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Celebrate the Holidays at These Gluten Free Restaurants in San Diego December 8, 2012

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in : Dining Out , add a comment

Originally posted on DowntownRob.com: Gluten Free Restaurants San Diego 2012 Holiday Guide

The holidays are the most challenging time of the year to stick to any diet. If you’re like me and already have a limited menu to work with, dining out over the holidays is a major feat. Travel, having guests or being a guest are all culprits for throwing off the routine and limiting gluten-free food options. And let’s face it, we’re all willing to face a tummy ache and a few extra pounds for Grandma’s Christmas cookies and the traditional turkey gravy dinner. It’s once a year and life is short, may as well enjoy it.

We all know however, that digestion breakdowns can put a crink in the holiday fun. Before you run screaming YOLO consider some advance preparation to limit the damage starting with this list of top gluten-free San Diego restaurants in the Downtown area. You and your holiday guests will equally enjoy it.

Turn On the Holiday Glitz

Here are two five-star restaurants perfect for celebrating special occasions while enjoying San Diego’s gem, the harbor. That’s what everyone comes here for right? There are surprisingly fewer quality ocean view options than you’d think. Whether it’s dinner before the Nutcracker or Christmas dinner you will not regret opting into fine service and opting out of doing the dishes at my top picks. Here you go…

Ruth’s Chris Steak House on the San Diego Harbor 

This fine establishment never disappoints and it is strategically located for the perfect after dinner walk along the harbor. Enjoy a traditional menu ranging from steak and mashed potatoes to chicken, fish or lobster. If you want to catch a bay view during your meal be sure to make reservations in advance and ask to sit on a west-facing window table or on the outside patio. There is a single spot on the patio under a gazebo type structure that offers a prime view and full ocean air experience. Me, I prefer a cozy booth near the bar. Ask for the gluten-free menu and don’t be afraid to request modifications to customize your meal. They are all about service. Ruth’s Chris is open for Christmas if you want  to get out of the kitchen and make it special.

Insider Tip: This place makes a killer Manhattan. If you are gluten sensitive to whiskey substitute with their corn-based whiskey.

Must Try: The gluten-free, milk free chocolate sin cake is worth going to hell for.

Look it up  | Menu

Top Of The Market on the San Diego Harbor

Have guests in town looking for a San Diego seafood experience? Top of the Market is a high-end restaurant perched, you guessed it, on top of The Fish Market. You might be surprised to find this much class packed into the same building as The Fish Market, a historic tourist trap… and for good reason. This place sells and serves the freshest local and imported fresh fish. You’ll find a few of the same favorites on the menu at Top of the Market including their famous clam chowder and cioppiono, plus a plethora of high-end dishes that properly spotlight their quality fresh fish. This tops the gluten friendly dining list because much of the menu is naturally gluten-free and they do not drown the food in sauces that pose higher risks. They are accommodating to modifications and in my experience make few mistakes. Unlike most restaurants they actually do double-check plates before they leave the kitchen to ensure your special requests were made. Arrive early for a cocktail. The specialty martinis are never too syrupy and they serve one of the best Manhattans I’ve ever had in my life. I come here specifically for it and I take mine up. They truly do serve fresh San Diego catches like local Opah, not so attainable high quality fare such as Scotland Salmon and an exquisite array of house smoked fish. The jumbo prawn cocktail is fresh, meaty and sure to impress guests.

Insider Tip: Sit at the kitchen bar for live cooking action as entertaining as The Food Network.

Must Try: Order the cioppiono without the pasta and you will be gluten safe. Ask them to skip the finishing butter to make it lactose free too.

Look it up  | Menu

A Casual Holiday Affair

Sometimes there’s nothing better than not dressing up for the occasion and kicking it casual with the fam. Here are gluten friendly establishments that are easy on the stomach and pocket book too.

Local Habit in Hillcrest

If you ate Celiac or have a strong gluten allergy you will appreciate the attention Local Habit puts into their gluten-free offering. Cooked on separate equipment in the a clean kitchen, the locally sourced, seasonal menu is crafted for the gluten-free or vegan diner and it’s delicious. (And, normal stomachs too) This is one of the few places that you’ll find both gluten free bread, pizza, and beer all in one place. It takes casual to a whole new level. After dinner enjoy the fun atmosphere in the heart of Hillcrest. Local Habit is open at 2pm on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day.

