Five Memorable Gluten-Free Travel Dining Destinations

Will you go out of your way to try a new restaurant because it has a gluten-free menu and you heard great things? Or will you take a detour on a road trip because there is a gluten-free bakery in the middle of nowhere? To you check Trip Advisor for restaurant reviews just as often as you do for hotel reviews? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you might be a “destination diner.”

I wholeheartedly consider myself a “destination diner.” I do a ton of research before each time I travel and have specifically arranged stops along the way for gluten-free meals. I have planned for detours on road trips, have changed itineraries in foreign lands for days I knew restaurants would be open, and even took local bicycle trips to try a gluten-free dish to far to get to by foot. In some locations, a safe, gluten-free meal of any kind was a welcome sight (Thailand, I am looking at you!) and a nice surprise. In other locations, there were places I just knew from gluten-free friends online that I could not miss. Whatever the excuse, I will travel for food!

Here are five of my most memorable gluten-free travel dining destinations:

1. Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce in Prague, Czech Republic (Now closed!) 
I went here in 2011 as part of my Gluten-Free Globetrotter website launch vacation, but sadly this place is now closed. It was a 100% gluten-free restaurant right outside the center of Prague in the Czech Republic. The neighborhood was off the beaten path, but this completely gluten-free restaurant was totally worth the trek. It’s too bad that it is closed because I raved about it to all of the gluten-free travelers to Prague that would listen.

Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce, 100% gluten-free restaurant in Prague, Czech Republic now closed. 

2. Butter is Better Bakery in Chiang Mai, Thailand
In my second week of Thailand, I was really hoping for some non-rice dishes. I stuck to plain white rice or rice-based noodles at most meals because rice was “safe” on my translation cards. When I read about a restaurant in the middle of Chiang Mai, Thailand having gluten-free options, I knew I had to go. I did see some mixed reviews of safety of gluten-free food at this restaurant, but I ate here twice and had no gluten problems. As a hyper sensitive celiac, I can usually tell in less than one hour if I was “glutened.” No problems here.

In a very foreign country such as Thailand, even seeing the words “gluten-free” on a menu was such a relief. The Thai owner was married to an American man and she said that more and more Westerners had started asking for gluten-free food. I had pancakes and gluten-free sausage on both of my visits and also bought a loaf of bread before I moved on to Koh Phangan, Thailand. Sadly, the Thai ants devoured my bread before I could even get through half the loaf. These buggers could get in anywhere. I highly recommend ziplock bags in Thailand and a trip to Butter is Better.

Menu at Butter is Better Bakery
Gluten-free menu items at Butter is Better Bakery

3.  Molly’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Pewaukee, Wisconsin
As I drove from the Milwaukee Airport to Madison, Wisconsin for Thanksgiving at my sister’s house last fall, I took a detour to Molly’s Gluten-Free Bakery. I have only two words for this place: APPLE PIE. This was by far the best gluten-free apple pie I ever had and very reasonably price. The staff at Molly’s was very friendly and I wanted to buy one of everything in this bakery. I will definitely go back here the next time I am driving to Madison, Wisconsin! Good news, Molly’s is also available at local stores and they ship nationally!

My gluten-free treats from Molly’s Gluten-Free Bakery 

4. Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizza in Aruba
When you are on an island surrounded by water, the majority of the local restaurants serve seafood. When you don’t eat fish, you can often go hungry. I am allergic to shellfish and don’t like the taste of most seafood, so I found eating in Aruba to be difficult. That’s why I trekked over to Linda’s Dutch Pancakes and Pizza twice during my brief stay in Aruba. I was thrilled to find a place on the island that didn’t think asking if things were gluten-free was a crazy request. The owner was very accommodating and even linked back to me after I reviewed them here on my website! Go here for gluten-free pancakes and pizzas. Try Nutella with bananas, you will NOT be disappointed.

Nutella and banana gluten-free pancake
Nutella and banana gluten-free pancake 

5. Gluten-free everything at Arenas Del Mar in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
One of my 2014 gluten-free travel highlights was my trip to Arenas Del Mar. I went specifically to meet the staff and try all of the gluten-free food. I was thrilled with the menu. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and most importantly, gluten-free. It helped that I ate every meal al fresco with the jungle on one side and the beach on the other, but seriously the food was that good. I cannot pick just one dish, although I see a trend in this post and I am going with the pancakes!

