I stuffed myself silly in San Diego. Aside from Portland, Oregon - it's the most gluten free friendly city I've visited thus far.
It was quite fun to visit San Diego and seek out all these amazing restaurants because I actually used to live here back in the early 2000's. This certainly made it way easier to find my way around all the different neighborhoods.
What wasn't easy was deciding between the oodles of gluten free friendly restaurant options! In addition to some of my regular resources I use to research before traveling - there is a wonderful website that has a huge list of gluten free friendly restaurants in the the San Diego area.
Since I was in town for an intensive Photoshop class and staying in the Old Town neighborhood, I stuck to restaurants nearby in Hillcrest, North Park, and Ocean Beach.
Located in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, Casa Guadalajara came highly recommended by fellow former San Diegan and blogger, Molly of The Particular Kitchen, and it was in walking distance of my ridiculously charming hotel. They have a gluten free menu, however it's only available in the restaurant and not yet online. It's two pages and has a plenty large selection to choose from. Their regular chips are not gluten free due to cross contamination in the fryer - but don't fret, they do have gluten free chips. Make sure to ask specifically for the gluten free chips and DO indulge in the absolutely delicious salsa - it's some of the best I've ever had.
I ended up doubling up and going to Casa Guadalajara twice since it was close by and I just needed one extra night of delicious San Diego Mexican food. Both the Tacos de Carnitas and the Enchiladas Verdes de Pollo were delicious - and really good sized portions. I had to stop myself on my second visit to avoid getting sick from over eating! The Mexican food in San Diego is just so good!
Oh how I wish Lotus Cafe had been around when I was living in San Diego. The location I visited in Hillcrest opened just 5 months ago and the original location in Encinitas (about 20 minutes north - and an amazing place to surf) opened 3 years ago. With a massive menu that's got both gluten free and vegan options indicated on the menu this lovely cafe has a lot to offer. Be sure when ordering to indicate the items the menu shows need to be removed or substituted to be make that gluten free and/or vegan.
I ordered the Veggie Stuffed Spud with no cheese or sauce, a Lotus Half Salad with added hard-boiled egg and avocado, the Summer Sunrise Smoothie, and a Carrot Pineapple Muffin. Everything was delicious and it's clear that the use of fresh fruits and veggies is Lotus Cafe's strongest attribute. One of my favorite things about the menu was the large number of additions that could be made to any salad - it's nice to be able to customize it to just what I was looking for.
Casa de Luz is almost exactly the restaurant I dream of owning and operating some day (key word here: dream - I'm not sure I'd ever really want to own a restaurant). The interior design is right up my alley with large wooden farm tables and an open beam ceiling. They even have a cozy corner with couches and comfy chairs - which looked like a great place to enjoy one of their many desserts. Oh and the music! It sounded an awful lot like a Swing Years play list and provided wonderful ambiance.
What was really great about Casa de Luz is that it's entirely gluten free and vegan! There doesn't appear to be much use of soy in their menu either. The staff were wonderful and very helpful for a first timer - you see at Casa de Luz there is a fixed dinner menu each night with a soup, salad, and entree that can all be ordered separately along with a huge selection of desserts. On the night I visited, I ordered all three courses; a butternut squash soup, a mixed green salad with young coconut meat, and an entree plate beet and basil brown rice with kale, black bean puree, and cauliflower mash. It was all amazingly delicious - I wish I could eat like that everyday. For dessert I got the Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake - and oh my gosh, so amazing! It was the first cheesecake I've had since going dairy free way back when, since most non-dairy cheese cakes are made with soy. This one was based off cashews and hazelnuts.
Bottom line, I wish I could eat at Casa De Luz for every meal. It's my kind of food and my kind of place. So don't skip it if you find yourself in San Diego!
When I lived in San Diego, Ranchos was my favorite restaurant - I even had my college graduation dinner here. Since it's a Mexican restaurant with a heavy tilt towards vegan and vegetarian options, I thought it might be worth contacting them to see if they were able to accommodate a gluten free diner. I got back an incredibly detailed e-mail from Marcos, the owner of the restaurant about their menu which contains over 250 items. Here's a quick run down of what to order and what to watch out for;
- Any of the enchiladas, but not the ones with mole sauce or shitake and vegan meats. Make sure to tell the waiter not to use anything with oil from the fryer.
- Any of the tamales, but not the ones with the mole sauce.
- The red enchilada sauce, green sauce, ranchero sauce, and sauce on the table are safe.
- Make sure to ask specifically for gluten free chips, the regular chips are done in the fryer which also fries wheat items.
- The tacos should all be gluten free with a couple of exceptions, including the fried ones (taquitos). If you order the fish tacos, order them grilled instead of fried.
- Order the black beans and brown rice, not pinto beans or Mexican rice because of the fryer.
- If you order a tostada, have them toast it with a little oil on the grill, not the fryer.
- Any of the soups, but with the tortilla soup ask for a corn tortilla that is heated and not fried.
- Any of the salads, but ask them for no fried corn tortilla croutons.
- Any of the breakfast items with corn tortillas, but not the flapjacks.
- The burritos are not gluten free.
- For a quesadilla, ask for the corn quesadillas.
- Any the desserts, except for the vegan cakes.
From his e-mail it also sounded like he was working to identify more gluten free adaptations or substitutions. He even mentioned that they are working on a vegan and gluten free cake! I ended up ordering a carne asada taco, a chicken tamale, and of course some gluten free chips and salsa. The tamale was so so good and it was wonderful to be able to eat something with a sauce that wasn't thickened with flour! The salsa at Ranchos was just as good as I remember, as was the food and the fun eclectic atmosphere. (And just to clarify, no that beach picture is not across the street from the restaurant - but it is just down the main drag in Ocean Beach.)
My favorite grocery shopping stand by did me well yet again. I picked up all my basics at the same Whole Foods I shopped at back in college - sheep milk yogurt, KIND granola, stone fruits, rice cakes, soft goat milk cheese, basil, cherry tomatoes, water, and some Enjoy Life cookies. Oh and I also finally got to try Laloo's Rumplemint Ice Cream which was amazing. It was all I wanted in my first mint chip dairy ice cream in years - now I just with the Whole Foods in Seattle would start stocking it!