Where To Eat When You're Avoiding Gluten
photo credit: Nate Watters
Gluten is an important element of food, but understandably, it’s not for everyone. That’s why we made this list of our favorite places in Seattle to eat gluten-free. Many spots in town serve tons of great options void of wheat, barley, rye, and related species—and we took into account the complexities around shared fryers, soy sauce, and other sneaky gotchas. Just note that not all of these restaurants have 100% gluten-free kitchens, so be sure to check with your server about potential allergens before diving in. Otherwise, bring on the millet beer and rice-dredged drumsticks.
The chicken at this Filipino takeout-heavy Greenwood joint is dredged in tapioca, rice, and potato flour, and it’s sensational. The skin on the thighs crunches like potato chips, skewers of cubed white meat are juicy enough to make us swear off tenders forever, and we can’t help but also daydream about the sides—like coconutty collard greens topped with pickled shallots and roasted peanuts, creamy monggo beans, and Stephen’s Butter Mochi that’s so good, Colbert has been demoted from Number One Stephen.
This Korean spot has a 100% gluten-free kitchen, and couldn’t be a better choice for cozy Pioneer Square lunches. The restaurant has a menu of hot entrees as well as a deli case full of banchan you could also build a meal around, like apple cucumber potato salad, spicy squid, or, our favorite, marinated eggs. The eggs are jammy in the middle and tamari-soaked on the outside, and are well worth including in a banchan-based trio—or added alongside bibimbap with bulgogi.
Gluten-free donuts are great, but when dropped in the same oil as their wheaty counterparts, it’s like letting a wasp into your house but then hiding from it in another room. There’s still a wasp in your house. 9th & Hennepin serves phenomenal donuts full of wasps—we mean wheat—but they also have a dedicated gluten-free fryer so that nobody’s left out. And every donut here, be it lime hominy cake with tequila glaze or french cruller rubbed in meyer lemon sugar, are fried-to-order, so fresh donuts can be a reality for gluten-free folks instead of an existential rummage through the supermarket bakery’s allergen section.
Musang is one of the greatest restaurants in Seattle, and, good news: it’s easy to avoid gluten here. We have never had a bad dish in this retrofitted craftsman, but you’re in great hands with crackly lechon, honey-drenched corn bibingka, anything that involves cashews and crab fat in the same sentence, and the magnificent short rib kare kare basted in peanut butter and shrimpy bagoong. To soak it all up, add a heap of garlic rice.
Frelard serves the best tamales in town, whether you want your masa-loaded husk packed with chicken braised in salsa verde or mole-covered sweet potatoes. They’re all void of gluten, and so are the sides of rice, beans, and crema to drizzle over the top. Just refrain from tacking a tres leches cake onto your order.
This Best New Restaurant Of 2022 is also a total score when it comes to gluten-free Vietnamese food—they have a dedicated fryer so that you can have at imperial rolls, french fries with phở-spiced gravy, and salt and pepper tofu nuggets. But there’s so much more than that, like fresh rolls, rice paper-wrapped prawn dumplings, escargot noodle soup in a rich tomato broth, bún with lemongrass chicken, every single fried rice the place offers, and we could go on.
Sometimes you just want a waffle, but all-purpose flour makes you physically ill. At this Fremont cafe, you can have the waffle. And consume it in a hammock seat suspended from the ceiling. Café Con Todo’s waffles are all vegan and gluten-free, which means that the irons themselves are safe, too. And these are some standout waffles, with crispy edges, just enough chew, and soft squares made even softer by globs of coconut whipped cream and maple syrup. There are tamales too, but they’re nothing special—so stick with the waffle and add a latte.
This counter-service wine bar in Fremont has thought of everything. Fried appetizers like smoked mozzarella-stuffed arancini, fries with gremolata aioli, and battered cauliflower dusted in fennel pollen? Dedicated fryer, baby. Pasta? Gluten-free available. Panini? There’s safe bread for it. Bruschetta, fish and chips, burgers, and desserts? You get the idea. Esters gets lively on the weekends, so plan to wait a while for a table.
