Of course, we all know by now that we should be living on power greens, whole grains, and chia seeds, but pretending that we’re all just going to order salad and steamed veggies every time we eat out simply isn’t practical. Throw a gluten restriction into the mix, and you might be left feeling like you have no options. This list is for those times in life when quinoa and kale salad just isn’t going to cut it. Happiness plays a huge part in our health, and allowing yourself to break stride and indulge from time to time is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s all about balance and making smart choices as often as possible without feeling totally deprived. While not exactly an ode to clean eating, here are some helpful recommendations for GF-friendly joints that focus on fresh healthy ingredients and prepare them well, for those times when you just need to enjoy a great meal out. After all, it is the holidays. Indulge!
Chelsea Market – 75 Ninth Ave
Friedman’s Lunch in Chelsea Market is just the place for a satisfying GF bite after a day of shopping in the MPD or for taking your out-of-town relatives after a tour of the highline. The casual, comfortable feel- think vintagey wallpaper, exposed filament bulbs, and chalkboard menu- offers a nice contrast from the always bustling Chelsea Market. They really have something for everyone, and practically the entire menu, which is stacked with seasonally influenced, homemade, comfort foods, can be made, or already is, gluten free (even the Fried Chicken and Cheddar Waffles!) They have tons of healthy options as well, like a sesame lime veggie bowl with quinoa, a grilled veggie sandwich with hummus and avocado (sub GF bread, of course), shaved brussels sprouts with pecorino and honey, and a bunch of really amazing, hearty salads that feature ingredients like house-roasted turkey and grilled asparagus. This place was my go-to lunch spot when I worked nearby. Be sure to wander through Artists and Fleas and support a local designer on your way out!
Kesté Pizza and Vino
271 Bleecker Street
There’s just something about pizza that makes it one of the most universally adored foods in the western world. This is also what makes it one of the most common reasons to fall off the GF wagon! Luckily we have Kesté, the absolute best GF (and regular) pizza this side of the sun. Although I’ve had to wait outside for a table every time I’ve been there, I’m still shocked by how many people still don’t know about it. This place is the truth. The owner was born and raised on a dairy farm in Italy and studied the art of pizza making in Naples before coming to NY and opening Kesté (it means “this is it” in the dialect of Naples.) He now serves as the US President of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli (yes, that’s a real thing!) This guy is no joke, and his pizza ‘senza glutine’ is proof. There are ten GF varieties on the menu, but I stick to the classic Margherita- tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella, pecorino romano, fresh basil, and EVOO. The ingredients are top quality and the dough is perfection. I can promise this will put all the other GF pies (and most regular pies!) to shame. So, while I don’t condone eating pizza on the reg, I definitely do condone treating yourself and enjoying your life. Do so here. Thank me later.
I may not be a huge burger fan, but since I know that I’m the minority here, I think that the rapidly expanding Bareburger is worth a mention. There are already locations of this barnyard-chic eatery in more than a dozen NYC neighborhoods. The size-able menu is almost entirely 100% organic (even the ketchup!) and has as many options for vegetarians as it does for meat-lovers. The few items that are not 100% organic are still 100% all natural, pasture-raised, free-range, hormone-free and antibiotic-free, right down to the nitrate-free bacon! Now for the real reason Bareburger makes this list: all of the meats, poultry, salads, sauces, and french fries are gluten-free, and all burgers and sandwiches can be made on a GF tapioca rice bun or in a lettuce wrap. Add a hard cider and finish the meal with the GF flourless chocolate cake and you might just remove the term “restrictive diet” from your vocabulary forever.
415 3rd Ave btwn 29th & 30th St.
They had me at ‘Certified Gluten Free.’ Bistango is one of very few restaurants that go the extra mile to educate their staff so even someone with a severe allergy can eat here with confidence. The meal begins with a basket of GF bread from the Brooklyn bakery Everybody Eats, and it is unbelievable. The menu offers a diverse selection of GF items, including antipasti, salads, pizzettes, and pasta, but what really sets this place apart is their fresh GF stuffed pastas, something I have yet to find elsewhere! They offer a selection of fresh GF ravioli, including spinach and ricotta, wild mushroom and ricotta, and eggplant, as well as a fresh GF tortellini served with roasted butternut squash, sage and brown butter. I literally can’t remember the last time I ate ravioli. No wait… it was here. The entire dessert menu also happens to be gluten free, if you’re into that kind of thing (wink, wink.)
231 Mott Street
This rustic Roman-inspired trattoria in Nolita is doing everything right. It boasts an inventive menu of high quality, seasonal ingredients that are locally grown and organic, as well as hormone and antibiotic free meats, and biodynamic and organic Italian wines. The back dining room, warm and candle-lit beneath a large glass atrium, is a relaxing and romantic place to decompress after a long day…of shopping in Soho. Although all of pastas and pizzas on the menu can be prepared gluten-free, and are fantastic, don’t forget to try some of the other solid menu stand-outs like the charred octopus with hazelnut romesco and olive gremolata, the prosciutto di Parma with burrata, or the beet salad with house pickled hot peppers, pistachios, and aged ricotta. Drool worthy, indeed.
85 10th Ave btwn 15th & 16th St.
Dripping in marble and mahogany, this grand Italian dining destination is a bit over-the-top for a random date night or dinner with the girls. However, some celebrations and special occasions call for something more formal and elegant (perhaps with a live piano player and a special pillowy seat brought over just to rest your purse on.) When that time comes, Del Posto is your place. The menu consists of two pre-fixe options only, which would typically make GF dining a major struggle, but Del Posto offers house-made gluten free versions of its entire pasta menu so you can participate in all of the courses offered. Take that and combine it with an incredibly knowledgeable, accommodating staff and we’ve got ourselves another reason to celebrate. Everything, from the tasty GF amuse bouche that started the meal, to the additional plate of complimentary GF petit fours at the end of the meal, made for a pretty amazing dining experience.
Insider tip: If the price tag is making you lose your appetite, you can get the whole experience at a fraction of the cost with their lunch pre-fixe. It’s a mere $39 and, trust me, every bit as good as dinner.