In case you hadn’t noticed, gluten-free dining is on the rise. Hardly a food fad, a gluten-free diet is a lifestyle that, if not managed, can result in serious health consequences. That’s because gluten is a substance present in many foods and cereal grains like wheat, and a growing number of people are realizing that they have an allergy to it. So what’s a gluten-free gourmand to do? Surrender to a life of boring steamed veggies? Not even close. Restaurants are recognizing this food sensitivity and getting creative with everything from gluten-free pizzas and gluten-free Thai food to gluten-free cupcakes and gluten-free beer. Here are 18 locations for delicious gluten-free dining around Los Angeles and Orange County.
EVO Kitchen – West Hollywood
Gluten-free pizza AND beer? Yes, please! This little joint on Sunset might look like any other storefront, but make no mistake: This is a gluten-free find. Formerly the space known as Pizza Fusion, this new concept has the same owners and same commitment to gluten-free eats–everything from salads and homemade brownies to the popular BBQ Chicken pizza (the gluten-free crust option is also soy- and dairy-free)–but they also take special care to prepare all gluten-free dishes with separate tools and stations, making it edible for those with serious allergies and Celiac disease. And don’t forget the five gluten-free beers.
The Misfit – Santa Monica
Gluten-free mac & cheese, what?! Foodies might still bemoan the demise of Anisette, but the Misfit is a worthy successor with a more approachable menu, late-night hours and gluttony of gluten-free (not to mention vegetarian and vegan-friendly) options. There’s the aforementioned mac & cheese (the secret is brown rice pasta), an incredible pea mélange (salted English and snap peas, tendrils, sprouts and opal basil), numerous salads (none of which use lettuce), and just about every other dish on the menu that can be altered to fit your wildest gluten-free wishes. Because chef Bruce Kalman wants to do it your way. Only better.
Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen– Century City
Craving green curry chicken and Thai noodles but can’t handle the gluten? This temple to Pan-Asian cuisine at the Century City mall is just the place. Chef Mohan Ismail has crafted a menu with lots of gluten free-options that include just about everything you can imagine–and if what you want is not on the list, just ask and he’ll do his best to make it. Some sure things: Thai fried chicken wings, grilled cilantro shrimp, green mango salad, green curry chicken, spicy ahi rolls, coconut chicken soup, Singapore rice noodles, chicken tikka masala, Vietnamese duck curry, six grain hot pot and ginger fried rice. Did you get that?
Breakway Bakery – Los Angeles
No gluten. No dairy. No casein. No peanuts. No soy. No trans fats. No preservatives. Damn, is there anything this place DOES have?! Yes, as a matter of fact. How about dozens of cupcakes and muffins (everything from java and chocolate chip to lemon-cinnamon and coffee cake)? And brownies. And cookies. (Try the Mint Scouties and you’ll never want for Girl Scouts Thin Mints again.) And don’t forget the loads of other fresh-baked and frozen goods. The menu changes daily and the selection is always growing, so you’re sure to find something.
Pam Mac D’s Gluten-Free Market – Burbank
This isn’t a restaurant, but if you’re serious (or just curious) about a gluten-free lifestyle, Pam Mac D’s is your new best friend. This new 100% gluten-free market has countless products and services. Have a sweet tooth or just want some tasty bread for your sandwich? Hit up the fresh baked section featuring gluten-free goods from local bakeries. Want to find out what’s new? Stop by the sampling corner. This flagship store is located in the Magnolia Park neighborhood of Burbank and open 9am-9pm seven days a week.
Catch @ Casa Del Mar – Santa Monica
This swish restaurant inside Casa Del Mar doesn’t just have fabulous views. It also has a gluten-free menu that will appeal even to non gluten-free eaters. Part of the hotel’s “Live Well Again” program, chef Jason Bowlin has introduced starters ranging from cauliflower soup and local mussels to roasted beet and burrata salad and pork belly with garnet yams and roasted apples. Main courses include striped bass with sunchokes and olives, oven-roasted monkfish with baby artichokes, fingerling potatoes and lemon confit, or red wine braised short rib with root vegetables and black garlic gremolata.
Haven Gastropub – Old Towne Orange
This gastropub in Old Towne Orange cooks a lot of food in beer (gluten alert!), but chef Greg Daniels knows that even brew has its limitations. Which is why he’s created a long list of gluten-free dishes including roasted spaghetti, Brussels sprouts, house-cured salmon, Shepherds Pie (sans béchamel), salads, breadless burgers, sea bass, jumbo prawns, pork belly, flank steak and other menu items like hiramasa crudo, charcuterie, onion soup and even risotto.
Paleta – Home Delivery
Don’t have time to cook? Fed up with restaurants? This organic gourmet meal delivery service takes the guesswork out of gluten-free dining with tons of customized options. (You can also get non-dairy, carb-free, vegan, whatever.) Owner/chef Kelly Boyer whips up gluten-free dishes like chocolate cupcakes made with chickpea flour, pureed apples, plums and organic cocoa; shrimp with veggies and quinoa spaghetti (pictured); raw vegan chocolate truffles; and rack of lamb with rosemary skewered vegetables. The company’s based in Venice but delivers all around the LA area. You can visit www.paleta.com to order.