Insider Tip: If it’s pizza you’ve been craving, make it lactose free too by opting for the vegan cheese on gluten-free crust. To stay true to their hand crafted flavor their vegan ricotta style cheese is made from scratch using almonds.

Must Try: The brussel sprouts are seriously foodgasmic.

Look it up  | Menu

PF Changs Everywhere

PF Changs is a family favorite and a go-to spot when I’m traveling about because it’s a national chain. We have a few in San Diego at the Fashion Valley Mall and in La Jolla UTC. While not the traditional holiday fare, this delish option has a big enough menu to satisfy everyone in a group big or small. PF Changs offers a gluten-free menu and most items are naturally milk free too. You won’t feel cheated on the menu, it includes their top dishes like lettuce wraps, fried rice and stir fry. The revisions are close enough in taste for sharing with your non-gluten free family and friends without a yuck face.

Insider Tip: Ask for gluten-free soy sauce.

Must Try: The lemon scallops have a crispy taste as you’d experience with flour coated sauté. But, they use gluten-free flour making it taste naughtier than it is.

Look it up  | Menu

Kous Kous Moroccan Restaurant in Hillcrest

This little escape to Morocco is a local favorite and tops the list of places to go in San Diego for savvy European travelers. If you’re looking for something different with an International flare, Kous Kous is your jam. The authentic Moroccan fare includes tagines (stew) of lamb, fish, chicken and several naturally vegan, milk-free and gluten-free dishes. The rice will melt in your mouth and if you are a milk drinker you will also absolutely love the mashed potatoes. The interior decorated with Moroccan textiles and lamps offers a romantic environment but there are big enough tables to handle small to medium parties.

Insider Tip: Reserve the corner booth for a romantic evening.

Must Try: A Moroccan Kiss.

Look it up  | Menu

Holiday Shopping Eats

It’s a busy time with lots to do like shopping! Mall food is a killer to eating healthy so here are two great gluten-free options near Downtown that will keep you on your toes.

True Food Kitchen at Fashion Valley Mall

A conscious diner’s heaven plopped in the middle of a shopping mall. Score! You don’t have to be a die-hard Yogi to eat here but the servers do wear yoga pants making it much more comfortable for me as I love shopping in my yoga clothes, no make-up. True Food Kitchen’s concept:

“De.Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet isn’t meant to deprive a healthy body of great flavors, it’s meant to take popular trends in cuisine and pair them with healthy living.”

What’s amazing about this place is it doesn’t taste like super healthy food so you can bring your “normal people” here and they’ll still enjoy it. It’s a fun space with a bar, yes with amazing cocktails at that, and full view into the kitchen where there is no separation between you and the people preparing your food. These dishes might include pizza, street tacos, turkey bolognese, or steelhead salmon. All gluten-free! Pick up your shopping spirit with a “Spontaneous Happiness” cocktail. Or, an alcohol free elixir as well such as Honey Lemonade.

Insider Tip: Pre-order a healthy holiday pie to take home to the family.

Must Try: The gluten-free pasta.

Look it up  | Menu

Stacked at Fashion Valley Mall

“Food well built.” And, you are the builder. Geek out on Stacked where you can customize your order using their special menu iPads. The service is pretty hands off and some of us prefer that but if you’re old and need a traditional menu they will accommodate. You will be seated, you will be served, you won’t have a waitress hovering over your or slowing down your check. You pay right there at the table using the iPad. As far as the food goes, amazing. There are gluten-free options for bread so you can truly enjoy your burger and fries. For those naughty normal eaters, try the mac n’ cheese pizza, it’s a monster. Everyone will enjoy the variety of sauce options including curry ketchup or the sweet potato fries.

Insider Tip: If you are lactose intolerant be sure to ask which sauces are milk free, and remind them that mayo is not milk.

Must Try: The gluten-free turkey burger with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and cranberry mayo.

Look it up  | Menu

Print out this list of gluten-free restaurants and keep it with you this season. May you enjoy your holidays stomach ache free!