Gluten-free pancakes served with almonds, mango and coconut.
Gluten-free pancakes served with almonds, mango and coconut.

Do you plan your travels around gluten-free menus? I would love to hear if you are also a destination diner!

Costa Rica

Gluten-Free Feast at Arenas Del Mar in Costa Rica

Last week, I spent a wonderful (albeit too short) five days at Arenas Del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort near Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. This trip went far above and beyond any of my expectations. The staff was stellar. The food was delicious, fresh, and most importantly, all gluten-free for me. The jungle and beach combination was just perfect for my vacation and I wish I could back!

I have so much to share with you about the trip, but I thought I would start with the real reason I went to Arenas del Mar. I went for the gluten-free food. From when I first checked into the hotel, I was impressed and did not feel like I was getting any kind of special treatment as a gluten-free blogger. I truly believe that EVERYONE gets the same stellar treatment that I did during their stay. I watched, I listened, and I saw the same friendly and excellent customer service for all guests.  It was impressive!

GREAT kitchen logoAs I mentioned in my previous post, the staff at Arenas Del Mar is going through the GREAT Kitchens training program with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Although I thought just the kitchen staff was being trained, it seemed like others throughout the hotel had a great awareness. Jorge, the manager, also told me he was going through the training soon which I thought was a great testament to how seriously the staff is taking this training.

Me (center) with the amazing restaurant tstaff of Arenas ddel Mar and Denise of San Diego, CA. She is also gluten-free and loved the food!
Me (center) with the amazing restaurant staff of Arenas Del Mar and Denise (2nd from left) of San Diego, CA. She was also a gluten-free guest and loved the food! A special thanks to Jorge, the hotel manager, on the far left for making my stay so great!

Ok, now on to the food!

I ate every meal during my time in Costa Rica at Arenas del Mar except one when I went ziplining. There are two restaurants on the grounds of the hotel: El Mirador Restaurant near reception (Click here for the dinner menu) and Playitas Restaurant and Bar right on the beach. Lunch and dinner are not included with your stay, so budget about $50-75 per person for food and drinks each day. Breakfast is included with your stay and it is amazing!

Much of Costan Rican cuisine is naturally gluten-free. There was always lots of fresh fruit, beans, rice, meats, chicken, and fish. This made my dining decisions relatively easy. Even with the naturally gluten-free menu, the staff went the extra mile to ensure that my meal was totally safe.

During check-in, the reception staff asked me if I had any food allergies. I told them “Yes, shellfish and gluten” and they must have made a note on my “guest chart” about these dietary restrictions. I gave a simple reminder to the waitstaff each time I sat down to eat at one of the two restaurants at Arenas Del Mar. They eased my nervousness by repeating “gluten-free” when I placed my order and again when they brought me my plate. By the end of my stay, the staff all knew I was gluten-free and I think they expected me to ask, ask again, and then take pictures of my food. It is just what I do!

The food at Arenas del Mar is fresh, some of the freshest food I have ever tasted. Each dish takes some time to prepare, but it is worth the wait. The food clearly was made just for you and wasn’t sitting in the kitchen for hours. This quality and attention to detail did not go unnoticed.


Let’s start with my top three favorites.

Gluten-Free Pancakes served with almonds, ginger, mango and coconut. I may or may not have eaten these for breakfast three of the four mornings during my stay. (Confession: I did eat these three mornings!)

Gluten-free pancakes served with almonds, mango and coconut.
Syrups for pancakes: sugar cane syrup, mango puree, coconut syrup.
Syrups for pancakes: sugar cane syrup, mango puree, coconut syrup.

See that beautiful orange mango syrup in the middle? I literally could have eaten the whole pitcher with a spoon. It had the consistency of baby food, but tasted amazing. I slathered my gluten-free pancakes with this mango puree each morning!

Homemade Chips: Crispy tortilla chips and house-fried plantains served with pico de gallo and guacamole.

By far, my favorite dish of my stay. Not healthy, but beyond delicious! I could eat this every single day for the rest of my life


This next dish is a traditional Costa Rican dessert called Miel de Mango. I was told by my waiter William and Jorge, the manager, that dish is usually prepared during Holy Week. It is mangoes cooked into almost a syrupy chutney with sugar and cinnamon. This was topped with vanilla ice cream. William apparently brought the ingredients with him from home to make me this special dish. It was delicious and felt very decadent.

