As a celiac who also loves to travel, I recently spent a few weeks bouncing from place to place in the US, catching up with friends and family. Nine stops in 3 weeks is a bit much, but it was great fun to see people I hadn’t seen in ages.
Along the way, I made some great gluten-free dining discoveries. This post shares my gluten-free and celiac-safe city discoveries. Part 2, coming soon, is about finding gluten-free dining in rural New York State. Note that I do not get any money or other compensation for these reviews; I’m just spreading the word and trying to make life easier for fellow celiacs.
Join me now for our first stop: San Diego, California.
Nectarine Grove: 100% gluten-free restaurant in San Diego, California
San Diego: home of sand, shore, and the incredible San Diego Zoo, plus much more. Cousin Rhoda and I crammed a lot into 3 days, but one of my favorite stops was Nectarine Grove, a casual, 100% gluten free and 100% outdoor dining stop with locations in Leucadia and Del Mar (we ate in Del Mar).
I had a “Trippin Vegan” sandwich: Portobello mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, garlic aioli, avocado and arugula on sourdough bread. My first sourdough bread sandwich in ages..as you can see, it was moist and not at all crumbly. And it had that great sourdough taste! My cousin had one too, and loved it.
Just look at that photo. This was one amazing sandwich. I only wish I had saved room for cookies!
A super-casual, 100% gluten free, quick and easy stop on a busy day. Celiacs need more safe places like this!
Las Vegas: Senza gluten-free bakery
Whenever I am in Las Vegas, I have to visit the folks at Senza bakery, about 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip on Tropicana Avenue. I can’t pass up their incredibly good cinnamon buns -just look at that glaze!
This time I added a s’mores cake to my breakfast. I'm on vacation!
Wow. Oh wow. What more can I say?
Visit them. Nothing on the Strip comes close.
Salar Restaurant: Peruvian-inspired Paradise in Dayton, Ohio
Several flights later, I landed in Dayton. Friends Rob and Meredith were kind enough to have safe food in the house, with fruit and vegetables to snack on and some unbelievably good homemade roasted pulled pork for my first dinner.
On the second night, it was off to downtown Dayton. Who knew it had a rocking restaurant scene? Not me! We chose Salar, with a Peruvian-inspired world fusion menu that is the brainchild and passion of Chef Margot Blondet. Easily 80% of the menu was gluten free or could be prepared that way. The server knew what I needed, answered questions about ingredients and preparation protocols, and even advised us about which starters would be easiest to convert and share.
I chose the Seafood Rice, similar to a Spanish paella with shrimp, mussels, and calamari over deliciously spiced rice. Too full for dessert, I settled for a glass of limoncello as a digestif.
Definitely a special occasion meal, and one where I could indulge with confidence!
Other city stops
I made several other city stops along the way, including: Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Windermere, Florida. Each deserves an honorable mention, especially the delightful Agave Azul Mexican Restaurant in Windermere, No photos here - I was distracted by my amazing mango margarita!
The verdict: Things are looking up!
City dining for celiacs in the US is definitely improving. Yes we still need to order wisely and carefully in most restaurants (see my tips here), and it would be wonderful, if a tad unrealistic, to find 100% gluten-free restaurants in every city. But when I think back to when I was diagnosed in 1996, or when I last lived in the US in 2005, we really have come a long way.
Thank you, Gluten Intolerance Group, National Celiac Association, Gluten-Free Food Group, and all of the other groups and individuals working on our behalf to make eating out safer for celiacs. The best thing we as celiacs can do to encourage more safe gluten-free dining alternatives is to support those that exist. If they are successful, their competitors will follow.