Last month, one of my best friends came to San Francisco for work. My friend Kristen and I originally met in the NYC Celiac Meetup group more than 7 years ago (or is it 8?? We always forget!) and have been friends ever since. We both left the east coast at the same time but keep in touch with regular phone dates, texts, and even bumping into each other randomly at an airport in Chicago! Since we both have celiac and we both love to eat, I knew we needed a gluten-free food crawl when she was in town. We met at her hotel and had a fun-filled day eating our way through San Francisco and beyond. Everywhere we ate was 100% gluten-free!
After moving to California from NYC (a gluten-free mecca) last year, I’ve been less than impressed with my gluten-free options. It seems that where I live in Santa Cruz it is more of a trend to eat gluten-free than something taken seriously. Of course, this does not apply to every restaurant I have been to but I’ve had many less than impressive gluten-free meals and conversations here. I struggle to get people to take my celiac disease “diet” seriously. Sometimes, I feel like everyone around me is eating gluten-free because it is “cool”.
As I sat down to think about the positive gluten-free experiences I’ve had over the past year, I realized that almost all of my best gluten-free meals have been in San Francisco. San Francisco is not that close to me but I crave city life and I crave good gluten-free food. Another thing that comes with city life is diversity, something seriously lacking in Santa Cruz. We were spoiled with food from around the world in New York City as well as gluten-free options. So every month or so, my man and I jump in the car for a road trip. Destination SF… GF obviously!
Gluten-Free Globetrotter Top 5 Gluten-Free Meals
in San Francisco (So Far!)
Spain: Bask SF
“Contemporary, warm restaurant & bar serving traditional Basque Country fare & modern Spanish tapas.”
42 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94111
I went here with my mom and husband and we ate this Spanish feast for hours. I made a reservation using OpenTable.com so the restaurant was aware that I had celiac and a shellfish allergy. When I arrived, they went through the entire menu with me to tell me what I could and could not eat. I was most impressed when they told me to avoid the brussel sprouts. They were listed as gluten-free on the menu but cooked in a shared fryer. Way to be aware about cross-contact. I cannot wait to go back here. Bonus: they had the best sangria I’ve had in my life!
Venezuela: Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen
“Arepas & other Venezuelan eats provide the Latin flavors at this casual spot.”
401 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
This 100% gluten-free restaurant is a dream. I think I could live forever eating just arepas, taro chips, plantains, and empanadas. Seriously. Give me all of the savory, starchy carbs! I’ve been here so many times I’ve stopped counting. Every time I go to San Francisco, I try to swing by. Here are some empanadas I bought “to go” although I think they lasted all of ten minutes of my 1.5 hour drive home.
India: Dosa SF
“Dosa specialist serving modern takes on Indian cuisine with a focus on local, organic ingredients.”
Dosa on Valencia: 995 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Dosa on Fillmore: 1700 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94115
If you never ate a dosa, you are seriously missing out. I hadn’t had a dosa since moving from NYC and this meal filled a major craving. These larger-than-life dosas are like a crepe or a really thin pancake stuffed with delicious fillings. Dosas are traditionally made from chickpea or lentil flour, but beware. Some restaurants try to cut their batter with regular flour, but that is NOT what Dosa SF does and their dosas and uttapams are gluten-free! They have a very clearly marked menu and will walk you through all ingredients, toppings, sauces, and everything else on the menu. There are also some really funky cocktails at Dosa SF, but I opted for some wine that day.
Asia: E&O Kitchen and Bar
“Diners sample small & large Asian plates in this modern eatery with soaring ceilings & a trendy bar.”
314 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94108
If I eat any type of fish at your restaurant, that is the biggest compliment I can give you because I rarely eat fish. I am talking 2 times a year, tops. This ahi tuna tartare dish was so good that I always mention this place to my husband when we are in San Francisco. This is another restaurant that will walk you through the menu and tell you what to avoid, even on the gluten-free menu. They do not have a dedicated GF fryer and they tell you this right on the menu. Again, major points in my book for even knowing this is an issue for someone with celiac. I MUST go back here!
USA: Mariposa Baking Company
“Mariposa’s mission is to create the finest gluten-free baked goods everyone can enjoy!”
