without needing to question sourcing or quality.

1 Fork       These restaurants are considered "better than" restaurants that serve highly processed foods, like fast food and major chain restaurants.  You can find a few good organic choices on the menu, but need to select carefully.

Reviewing the Restaurants

Why do we choose the foods we do and what do we look for when we review a restaurant?

Thrive & Dine is about real food. As simple as that may sound, the reality is that choosing real food can be quite confusing.  From Vegan to Paleo, and everything in between, there are many ways to choose a "real food" style of eating. The one thing most real food diets have in common is a focus on eating whole foods with an emphasis on vegetables.  At Thrive & Dine we do not promote a particular diet plan, but instead encourage eating whole, unrefined food as nature intended and that takes care of our planet in return. That means saying no to processes and chemicals that make nature’s gifts unrecognizable.

That is the philosophy with which we review and rate every restaurant that makes it to this site. Here is a sampling of the guidelines we use for choosing foods we eat whether they come from our kitchen or another’s.

Eat organic whenever possible to avoid pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics in food.  Budget a little tight? When it comes to produce, consider following the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list producing buying guide from the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) to choose the least contaminated conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.  

Where our fish comes from matters, not just to our health, but also to our environment and the species. Poor fishing practices are destroying not only the population of some fish species, but also those of other marine animals caught and discarded as by-catch. Shop smarter for your seafood with the help of one of these resources (Seafood Watch or Natural Resources Defense Council).

When it comes to fish, purchase wild caught and sustainable. Just say no to anything else, especially farmed varieties. Want more info?  Check out these links: Seafood Watch (also available as an app for your phone) and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Want to be confused in life? Then try picking out a carton of eggs! With statements claiming everything from vegetarian-fed and cage free to pastured and organic buying a carton eggs is more confusing than quantum physics (that is, unless you are a physicist). Most claims are just a marketing ploy. To keep things simple, look for eggs that are Pasture Raised. These eggs come from chickens that were raised on open land and allowed to eat their natural diet of bugs and grasses. Chickens are not vegetarians. If you want to learn more about the maze of egg terminology, check out this link.

So you like to eat beef? We’re okay with that, but not just any kind if cow will do.  We only give the thumbs up to cows that get to spend their time cruising through grassy fields, eating grasses and staying lean, how nature intended.  No GMO grains, no growth hormones and no antibiotics.  You wouldn’t eat those things, so why would you want your animals to? So when meat makes it to your plate, make sure it comes from certified organic, “grass-fed”, happy cows.

Feel like eating chicken or turkey? Just like beef, chickens and turkeys need a healthier lifestyle and diet.  They should be grazing in the fields eating grass and insects and not be snacking on growth hormones and GMO grains. The goal here is organic, pasture raised for either.

If you thought buying eggs was confusing, then get ready to meet soy. Just how healthy soy is for us can be the source of much controversy. As one of the top Genetically Modified crops in the U.S.  modern soy does not begin to resemble it’s ancestor or the reason it was ever considered a good food. How the soybean is grown, processed and broken down into everyday foods determines if it is good for our bodies. At Thrive and Dine, we aim to simplify the debate by following these soy guidelines:

·      To eat in its whole form (as in edamame), choose organic soybeans.

·      For tofu, choose only organic, non-gmo and sprouted varieties.

·      Fermented, organic soy is beneficial to eat. This type of soy can be found in miso, tempeh, natto and naturally fermented soy sauce (tamari).

·      Avoid products made with isolated soy protein and other processed soy ingredients.

The “Got Milk?” people are not going to like this much, but pasteurized dairy products are not our favorite. There is much controversy about whether or not we actually need milk to build bones (here’s what Harvard School of Public Health has to say). When it comes to dairy, the most nutritious is raw dairy, where the nutrients from grass fed cows are still in tact, but if that’s not your thing, then be sure to buy dairy products that come from cows not treated with rbGH or rBGH (growth hormones) and seek other ways to improve your calcium intake and strengthen bones: eat dark leafy greens, get enough vitamin D, do weight bearing exercise, consume calcium fortified foods and eat organic, fermented tofu.

Fermented Foods are some of our favorite foods for a thriving gut and healthy living. Also known as traditional foods, fermented foods give us naturally occurring probiotics that make your digestive tract a place of wonder and awe (and help your body function at its best). Wondering how to get some of these amazing foods into your life? Look for these common options:  sauerkraut, kimchee,natto, miso, kombucha, yogurt and kefir.

Just a quick word about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) before we go: GMO’s are a complicated subject all on their own, but the bottom line is that they represent a group of foods that have been altered from their natural state. At Thrive and Dine, that’s one step too far away from nature to know what life long implications come with it, so we say no to GMO’s. GMO’s are not allowed in organic products, so simplify things and eat organic every opportunity you have.

* Disclaimer: while it would be tempting to get a free meal every once in a while, Thrive & Dine feels that would take away from the authenticity of our reviews, so please know that we put our heart and soul (and tastebuds and stomachs) into each review and do not receive any compensation from reviewed establishments.