Where To Eat When You’re Avoiding Gluten
24 spots where you can get a great gluten-free meal.
If an elephant looked at most restaurant menus in NYC, it would 1) probably think our portions are rather small and 2) assume that we survive largely on pasta and bread. And then it would ask for a side of tree bark (fun fact: elephants love tree bark). The fact is, gluten-filled foods are everywhere. But not everyone can eat them. If you’re actively trying to avoid them, this guide has a bunch of great options. Most of the places on here aren’t completely gluten-free - so be sure to check with your server about specific dishes and cross-contamination concerns - but they’re all spots where you can get an excellent meal that won’t just be a bowl of rice and an apple.
If you don’t want to worry about coming in contact with any gluten whatsoever, Senza Gluten should be (or might already be) in your regular rotation. This is a completely gluten-free Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village that’s been around for a while, and the obvious upside here is that you can order anything without worrying whether or not you can actually eat it. A few things to know: this place only takes cash and Amex, the entrees are in the $30 range, and you’ll hear romantic music that could plausibly be played in a commercial for jewelry or cell phone family plans.
Rubirosa is a crowd-pleaser. The atmosphere is dark and lively, the thin-crust pizza is some of the best in the city, and you don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount of money to have a good time. Plus, there’s an entire gluten-free menu that includes everything from pizza and pasta to steak and mozzarella sticks. Yes, the waits can be extremely long (maybe even a few hours), but either make a reservation online or put your name in for a table and find a bar where you can hang out nearby (like Spring Lounge or Mother’s Ruin).
You were planning on heading home after work to catch up on The Amazing Race, but then a friend asked if you’d help come up with a texting strategy after last night’s date. You need someplace low-key where you can just walk in, and also not worry about explaining your dietary preferences to three different waiters. If you’re on the Upper West Side, Peacefood is a good option. This all-day vegan spot serves things like buckwheat pizza with a flaxseed crust, and zucchini, mushroom, and cashew cheese lasagna. Also, it’s very casual and the food comes out quickly, so you should be home in plenty of time to see if the twin brothers or the firefighters got to the Eiffel Tower first.
Modern Love isn’t your typical comfort food restaurant. This big, high-ceilinged spot in Williamsburg is entirely vegan, so the truffled poutine is topped with mushroom gravy and the “chorizo” on the nachos is made of sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts. About half the menu is gluten-free, but even if you’re with friends who don’t share your dietary restrictions, this place has unusual dishes that everyone will enjoy.
While Modern Love may fool you into thinking you’re actually eating wheat and meat, Avant Garden just focuses on making vegetables taste really good. You definitely won’t need any mental gymnastics to enjoy the food here, like charred cauliflower with cauliflower puree and stuffed mushrooms with peppercorn cream. Come to this fancy (but unpretentious) Williamsburg vegan spot with a date, share something from the interesting wine list, and eat some confusingly enjoyable vegetables.
If you’ve always felt like chicken was an underappreciated food, you’re bound to like Toriko. This yakitori spot in the West Village serves two omakase menus focused on grilled chicken skewers, and no matter what parts of the bird they’re serving on any given night - from juicy hearts to wasabi-topped tenderloin to rich chicken oysters - you’ll eat some of the best chicken in the city.
Atla is an all-day Mexican spot in Nolita where you can eat some flax seed chilaquiles and ranchero eggs, both of which contain zero gluten (although the eggs are only available until 2pm). The tacos are also gluten-free, as are a bunch of other things like the mole blanco and lobster salpicon. Atla is from the same people behind Cosme, but it’s much more casual, and it’s ideal for when you need to meet up for a daytime meal with a client or a friend who’s slightly cooler than you.
This is a neighborhood Italian spot in Chelsea where you can get any pasta on the menu as a gluten-free dish. It’s casual enough for a glass of wine at the bar with some lasagna, or a group dinner that happens less often than it should.
Ribalta is about two blocks south of Union Square, so it’s ideal for meeting people from all over the city. This laid-back Italian spot makes Neapolitan-style pizza, and you can request any pie with a gluten-free crust for $4 extra. Also - if there’s an Italian soccer (a.k.a. football) game on TV, count on Ribalta projecting it in the middle of the restaurant.
