by Alyssa Grossman, 08/08/2012
It’s a great time to be gluten-free in New York City. Favorites like cupcakes, pizza and pasta are no longer off-limits to those avoiding wheat, barley and rye, thanks to restaurants like Risotteria, Tu-Lu’s and Bareburger, which craft their menus with a “food for all” mentality. Whether you’re looking for a sweet treat or a sit-down meal, you’ll never have to sacrifice taste in the name of dietary restrictions. Read on for some of New York City’s best gluten-free dining.
270 Bleecker St., 212-924-6664, West Village, Manhattan
You know a food trend is really getting off the ground when a chain like Domino’s cashes in. But if you’re looking to go beyond mere convenience, search no further than Risotteria. As its name suggests, the West Village eatery specializes in creamy risotto, but owner Joseph Pace’s GF pizza is a must-try item. Snack on (unlimited) warm, flaky, gluten-free breadsticks as you eagerly await his wouldn’t-believe-it’s-not-wheat creation, served in thin- and thick-crusted varieties and adorned with the toppings of your choice. Save room for some chocolate tiramisu or a winkie—the restaurant’s take on that previously forbidden Hostess snack, the Twinkie. Our advice? Get there early; seating is limited and the secret’s out on this Italian-food hot spot.
345 E. 12th St., 212-358-7912, East Village, Manhattan
You may have thought the gooey goodness of macaroni and cheese was a no-go, but this East Village comfort food haven is changing the pasta game forever. Owner Sarita Ekya spent months perfecting her recipe that would make the modified menu items as cheesy and rich as the original. She also carefully organized the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination with glutenous menu items. Indulge in Napoletana, cheeseburger, Cajun, Buffalo chicken and more, stress-free—just request brown pasta at the counter and don’t hesitate to top that dish with bread crumbs, made from gluten-free corn cereal. Bonus: S’MAC also stocks gluten-free Bard’s Tale Gold beer, ideal for washing down that heaping skillet of noodles.
Lilli and Loo
792 Lexington Ave., 212-421-7800, Upper East Side, Manhattan
200 West 57th St., 212-586-5333, Midtown West, Manhattan
The main enemy of gluten-allergic connoisseurs of Chinese, Japanese and Thai food is soy and teriyaki sauce, both of which contain a wheat base. Enter these sister eateries on the Upper East Side and in Midtown. While the menus vary ever so slightly, you’ll find gluten-free chef’s special rolls, soups, noodles, fried rice and more, all on a separate menu. And when lunchtime rolls around, Lilli and Loo serves up a $10.95 GF lunch special with favorites like General Tso chicken, kalbi beef, and tofu with mixed vegetables with a green salad and steamed white or brown rice.
154 E. 79th St., 212-537-7179, Upper East Side, Manhattan
For those avoiding gluten, intricate dishes often require an in-depth interview with the server or chef to determine what’s safe to eat. Take a break from the endless ingredient questions at Upper East Side vegan and organic eatery Candle 79 and dine in style and safety. The restaurant’s gluten-free menu offers diners flavor-packed choices like vegetable nori rolls with pickled ginger, avocado wasabi, chipotle aioli and tamari-ginger sauce and Moroccan spiced chickpea cake with red pepper-coconut curry, apricot-ginger chutney and toasted almonds.
Tu-Lu's Gluten-Free Bakery
338 E. 11th St., 212-777-2227, East Village, Manhattan
New York City is teeming with cupcake shops and bakeries, but what most see as the opportunity for a super-sweet treat is a dangerous proposition for those allergic to gluten. Thankfully, it takes only one shop to turn the baked-goods game around. Tully Lewis and her business partner, Jen Wells, rise to the occasion every day inside the quaint East Village location of Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery. Satisfy your sweet tooth with "Mallomars," coffee cake, muffins, whoopie pies, brownies and, of course, cupcakes, in a rotating selection of flavors. Wash it down with a cup of coffee and you’ll forget such confections were ever verboten. Don’t see the treat you’re dreaming of? These gluten-free chemists are always open to suggestions.
Rice to Riches
37 Spring St., 212-274-0008, NoLIta, Manhattan
Decadence is key at this futuristic SoHo rice pudding spot. Funky names like “The Edge of Rum Raisin” and “Coconut Coma” add to the playful vibe, as do the brightly colored reusable bowls. While some flavors don’t get the gluten-free seal of approval—“The Corner of Cookies & Cream” doesn’t pass the test—the staff can tell you which of the constantly rotating flavors are safe to eat. But one word of warning: while this dessert destination may be for the allergy-conscious, it’s not for those who worry about calories. The space is dotted with creative reminders of the pudding’s fat content. Still, the general consensus is that this treat is well worth relinquishing one's dietary hangups.
321 Seventh Ave., 718-788-2980, Park Slope, Brooklyn
This cozy Park Slope Italian espresso bar has made the thin, doughy goodness of crepes available to all. Fill up on savory combinations like portobello mushroom, ricotta, mozzarella and tomato sauce or sopressata, provolone, arugula, spicy pepperoncini and roasted peppers—all made with chickpea flour. For those craving something sweeter, the Crespelle dolci aren’t gluten-free, but you can still get your sugar fix with their GF baked treats from Las Delicias and Everybody Eats.
Ordering that juicy burger sans bun, while necessary when you’re avoiding gluten, often leaves a lot to be desired. Bareburger, a city chain known for its variety of meats (lamb, wild boar, elk, bison and ostrich are on the menu alongside traditional beef, turkey and veggie options), gets that and does something about it. So order away—even the most creative flavor combinations will have a home inside an iceberg lettuce wrap or tapioca rice bun. And the health benefits don’t stop there: the restaurant guarantees all meat is free-range, pasture-raised and free of antibiotics and hormones.
77A W. 85th St., 646-781-9770, Upper West Side, Manhattan
If you’re on a gluten-free diet, a trip to the grocery store can turn into a long ordeal of scanning each package for allergens before putting anything into that shopping cart. Leave your worries at the door at G-Free NYC, where every item has been tested by staffers with sensitive tummies to ensure the highest level of food safety. You’ll find everything from candy and frozen desserts to pasta and prepared entrées, plus a selection of fresh baked goods from Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery, Main Line Baking Co., Food For All and more. And those with a gluten allergy know that eliminating wheat, barley and rye can also mean sacrificing taste. That’s why G-Free NYC has a strict rule in place: if the staff doesn’t think the taste of a product lives up to expectations, they won’t stock it. Not sure where to start? Stop by during the weekly “Sample Sunday” where the staff serves up its favorite products for free.
Sun In Bloom
460 Bergen St., 718-622-4303, Park Slope, Brooklyn
Brunch is a city ritual so deeply associated with bread-based dishes that gluten-free diners are often forced to order a plate of scrambled eggs and watch as friends devour piles of French toast and pancakes. Reclaim your options at Sun In Bloom, Park Slope’s (vegan) answer to such menu frustrations. Decadent choices include apple pie pancakes topped with caramelized apples, spiced walnuts and maple syrup. Those with an appetite for something savory should go with the brunch tart filled with butternut squash, shiitake "bacon" and caramelized onion. This favorite of locals is also kosher and specializes in organic food, raw food and macrobiotic dishes, taking worry-free dining to the next level.