San Francisco is a city made for people with food limitations. It feels like half the city is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free or on Paleo. At the same time, burritos and food trucks rule, which can be hard for people with food allergies. Despite the fact that I can rarely just walk into a new place and order food, I have had a blast checking out new restaurants that can accommodate gluten allergies. I developed my gluten allergy in high school and have come to accept that I can no longer join in on normal beer tastings or grab a pastry from the pile at work. However, I can still enjoy some damn good food in San Francisco! Here are my favorite dinner places that can deal well with gluten allergies.
Zadin – This Vietnamese place in the Castro is one of my go-to places for a quiet dinner with friends or quick takeout when I’m under the weather. My sister is currently studying abroad in Vietnam so I love eating here and getting a tiny taste of her experience. Zadin’s fish rolls combine crispy fried fish with crunchy veggies and rice wrappers with sweet dipping sauce. All the different pho soups are hearty and filling and yet light. They can easily be split between two people or turned into excellent leftovers for lunch. The main dishes are all delicious but I rarely get anything than pho. The restaurant clearly states whether each dish is gluten-free and which additional ones can be modified to be gluten free. They also have gluten-free beer!
Plant Cafe Organic – I dream about the duck pizza from this Embarcadero restaurant. Plant Cafe has locations in the Financial District, the Marina, SFO and the Embarcadero, with the latter having a full restaurant in addition to a lunch cafe. The menu is full of seasonal salads, fish and veggie burgers but the highlight for me is the pizza. When I first ordered the duck pizza I repeatedly asked if they had brought me the right dish because the crust tasted way too good to be gluten-free. The salmon and other fish is also fresh and tasty. All the menu items are labeled whether or not they are gluten-free and the staff is always been super helpful. The Financial District location is also great to grab lunch.
Amici’s and Paxti’s – I guess I may be a pizza fiend, huh? I missed it for many years when there weren’t any good gluten free pizza options, so I relish being able to eat it now. I made it all the way through college without being able to order from Domino’s, so I need to make up for lost time! Both Amici’s and Paxti’s are a bit expensive but worth it for the occasional treat. Amici’s makes a mean oyster pizza that can easily be split between two people. The Marina location isn’t super glamorous but is in easy walking distance to Crissy Field for a picturesque picnic with takeout. Meanwhile, Paxti’s has locations across the city that deliver – hooray! You can design your own pizza and get it delivered right to your door. I’ve once heard of a friend getting sick from cross-contamination, but I’ve never had a problem.
Limón – There is very little to say about Limón except for finger-licking rotisserie. Their ceviche is delicious and I’m sure their other dishes are great, but you come here for the chicken rotisserie. Go to either of this Peruvian joint’s Mission locations and order Pollo a la Brasa for the table. It is salty and melt-in-your-mouth tender and comes with a range of kickass sauces. The place is full of couples and families and groups of friends sharing plates of chicken and laughing. The rotisserie and ceviche are both gluten-free and the waiters can help navigate the rest of the menu.
Moya – I had always heard great things about Ethiopian food and its potential for gluten-free friendliness due to its teff-based injera. However, many Ethiopian restaurants in the US mix in wheat flour with the teff to decrease the price of injera. Lucky for us, Moya makes gluten-free injera! Head over to SOMA, order a few vegetarian, chicken and beef dishes for the table, request gluten-free injera for each dish (there is non-gluten-free injera here too) and dig in using your hands to eat. I like the veggie sampler and doro wat best. All the dishes are gluten-free so you can share with friends as long as you specify the gluten-free injera for everyone. The ambience here isn’t great, but the food more than makes up for it.
Dosa – This South Indian restaurant has locations on Fillmore and Valencia and does a great job of labeling gluten-free dishes, as well as many other allergens. Dosa is a rice and lentil crepe filled with sauces, veggies and paneer. The uttapam and small plates are delicious as well, but the dosa with paneer and peas is a perfect late lunch before a movie at the Kabuki. The Fillmore location’s host and hostess can have a bit of an attitude, but the servers are super friendly and knowledgeable about gluten allergies.
My other favorite gluten-free-friendly dinner places in San Francisco include Radish, Udapi Palace, Tacolicious and Sushi Raw. I also have The Slanted Door, BACCO Ristorante and Minako Japanese on my list to check out soon.
In future Gluten-Free in San Francisco editions I will cover brunch, lunch, sweets and drinks spots for gluten-free deliciousness. I’d also love to hear other people’s favorite gluten-free-friendly places in San Francisco!