Gluten Free Pizza: A Quest for Greatness June 29, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in : Dining Out , 2comments

Z Pizza, National Locations
New Asian Cuisine
Gluten free menu: yes
Gluten friendly staff: yes

z pizza gluten free

One of the major barriers for me to go gluten free was pizza. Pizza is more than just my favorite guilty pleasure; we have a well-established love affair that spans three decades. Despite the gnawing pain, chronic fatigue and other unmentionable digestive problems it caused, the thought of giving it up was unthinkable.

Luckily for me and my other gluten-challenged pizza addicts, gluten free pizza is starting to appear on several menus across San Diego including Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza , Leucadia Pizzeria and Z Pizza.

To say I was thrilled with this development would be an understatement. I had to go out immediately and taste test as many gluten free pizzas as possible. I started with Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and Leucadia Pizzeria.  I have to admit, Leucadia pizza is one of my all-time favorites. The semi-sweet, fluffy original crust was almost worth the pain of eating gluten. I had high hopes. However, both of these restaurants disappointed me. They offered thin, cracker-like crusts that reminded me of a dehydrated cracker with cheese on it. While better than no pizza at all, I didn’t find either of these crust options to capture the essence of pizza.

Feeling somewhat pessimistic, I headed to my last stop on the pizza tour, Z Pizza. I think perhaps I have found the holy grail of gluten free pizza. The location in La Jolla looks like a small mom-and-pop pizza place but they are actually part of a national franchise with four San Diego locations. They only serve the gluten free crust option in a personal 10” size and the wait for preparation is around 20 minutes.

I would have waited well over an hour for this pizza. Still a thin crust, the texture is soft, doughy and buttery, like actual bread. You can order the pizza in a variety of designer flavors including barbecue and Thai or go with their more traditional pepperoni or cheese. In addition, Z Pizza offers organic and vegan options including vegan cheese for the lactose intolerant. Gluten free pizzas at Z Pizza run about $12 – $15.


Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Amanda Sounart is a health care writer and former fitness journalist. She has been gluten free for four months after 10 years of stomach pain and several rounds of misdiagnosis. She maintains a gluten free blog, Mostly Gluten Free, as well as a dating blog, Slightly Serious. Follow Amanda on twitter @mostlyglutenfre


Dining Out Gluten Free at Roppongi Restaurant La Jolla June 10, 2011

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Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar, La Jolla in the Village
New Asian Cuisine
Gluten free menu: yes
Gluten friendly staff: yes

I was here last evening with a big group and it was a great experience. Roppongi has an indoor and outdoor dining area offering a modern intimate setting. The sushi is creative and full of texture and flavor. A favorite was a slice of cucumber stacked with ahi in a sweet sauce. This isn’t a little sushi restaurant they have a full menu ranging from lamb, fish to chicken in fresh, interesting combinations.

There is a full gluten free menu of which I tasted the BBQ mini lamb chops with white rice tapas (amazing), a green salad, and the grilled chicken breast with shitake mushrooms, hearts of palm, green beens and ginger pesto. It sounds good right? I pigged out! They were able to make adjustments to serve this menu lactose free additionally. As usual the mashed potatoes contain butter and milk so choose a different side if this is also your issue. The texture, taste, and presentation of each dish was superb.

I’ll be back for a nice dinner with my significant other soon. The front patio fire pit is a nice place for happy hour and the drinks are not only pretty (what you’d expect of La Jolla) and delish.

Unfortunately the gluten free menu is not online but you can browse the general offerings here. Many of the gluten free items are variations from the main menu. I hope you can try it out some time. And when you do, plan on taking an after dinner walk down to seal beach it’s just steps away.


The Best Bar Food Can Be Got at Ruth’s Chris May 5, 2011

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Living downtown San Diego I’m fortunate to have so many good dining choices. Rarely do these include bars because the menu and service just doesn’t live up to the high maintenance needs of my gluten and lactose free diet. Most bar food is fried, breaded or full of cheese dressings so pubs are out of the question unless I’m drinking my dinner. Ruth’s Chris is absolutely the exception. My significant other and I had a busy week, working most evenings, and needed a spot that would allow us to fuel up and quietly co-work. We tried the Ruths Chris bar on the harbor. It was lovely. They just redesigned the booths with velvety fabric and we are big booth fans. We like to sit together and I’m always cold so need to cuddle up in restaurants.