Nonono has a menu the size of a small antique collector’s catalogue, which means you have a higher statistical chance of finding food you can actually eat than you do at most places. This casual Japanese restaurant specializes in yakitori, but in addition to that, you’ll find a bunch of rice dishes, grilled fish, sashimi plates, and sushi rolls. Everything is pretty reasonably priced (under $20 per plate, for the most part), and it’s a perfect place to bring a group and try lots of different things.
We wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Australians started avoiding gluten long before we did, based solely on the fact that most Australian cafes in the city offer plenty of gluten-free options. Charley St is no exception - this all-day Nolita spot serves dishes like a cauliflower rice bowl with roasted garlic hummus, brussels sprouts, and mushroom ragu. It’s a good option for takeout or a quick sit-down lunch or breakfast, when you can get various toasts with toppings like coconut beet spread or avocado and poached eggs on gluten-free bread.
If you’re familiar with Westville, then you can think of Concord Hill as the Williamsburg location that Westville inexplicably hasn’t opened yet. If you’re not, just know that this is one of those utility spots that’s always packed with small groups who probably argued about burgers versus salads for a few minutes, then defaulted to a place that nobody could complain about. The straightforward menu is mostly made up of vegetables, big salads, and entrees like marinated chicken or sauteed salmon, most of which either are gluten-free or can be made that way.
True to its name, Egg Shop serves a lot of eggs. They’re in everything from coconut green curry to a rice bowl with beef and pickled vegetables, and there are gluten-free bread options for any of the sandwiches. It’s a great spot for a quick breakfast or lunch, although you should avoid this place at brunch if you don’t enjoy waiting an hour for the opportunity to eat beside a bunch of tourists and undergrads.
Taim isn’t exactly a sit-down restaurant. It’s more of a takeout counter with limited seating, and it has locations in the West Village and Nolita. But this place serves some of the best hummus and falafel in the city, and most things here are gluten-free. Get a falafel platter, then find an outdoor bench where you can eat. Or if you’re afraid of benches or pigeons, go to the Nolita location, where there’s a little more seating.
There’s an emphasis on vegetables at Lighthouse, and a lot of the food at this Williamsburg restaurant is naturally gluten-free. The salads are satisfying, the proteins are solid, and the best thing on the menu might just be the grilled escarole. The food here is fresh and the perfect level of healthy, and the dining room looks like it was built by a fisherman who always wanted to be an interior designer. It’s also a good brunch or dinner spot for pretty much any occasion - and if you like it, check out the Manhattan location (with limited seating but similarly tasty food) as well.
Cafe Mogador has been in the East Village for more than 30 years, and there’s a newer location in Williamsburg, too. The food is Moroccan/Israeli, which means a lot of vegetables and grilled meats. They make a great tagine, which you can get with rice instead of couscous, and even though brunch here can get crowded, you should be able to stop by for dinner without a reservation.
Consult the staff when you get to the counter, but most everything at this casual BBQ spot is gluten-free - highlights include the brisket, the pulled pork, and the ribs. The burnt end baked beans are also excellent, and should be eaten alongside a “brontosaurus” rib so hefty it’ll make you consider the cosmic irony that, while humans have only one stomach to store such beefy pleasures, cows have four (and they’re all used for grass).
Tacombi makes its own corn tortillas in house, and uses them as the base for some good tacos. They aren’t the absolute best in NYC, but the barbacoa is excellent, and all the locations around the city are fun, casual, and will make you a temporarily happier person.
Unless it’s done in the chicken-fried style, a steak will almost always be gluten free. So if you want to eat a steak, but you’d rather not sit next to a bunch of people in suits discussing bonds and vacation homes in Midtown, try Quality Eats. It’s a relatively casual take on a steakhouse, and there are several locations around the city. We especially like the original in the West Village.
Two Hands’ location on Mott Street was one of the first Australian cafes in NYC, and they also have a full-service restaurant in Tribeca. Try it for breakfast (with options like gluten-free banana bread and granola) or dinner (with small plates like octopus and hanger steak).