Soy sauce and tempura batter are two sworn enemies of someone avoiding gluten, and yet, both are key players at most sushi spots. Unless we’re talking about Bamboo. This University Village Japanese restaurant is not just the closest place to plop into a chair after surviving Artizia’s fitting room—it’s an escape from gluten as well. Among their 97 options of nigiri, rolls, tempura snacks, and kitchen plates, only three items contain a derivative of wheat. Not to mention that Bamboo uses tamari by default, and their fryer is completely free of cross-contamination risk. If you need help choosing between those 94 remaining dishes, allow us to point you in the direction of king salmon with olive oil and orange, seared scallop with yuzu vinaigrette, and fried cauliflower tossed in spicy black bean sauce.
If you’re gluten-free and constantly feel left out when your friends get together to drink beer, welcome to the club. A club known as Ghostfish Brewing Company. This is a gluten-free brewery that makes its beer out of grains like millet, buckwheat, and sorghum, and it’s quite good, though we’re partial to their IPAs—the hops distract us from the fact that we’re drinking quinoa. As a bonus, the taproom also has a fully gluten-free kitchen. You’ll find great day-drinking food like onion rings, mac and cheese, blackened fish tacos, buffalo wings, and a burger with horseradish aioli on a bun that doesn’t taste like wet cardboard and sadness.
Some Ethiopian restaurants do offer gluten-free injera, but it can be tough to throw together an impromptu tibs-and-lentil-eating session when you’re required to give 24-hours notice. At Delish, there’s always typically teff injera available for sopping up doro wot, kitfo, fresh cheese, gomen, and so very many tibs and lentils. Be spontaneous and schedule that last-minute dinner.
When an Italian spot offers gluten-free pasta, you probably know the drill—it’s some box of dried brown rice penne. At Bizzarro Italian Cafe, they have homemade wheatless pappardelle that's pretty indistinguishable from the real thing (and is a huge step up from Jovial). Just be strategic when selecting a sauce, as it should be one that pairs well with pappardelle, like puttanesca, snap pea carbonara, or the Forest Floor Frenzy with sherry-splashed cream and mushrooms. Zoodles can also be substituted, but we recommend not doing that. And for dessert, there’s flourless chocolate cake or affogato made with Nutty Squirrel gelato.
Cafe Flora is an all-vegetarian restaurant, so they know a thing or two about dietary restrictions. There are only four things on the entire menu that are not gluten-free or easily modified that way (a.k.a. focaccia, pasta, and cake), which means that nettle pesto risotto, coconut tofu lettuce wraps, and cheesy potato tacos are all things you can and should take advantage of.
Homer is a Mediterranean spot on Beacon Hill that makes most of its dishes inside a giant oven. The best part is that a ton of the food here is gluten-free, like roasted cod with mushroom mousse and burnt kale oil, caramelized sunchokes with kumquat, and peanutty grilled beets with elderberries. Even if you want to have some mezze but don’t feel like eating hummus with a spoon while your friends get to eat hot pita, the crispy basmati cake is a terrific stand-in. Pour the lamb ragu and tahini all over that sucker.
Oats are a touchy subject in the celiac community, so let’s get this out of the way—Frankie & Jo’s are certified. This 100% plant-based and gluten-free ice cream shop is proof that great frozen desserts don’t need dairy or wheat to be the greatest. Every flavor here delivers, like fermented “crème fraîche” with a rich berry swirl and cubes of delicate lemon cake that we haven't been able to stop thinking about since 2018, or chocolate tahini loaded with cookie dough mounds. There are even some options that contain ingredients you’d find on a camping trip, like pine needles and charcoal. Get it all scooped on a homemade maple oat waffle cone, and don’t be surprised if you go on to choose this place over others that use actual milk and cream.