Specially prepared Miel de Mango

The rest of the meals during my stay at Arenas Del Mar were just as delicious (and obviously gluten-free) but the three above were definitely stand-out dishes during my stay. Here is what else I ate last week:

Arenas Beach Gallos: Fresh house made corn tortillas with beans, cheese and your choice of shredded beef or chicken, served with a side of pico de gallo and guacamole.

Arenas Beach Gallos


House made gluten-free bread made from rice flour each night with dinner

Gluten-free bread with dinner
More gluten-free dinner bread


Watermelon Gazpacho with mango, mint, and cherry tomatoes.

When I ordered this dish the first night, the waiter had to come back and tell me that the original dish was made by mistake with regular bread and they were going to remake the entire dish. They asked if I minded waiting and I said of course not. I was impressed he mentioned this at all. It was delicious and I ordered this twice during my stay.

Mango, tomato, watermelon, mint
Mango, tomato, watermelon, mint
Adding the watermelon gazpacho
Adding the watermelon gazpacho
The finished dish
The finished dish

Costa Rican Casado: A traditional dish with white rice, black beans, sweet plantains and pico de gallo salsa. You can choose chicken, meat, or fish to be added to this meal. I had chicken one night and meat one night.

From right: plantains, rice, black beans, pico de gallo, chicken, and homemade corn (masa) tortillas

Lots and lots of fresh fruit: papaya, banana, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple, and watermelon.

New-to-me fresh fruit: guaynabana (soursop in English), nance, and guava. The first two I never heard of before. The guaynabana was delicious and unlike any fruit I’ve eaten in my life!

Nance Wikipedia
Guanabana (Soursop in English)

Zucchini Rolls: Grilled zucchini, sweet potato and almond mousse, dill and sesame emulsion.

Zucchini rolls, almost too pretty to eat!


Vegetable Spring Rolls: Soy marinated market vegetables wrapped in rice paper and served with our special peanut sauce.

When I ordered these spring rolls, the waiter asked me if I was ok with both soy and peanuts. I appreciated his extra step in making sure I was eating safely.

Vegetable Spring Rolls

This was another off-the-menu dessert prepared especially for me. It was chocolate and vanilla ice cream and berry sorbet on top of gluten-free cake. The beautiful topping was edible white chocolate art. I was stuffed after dinner, but managed to make room for this work of art!

Beautiful sundae!


Last, but certainly not least, I need to share with you the juice of Arenas del Mar. Each morning, you can start your day with fresh juice. Georgette, from the restaurant and bar, made the best mixed fruit juice for me in the morning. And check out that straw. It’s bamboo!

Mixed fruit juice with breakfast by the pool

I want to personally thank all of the kitchen and restaurant staff at Arenas Del Mar. I ate safely and deliciously gluten-free all week long. I wasn’t nervous about the food at all and never got sick. When traveling so far from home, this is often a worry for those of us with Celiac. The staff was extremely knowledgeable and it is obvious that they are all working hard to learn more about gluten-free food and Celiac disease. All of the staff took my food requests very seriously and I never felt like I was being treated like a picky eater.  Thank you Arenas del Mar for a delicious and welcoming stay. I cannot wait to go back to Costa Rica again.

Thank you! Thank you! Gracias! Gracias!

Stay tuned for more photos and highlights from my trip to Costa Rica in future posts.


The staff at Arenas del Mar can obviously prepare gluten-free meals every day of your stay. Later this year, there will be two 100% gluten-free weeks at the hotel. There will be special guest chefs from the United States cooking for you during your stay. Read more about these Celiac Weeks here. 

For further details, please contact Jeremy Allen, Program Director and hotel Partner at or 1- 610 407 9371. Please tell Jeremy you learned about Arenas del Mar from Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Globetrotter!

* Arenas del Mar hosted my 5-day stay. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are purely and entirely my own.


Gluten-Free Fine Dining at Del Posto in New York City

DSC_9426Did you read my 2014 summer bucket list last week? In case you missed it, number 5 on my list was:

5. Dine at the award-winning, gluten-free friendly, and Michelin-star rated Del Posto in New York City.

Well, check that one off the list!!! A little over a week ago, I had the honor of eating a carefully selected, 100% gluten-free meal at Del Posto with a special invite directly from Executive Chef Mark Ladner. It was a very amazing dining experience that I will never forget.