Raya – Laguna Niguel
This gorgeous spot at the Ritz-Carlton has stunning ocean views and some of the freshest (both literally and creatively) Pan-Latin coastal cuisine in town. And fortunately being gluten-free is not an issue here. The easy-to-read menu clearly highlights which items are gluten-free, including chef Greg Howe’s delicious takes on Maine lobster salad, avocado gazpacho with watermelon, asparagus with chipotle hollandaise, and vegetarian tamales (pictured) in tomatillo-chipotle, huitlacoche-wild mushroom and truffled corn salsa.
Hugo’s Restaurant – West Hollywood & Agoura Hills
Want to try one of the hundreds of dishes on the menu but not sure if it has gluten (or dairy or soy or nuts or any other thing that might make you break out in a rash)? Not to worry. Just ask for Hugo’s Common Allergen List and you’ll find everything you need to know about the ingredients used at this popular cafe. Who needs gluten when you’ve got green lentil salad rolls, tikka masala vegetable patties and mung bean & rice casserole?
Seasons 52 – Costa Mesa
This casual grill and wine bar inside South Coast Plaza not only serves seasonally-driven meals that are no more than 500 calories each, but it also offers an entire gluten-free menu 52 weeks a year. (Hence the name, get it?) There’s a whole range of salads; delicious grilled rainbow trout; cedar plank salmon with roasted asparagus, sweet carrots and parsley roasted red potatoes; wood-roasted pork tenderloin with soft corn polenta, spinach and cremini mushrooms; grilled rack of lamb in garlic herb marinade; blackened fish with tomato, chipotle-lime remoulade; and oh yes, tuna rolls served with organic gluten-free tamari.
M Cafe – Los Angeles & Beverly Hills
It’s not surprising that these popular macrobiotic, vegan and dairy-free cafes have plenty of gluten-free options for their conscientious eaters. All of their deli salads and sushi (except soba noodles) are free of the stuff, as are the delicious salmon and cod rice bowls. FYI, they can make any sandwich sans gluten with a brown rice tortilla. Delish!
Pappardelle’s Pasta – Original Farmers Market
Pappardelle’s is a Denver-based company best known among restaurant and hotel chefs for offering more than 100 flavors of specialized pastas like lavender fettuccine and spicy Thai curry orzo. But everyday foodies in LA can check out the brand’s first permanent So Cal shop, which opened in early 2011, for tons of pastas and sauces, including 10 gluten-free flavors like chipotle lime small trumpet pasta, lemon pepper fusilli and tomato basil mafaldine. You can visit www.papardellesonline.com to order from their online catalog.
Cru – Silver Lake
Who says you can’t have it both ways? This popular Silver Lake eatery is where you can get both raw and cooked organic vegan dishes that are always free of gluten. About half of Cru’s 100% vegan menu is made up of cooked dishes including a list of daily blackboard specials that include appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts. Bonus: Cru is always BYOB with free corkage!
Elf Cafe – Echo Park
Blink and you might miss this tiny cash-only BYOB eatery along the east side of Sunset Boulevard. The entire menu is vegetarian with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options clearly noted. Some favorites: Mediterranean lentils, vegan fondue, roasted beet carpaccio and portobello mushroom stuffed with cheese and seasonal veggies served atop garlic mashed potatoes. Yum.
The Bite Market – Old Towne Orange
Located on the other side of the traffic circle from Haven Gastropub, this small community grocery store is where you can stock up on dairy-free, gluten-free, low-sodium and vegan food. There are breakfast items, baked goods from Sugar Beets Bakery, snacks, grab-and-go goodies as well as regular seminars and weekly yoga.
Z Tejas – Costa Mesa
This Tex-Mex chain has created a gluten-free menu in conjunction with the non-profit Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). Some of the items you’ll want to try: Wild mushroom enchiladas topped with ancho mole cream sauce, smoked chicken & black bean salad and grilled salmon. And don’t forget the 6th Street Frozen Margarita!
True Food Kitchen – Santa Monica & Newport Beach
Based on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, this kitchen proves that healthy can be extremely tasty. Dishes that are gluten-free are marked “gf” on the menu and that includes the spaghetti squash casserole, tangy turkey bolognese, panang curry (deliciously spicy!), veggie crudite and absurdly creamy and flavorful herb hummus. This place is great.
More gluten-free finds:
Made by Meg – LA & South Bay
Baby Cakes Bakery – Downtown LA
Bella’s Gourmet Pizza – Pasadena
Lisa & Mo Treats – Pasadena
My Sweet Cupcake (Food Network winners) – Pasadena
Hostaria del Piccolo – Santa Monica
Garlic Jim’s Pizza – Burbank, Redondo, Simi Valley, Pasadena
Vegin’ Out Gourmet Delivery – Throughout Southern CA
The Poached Pair – Newhall
Bake You Happy (“Cupcake Wars” winner) – Castaic
Native Foods – Culver City, Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Westwood
PF Changs – Multiple locations