Here are a few things that made it exceptional:

Being treated with respect and care is a big deal for someone with special dietary needs. There are recent occurrences of chefs or restaurant workers who are annoyed with people’s food allergies and act carelessly. Restaurants with an educated staff who respect people’s food choices health related or otherwise earn big points with me. I’ll be a loyal patron for life. If you ever go to Ruth’s Chris in San Diego say hi to James at the bar or tweet him ahead and they’ll have a gluten free menu ready for you. And try his martini, it’s to die for!

Dining Out Gluten Free: Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza and more March 3, 2011

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Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
American Cuisine
Gluten Free Menu: yes

Sammy’s offers a generous gluten free menu with many options to customize your own gluten free pizza crust with mozzarella, goat cheese and even a lactose free variation of vegan mozzarella.

The GF crust is thin and crisp which some people prefer anyways. Both times I’ve tried it I enjoyed the close to normal flavor and texture of pizza. I did find it was overly crisp, even burnt in some spots on the edge. Like when you leave a frozen pizza in the toaster oven too long.

I tried the Hawaiin with Canadian bacon and pineapple, red sauce, and the fresh tomato, olive, garlic sauce GF pizzas. I prefer the red because it’s a little more saucier adding moisture to the crisp crust. I can’t name a favorite between the two pies I’m craving them both right now!

The vegan cheese was delicious with a creamy texture. I’d highly recommend substituting it in the chopped chicken salad. Which is on my top best salads ever list. I’ll warn you, double and triple check your cheese and special order. They served the real cheese up mistakenly even after ordering off the GF menu, “the talk” and confirming with the server dropping off my plate. I guess I have higher expectations from restaurants with GF menus. But they were nice about it.

Sammy’s is good for the family, casual dates and dinner before a movie. You will love how easy it is to order and what’s more they offer gluten free beer!
You might even find me there alone some time with a beer and my laptop.

Dining Out Gluten Free: Denny’s (Yes! Denny’s) February 18, 2011

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Denny’s, San Diego Harbor with National locations
Gluten free menu: no menu, yes allergens list
Gluten friendly staff: yes

I was pleasantly surprised to find an allergens information list for Denny’s menu items when I stopped in for breakfast. Despite the fact that much of the menu is essentially prepackaged frozen food, they get mad props for giving their staff the resources they need to know what ingredients are in each dish. An often overlooked requirement for chef’s and servers.

The way Denny’s managed my gluten free and lactose free needs was five star. And, I let the manager know. As a rule, I try to provide as much good feedback to restaurants about their allergy request service as I do constructive. It’s a nice experience when a restaurant educates their staff and they are attentive to ensuring your meal will not get you sick. When this is a smooth experience your conversation doesn’t end up revolving around ‘the talk’ which ultimately becomes the conversation over your meal with the people your dining with. Are you tired of talking about your food allergies over the table? I am. I am desperate for normalcy.

One piece of education I want everyone to leave with is that a nutrition fact sheet is not the same as an allergens information list. Every restaurant as of 2011 is required to make nutrition facts available to you, whether within the menu itself or another document. I’ve seen it both ways. I’ve also been offered this nutrition facts by many servers in place of a gluten free menu or allergens information. There are no allergy facts in a nutrition fact sheet – it’s purpose is to count calories, fat etc.. We’ve got to take our health in our own hands and be advocates for education where restaurants are falling short. 

And BTW, my go-to gluten free, lactose free breakfast item is…the potato and egg Sizzlin’ Skillet. It comes to the table literally sizzling. I was so excited the first time I had the skillet I burnt a hole in the roof of my mouth with the firs bite!


September 28, 2011 Update:

On a recent visit to Denny’s I took home a copy of their allergy information and found that the hashbrowns are gluten free. I originally stated in this post:

Potatoes are gluten free but stay away from the hash browns they are not.