Chef Ladner has raised the bar for gluten-free dining to a new all-time high! The Chef’s approach to making the gluten-free dining experience so “normal” is what stood out to me the most… after the delicious food, of course. Instead of seeing our dietary restrictions as an annoyance, Chef Ladner has embraced the challenge of gluten-free cooking. In my opinion, there are very few people that do this for our community. You can read my whole write-up at Del Posto here

What I want to share with my Gluten-Free Globetrotter readers is the amazing pictures of the food. It is all 100% gluten-free and prepared with great care. My words and the camera really don’t do these plates any justice. If you are visiting New York City or even if you are a local, add Del Posto to your restaurant bucket list. You will not be disappointed!


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Del Posto
Address: 85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Phone:(212) 497-8090


I am super excited to announce I am hosting a NYC Celiac Meetup event with Chef Mark Ladner on Wednesday, June 11th. Join us at the Pasta Flyer Kick-Off Party in Brooklyn. Only $25 per person! Visit the Meetup invite page to learn more and to buy your tickets. Don’t delay, tickets are very limited!

general, Pennsylvania, USA

Gluten-Free Philadelphia iPhone App and Giveaway

logoMy friend Michael, of Gluten-Free Philly, recently launched a new mobile app for iPhones and iPads. Just in time for your holiday travel, you will now have a wonderful resource for gluten-free food right at your fingertips. This app goes beyond Philadelphia with recommendations also in New Jersey and Delaware.

screen568x568Gluten-Free Philly is an award-winning website with tons of amazing restaurant reviews, product reviews, and event announcements for the mid-Atlantic region. I am always impressed with the amount of information Michael publishes each week on his website. This new Gluten-Free Philly app is a great way to navigate this area and keep up to date with Michael’s blog.

According to iTunes, “The best of the award-winning Gluten Free Philly blog is now in the palm of your hand. Find more than 1,200 curated gluten-free-friendly restaurant, bakery, market and attractions listings covering southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and all of Delaware, with new listings frequently added. Search by name, location or cuisine, view gluten-free-friendly menus and options, get directions, and call listed businesses from your phone.”

You can buy the Gluten-Free Philly app now on iTunes for your iPhone and iPad for $2.99 or you can enter to win below. This is my very first Gluten-Free Globetrotter giveaway and I couldn’t think of a better first giveaway prize than the Gluten-Free Philly app. Enter to win through the Rafflecopter widget below.

Note: The Android version is coming soon. 

CLICK THIS LINK TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY —> a Rafflecopter giveaway

general, Portland

Gluten-Free in Portland: Imperial by Vitaly Paley

When I travel to Portland, I eat a lot. Portland is such a gluten-free friendly city that the problem I have when I am there is deciding where to eat. I have so many options and love that I can eat safely throughout this beautiful Northwest city. I have my favorite gluten-free friendly restaurants but always try to eat at one new place each business trip. Last month, I had my best meal in Portland since I started going there for work in 2012. This meal was at Imperial at 410 SW Broadway inside the historic Hotel Lucia.

Photo from the Imperial website
Photo from the Imperial website

At the beginning of the summer, I attended an event in New York City launching Bob’s Red Mill Grains of Discovery. This event was slightly surreal. It was bringing my corporate Portland world to my hometown. All of the chefs at this event were from Portland and it was at this event I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Vitaly Paley from Imperial. Chef Paley is a native New Yorker that relocated to Portland in the 1990s. In 2005, he was awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Pacific Northwest. Now, Chef Paley owns three restaurants in Portland including ImperialPaley’s Place Bistro & Bar, and the Portland Penny Diner. At the NYC event, Chef Paley was friendly, chatty, and extremely generous. (He handed me a gift card for Imperial in Portland before I left the NYC event). I knew where I was going to eat on my next business trip!

Check out the "GF" on the menu.
Check out the “GF” on the menu.

From my first communications via email with the PR company for Imperial, followed by several emails from Chef Paley himself I knew I was in good hands. The Chef told me his wife as well as a few of the servers on staff at Imperial were gluten-free. He also mentioned that many dishes on the menu were gluten-free and even marked on the menu itself with a “GF”. He did add a disclaimer that Imperial is not a gluten-free or shellfish-free kitchen. Chef Paley said “Even though we do attend very diligently and wash all our wares and counters between every use we can not promise there will be absolutely no cross contamination.” Not only did he reassure me but he also gave me his personal cell phone number.

PAUSE. A top chef gave me his number. This would never happen in New York City. But I digress…

I appreciated Chef Paley’s honesty, his understanding about gluten-free dietary restrictions as well as my shellfish allergy, and I made a reservation for a seat at the chef’s counter at Imperial for a Wednesday night in August.