One Ferry Building, Suite 32
San Francisco, CA 94111
(Note: There is another location in Oakland, CA)
One word: CROISSANTS! Yes, gluten-free croissants do exist and you need to go out of your way to get yourself to Mariposa Baking Company when you are in San Francisco. I usually leave the ferry building with a bag full of carbs after a trip to Mariposa. Baguettes, pretzels, bagels, bread, cookies, muffins, “hot pockets,” and so much more. Go early, they sell out fast! Grab a baguette from Mariposa, a coffee from Blue Bottle, and a table outside and you pretty much have a perfect “meal.”
Honorable mention (just outside of San Francisco)
Mexico: Copita Tequileria y Comida
“Brightly decorated modern Mexican restaurant focusing on seasonally driven fare & tequila drinks.”
Sausalito, CA 94965
Just a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, which everyone should do even on a foggy day, is Sausalito. This cute seaside town is worth an afternoon trip. There are many restaurants but Copita Tequileria y Comida is the only 100% gluten-free restaurant in town. This Mexican restaurant uses seasonal and fresh ingredients for their lunch and dinner menus. If you don’t have a reservation, go in off-hours to avoid the crowds. The jicama and chili starter is a great way to whet your palate for what’s to come.
Please don’t forget: I have celiac disease and choose to eat at these places with a lot of research and with talking to the staff. I encourage you to always ask questions and do not rely on my reviews alone. Ultimately, it is up to you to choose what you eat and if you are comfortable eating there! Don’t forget that menus, ingredients, and staff change, so your experience might be different than mine!
The California coastline is beautiful. It is rugged and rocky in the north and smooth sandy beaches in the south. A few weekends ago, I decided to take a mental health day and a drive down the coast to Asilomar State Beach. I packed a gluten-free lunch, stopped to buy an iced coffee, and I was on my way.
Asilomar is “a state park is located on 107 acres of state beach and conference grounds, within the quaint and scenic town of Pacific Grove, California.” I was in a beach mood, so I only explored the coastline and not the conference center or the dune trails.
The rugged coastline and low tide made for a perfect day of tide pool exploration. These little pools are teeming with sea creatures from crabs to mollusks to anemones. I felt like a little kid as I hopped pool to pool looking for life.
The lack of surfers (too rocky near the coast) and the rugged terrain made parts of the beach look deserted which is my favorite way to explore. At times, I felt like an explorer on a faraway, oceanic planet. No one for miles but me. (Not really, but a girl can pretend!)
After a few hours of exploring, I pulled up on to a quiet part of the beach for a picnic. I had packed a sandwich made on Franz gluten-free bread and brought some chips to crunch on after lunch. If you go to Pacific Grove but forget to pack lunch, there is a Trader Joe’s (1170 Forest Ave. Pacific Grove) right on the way to the beach. They have a lot of pre-made salads that are completely gluten-free as well as plenty of other gluten-free items like meats, cheeses, and fruits that can easily be made into a beach-side lunch.
After lunch, I decided to walk along the 2-mile Coast Trail before hopping back into the car. One important thing to remember when walking and exploring at Asilomar is that it a Marine Reserve. This means “All marine resources, animals and features (including shells and rocks) are protected. No collecting or fishing is allowed.” Please look but leave all critters and gorgeous shells behind!
If you are looking to grab some grub before or after your day at the beach, I would recommend making the short drive to nearby Monterey to eat and shop. Just follow the coastline and you will weave your way past Lover’s Point and then finally wind up in Monterey.
If you are a seafood lover, you will be in heaven here! My gluten-free recommendations are to come. In the meantime, I would recommend using FindMeGlutenFree or Yelp to look for gluten-free recommendations in Pacific Grove and Monterey. Do you, dear readers, have any gluten-free food recommendations? I would love to read your comments below.
The weather in my not-so-new hometown Santa Cruz, California has been absolutely beautiful lately. Sunny skies, cool ocean breezes, and dolphins sightings from the beach! I’ve been running by the ocean and riding my bike as much as possible. It’s been hard to stay inside and work over the past few weeks especially since I am trying to make this a summer of saying “YES” to new experiences.
Besides being a local, Santa Cruz is a great summer tourist destination for those in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond. Tourists flock to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the beaches, and the redwood forests all found within Santa Cruz County. There really is so much going on each week that you will never go bored in Santa Cruz.
The most popular question I get through my Santa Cruz Celiac Facebook group is where to eat which is why I am especially excited about my first post on the local website SantaCruzLife.com. This list is only desserts, but let’s be honest… that is definitely one of the most important food groups. 🙂 Stay tuned for future articles about where to get gluten-free sandwiches, burgers, salads, and more.