This was based on the server translating the allergy information for me. I will not make that mistake again, lesson learned, take control of your food choices and read ingredients lists yourself. It is rare that a restaurant server, manager or even a chef is more educated than you in selecting the right food choices for food allergies and intolerance.

I would still stick with the red potatoes because they are not processed and the only potato product on the menu that does not contain lactose or milk.

View (PDF) Denny’s Allergy List 2011


Free Gluten Free Pizza this Saturday at Pizza Fusion January 28, 2011

Posted by Melonie Gallegos in : Dining Out , 1 comment so far

San Diego gluten free friends if you’re still wondering what to do with your weekend here’s the 411 on a great party for a GREAT restaurant here in Hillcrest. Join me at Pizza Fusion to celebrate their two year anniversary where they’ll be serving complimentary Sangria, pizza and of course appreciative giveaways. And, you don’t have reason enough to begin drinking at noon stop by for the live music (I hear it will be Santana-ish) and to chat it up on the tweet wall with emcee @DowntownRob.

Congratulations Barry and to all of you wonderful people who serve up the best organic pizza in SD. And, even more for providing us with gluten free, vegan and dairy free options that are not sub par but wonderful.

Here’s more info.

Directions, RSVP and learn more

Sat Jan 29 ’11, 12-3pm

Tip: Try the GF vegan brownies

Dining Out Gluten Free: Miguel’s Cocina December 19, 2010

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Miguel’s Cocina (a Brigantine Family restaurant)
Old Town San Diego

Absolutely fantastic! Good service, nice vibe, and a gluten free and vegan menu list. It’s not a fancy one but it will steer you clear of items with hidden gluten such as the ranchero sauce. And yes, the Mexican rice, which is an unusual one. I will be back when it warms up to enjoy a mocktail on the large, cozy patio set right in the heart of Old Town.

Here’s a pic of what I ate to make you jealous. And of the gluten free and vegan menu options. Oh and I forgot to mention, if you are lactose intolerant stay away from the vegetarian tamale it’s stuffed with cheese.

Dining Out Gluten Free: Ruth’s Chris Steak House September 24, 2010

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Ruth’s Chris Steak House, San Diego Harbor with National locations
Gluten free menu: yes
Gluten friendly staff: yes

Ruths Chris in San DiegoI had the pleasure of dining out with Ruth’s Chris for my boyfriend’s birthday last month. We had several events over the weekend, we saved this for our day of the birthday party with close friends. They did an AMAZING job. From coordinating with us on Twitter, to a beautiful spread they put on for our large group at a table looking over the bay. The service was first class. I am even more excited to report Ruth’s Chris has a gluten free menu! Now when I consider dining out my thought is often that this place is too pricey for our frequent casual dining. Until, I discovered the bistro menu making it much more accessible than for special occasions. While I was there I sampled a sushi appetizer that they modified GF, of course had to have one of their scrumptious steaks the filet is always my fav, and went with a side of veggies no butter no sauce as a side dish. I do not eat meat often and when I do this is how I do it.

Ruth’s Chris Gluten Free Menu – this is unfortunately not available from their website but they were kind to link me up on Twitter here. Confirm with your location these items are available a menus get customized per location even for National restaurants.

@RuthsChrisSD – San Diego friends you can follow them here, yes a brand that actually talks to you!

Enoteca Style, San Diego’s Little Italy
Italian inspired wine bar
Gluten free menu: no
Gluten friendly staff: yes

Dining Out Gluten Free: Enoteca Style August 27, 2010

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Enoteca Style, San Diego’s Little Italy
Italian inspired wine bar
Gluten free menu: no
Gluten friendly staff: yes

I’m hesitant to share my secret spot in Little Italy because once you find a cozy corner and taste the amazing salads you’ll be hooked too. With a small menu consisting of paninis, salads, cheese plates and dessert this is my favorite haunt for a light dinner. Or shall I say something to go with wine for dinner. And, they always have great wine recommendations.

Why I really keep coming back? The flourless chocolate lava cake. It’s gluten free and combines a hot and cold combo of warm cake and ice cream. It’s addicting. Enoteca Style is the one only place in Little Italy offering a substantial gluten free dessert. Mmm mmm mmmmmm

view the menu