Imperial in Hotel Lucia
Imperial in Hotel Lucia

When I arrived at Imperial, I immediately was treated like gluten-free royalty. (Get it?) Garrett, the general manager, met me at the front of the restaurant and quickly escorted me to the chef’s counter right in front of the wood-burning grill and kitchen. My waitress Autumn came over and walked me through the menu, answering all of my questions. Chef Vitaly then came out and we chatted for a few minutes. He remembered me from NYC and spoke to me about the menu and the safe, gluten-free options. The Chef also remembered from my emails that I was allergic to shellfish and made sure to point out the safe dishes on the menu

My Imperial menu for the evening:

Drink: Sleight of Hand: pisco, lillet rose, pamplemousse liquer, flamed negroni mist
Appetizer: Kale and raw vegetable salad with sunflower seed brittle and goat cheese dressing
Bonus dish: Ocean caught salmon belly
Main dish: Tails and Trotters Barrel Planked Pork Secreto with smoked hazlenut romesco sauce and grilled leeks
Dessert: Coffee Toffee Icebox Cake

This meal was decadent, delicious, and most importantly, gluten-free. Also, Chef Paley tries to use all local ingredients, which he explained when I asked about “Tails and Trotters“, the Pacific Northwest hazelnut, finished pork.

Pork secreto with smoked hazlenut romesco sauce
Tails and Trotters pork secreto with smoked hazlenut romesco sauce

There were three major highlights of this meal: the salmon, the sunflower seed brittle, and the coffee toffee icebox cake. First and foremost, I ate fish. I need to focus on this because I never eat fish. But when a James Beard Awarded Best Chef puts an off-menu dish in front of you, YOU EAT IT! When the salmon is caught by a Native American fisherman by hook and line in the Pacific Ocean on the morning you are eating it, YOU DEFINITELY EAT IT. This salmon belly was lightly cooked right in front of me over the wood fire and seasoned with local olive oil, sea salt, and vinegar. I had to turn of my fishy aversions off and eat this dish, and I am thrilled that I did. This salmon tasted like the sea. It was smoky and salty and melt-in-your mouth delectable. I think I was spoiled for life. I will never get fish that is this good, this fresh, and this well-prepared here in New York City.

Ocean-caught salmon
Ocean-caught salmon

The second memorable bite was the sunflower seed brittle. Instead of croutons on the kale and raw vegetable salad, there was crushed sunflower seed brittle. This is exactly what it sounds like. Like a nut brittle, this sunflower seed brittle added a nice crunch and an interesting and safe alternative to gluten-laden croutons on my salad. If Chef Paley served me a plate of this brittle, I would eat it as dessert!

Kale salad with sunflower seed brittle
Kale salad with sunflower seed brittle

Finally, just when I thought I could not eat another bite, I had dessert. The Coffee Toffee Icebox Cake dessert was a gluten-free cake with toffee bits, local hazelnuts and toasted meringue. I was so full from the dinner that I was unable to finish the cake but it was so good at every bite. I wanted to bring it back to my hotel to finish but since it was frozen, I knew it would melt by the time I got back.


Throughout the meal, I chatted with Autumn, Garrett, and Chef Vitaly. The Chef reminded me that his wife is gluten-free so he is now more aware of gluten-free dietary needs than he was ever before. All three of his restaurants highlight gluten-free options on the menu and his staff is aware of cross-contamination concerns in the kitchen. The entire staff at Imperial seemed very well-versed in gluten-free dining and chatted with me about this throughout my meal. One of the hardest parts about business travel is dining alone, but the staff kept me engaged the entire meal.

Me with Chef Vitaly Paley

Chatting with the chef at his counter, watching the behind-the-scenes of the kitchen, and enjoying such a decadent meal made the whole experience beyond memorable. It is safe to say, that out of more than 6 weeks in Portland over the past 18 months, Imperial and Chef Vitaly Paley made for my favorite Portland meal ever.

My view from the chef’s counter

Thank you to Chef Vitaly Paley for making a safe, gluten-free, and delicious meal for me and for the entire staff for being so welcoming and friendly throughout my time at Imperial.


410 SW Broadway
Portland OR 97205
PHONE: 503.228.7222

While I did receive a complimentary gift card from Chef Vitaly Paley, I paid for the balance of my meal on my own. Opinions expressed here are my own.