1601 Bar & Kitchen is a hidden gem in plain sight where you can feast on unique and inventive Sri Lankan-influenced dishes, most of which are also gluten-free. So many, in fact, that it’s the dishes with gluten that are noted on the menu. The traditional egg hopper that employs rice flour in the place of wheat is a gluten-free standout, as is the crispy okra. The only disappointment for someone eating entirely gluten-free is that the chef’s tasting menu tends to have at least one or two dishes with gluten. Still, the a la carte menu highlights the most popular dishes, so that disappointment won’t last long.
2 As Quoted
Presidio Heights’ all-day cafe As Quoted is a detoxer’s dream, with clean-eating in a clean setting and gluten-free everything. That includes their toast, topped with banana or avocado, which is made daily with sorghum and multigrain flours, honey, eggs, and avocado oil. For bigger portions, get the zucchini pappardelle.
3 Bella Trattoria Italiana
It’s pretty much impossible to find an Italian restaurant that serves amazing gluten-free pasta, but Bella Trattoria, a charming and authentic restaurant in the Inner Richmond, is doing just that. Though Bella makes its pasta in house, it does buy its gluten-free corn spaghetti pasta. However, it’s the sauces, like arrabbiata, puttanesca, and salsiccia, that are the real hero of the pasta dishes, so one truly doesn’t mind. If you really need an Italian dish that’s made in house though, there are also several gluten-free gnocchi dishes that knock it out of the park.
The menus at both Dosa locations have tons of gluten-free Indian options, including the signature dosa, a crepe-like pancake made with rice and lentil flours, and the uttapam, which is a thicker version of the dosa. Though the menu you’ll be handed when you sit at your table doesn’t specify which dishes are gluten-free, you can either ask your server, who is well-trained in the ingredients, or request the gluten-free menu, which also notes dishes that are vegan, dairy-free, etc.
5 Firefly Restaurant
Brad Levy and Veva Edelson opened their longtime Noe Valley restaurant in 1993, but it wasn’t until their daughters were diagnosed with celiac disease that they started serving their popular fried chicken gluten-free. By now, nearly their whole menu at Firefly is gluten-free or available that way, with gluten-free desserts an option, too. “Our pastry chef works some witchy magic,” they write on the menu.
A former McDonald’s space transformed into a gluten-free, paleo-friendly, healthy dining establishment? That’s inspirational enough to attract plenty of better-eating converts, who come in for Kitava’s cuban bowl with heritage pork shoulder, zoodles (zucchini noodles) with red sauce, and even general Tso’s chicken, which is fried with healthier-than-usual oils at lower temperatures.
Almost half of the menu items in this California fast-casual restaurant with a vegetable-centric menu are gluten-free. All of the dishes are on display and clearly labeled, so it’s easy to tell when you’re walking through the line which options are vegan, vegetarian, or made without wheat. Though the menu is seasonal, the veggie chili, red miso beef, and chicken basque are on there year-round and are always made without gluten. And though it’s oftentimes hard to find a gluten-free dessert that’s worth the calories, Lemonade’s famous macarons are made with almond flour, which means that anyone who is gluten-intolerant can enjoy those as well.
8 Little Gem
This casual quick-service restaurant in Hayes Valley is all about farm-driven California cuisine that uses fresh, seasonal ingredients. Oh, and that just so happens to also be free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, all of which Little Gem claims you’ll never miss. The breakfast and lunch menus offer mostly vegetarian options that can be adapted for meat-lovers with the addition of proteins like Marin Sun Farms pulled chicken or slow roasted pork. At dinner, there are still plenty of veggie options, but the chef’s plates all place various types of meat at center stage.
9 Loving Hut
Loving Hut is an international chain that is right at home in SF thanks to its hippie vision (“all beings can live in peace, love and harmony with each other and the planet”) and it’s fully vegan menu. About 70 percent of the menu is gluten-free or gluten-free optional, including several pho and noodle dishes. Though there are two locations in SF, be aware that the Sunset location offers a much more expansive menu with a focus on Asian dishes, while its Westfield counterpart focuses on salads and sandwiches.
10 Mac Daddy
If you live a gluten-free life, you probably thought you’d never again get to go out and order a heaping bowl of the best comfort food staple there is: macaroni and cheese. Mac Daddy’s got your back though. The restaurant offers 13 different kinds of gourmet macaroni and cheese dishezs, all of which can be made gluten-free without sacrificing any of the indulgence.
11 Mariposa Baking Co.
If you’re craving delicious baked goods, but can’t have gluten, look no further than Mariposa Baking Co. This tiny cafe in the Ferry Building gets daily deliveries from its Oakland bakery, which is renowned for its artisan-crafted and gluten-free baked goods, like breads, pastries, cookies, and donuts. But it doesn’t stop there. You can also indulge in spinach lasagna, a bagel and cream cheese, or even a hearty chicken pot pie.
12 Mister Jiu’s
While there is definitely wheat to be found on the modern Chinese menu at Mister Jiu’s (like in the congee and potstickers), there are also plenty of ways to avoid it — which means everyone can be happy. Specifically, many of the dishes altogether don’t have gluten, such as the turnip cakes, cheong fun, oxtail soup, silken tofu, and much more. Plus, many dishes can be modified to be gluten free, and there’s a gluten free tamari if you need it. Just ask the servers for all the recommendations; the restaurant is more than accommodating if needed.
13 Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen
The star dish on Pica Pica’s menu is the arepas, naturally gluten-free grilled corn pockets that are crunchy on the outside and stuffed with a slow-cooked filling and made by hand every single day. But there are plenty of other tasty Venezuelan street food-inspired dishes at this father and daughter-owned restaurant to enjoy as well, all of which are guaranteed to be 100 percent gluten free, so that anyone with a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease can feel completely safe about eating this phenomenal food.
14 Proposition Chicken
Don’t be chicken about eating fried chicken — at least not if you’re eating the fried chicken at Proposition Chicken, which is made with Mary’s free-range chickens, rosemary-lemon brine, and herb crust … and is available gluten-free. Gluten-free and vegetarian? Proposition Chicken’s got you covered; there’s also a “fake” chicken made with crispy barbecue tofu.
15 The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
The sad truth is that most classic American comfort foods come loaded with gluten, and the grilled cheese sandwich is no exception due to one crucial component: bread. But the good people at American Grilled Cheese Kitchen believe that even the gluten-intolerant should be able to enjoy the perfection that is a salty, buttery, crispy sandwich with gooey melted cheese (plus lots of elevated ingredients), which is why you can substitute house-made wheat-free bread. It’ll cost you, though, specifically an extra three bucks.
16 Tony’s Pizza Napoletana
While pizza probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you’re looking for a gluten-free meal, the good news is that tons of SF pizza places have figured out that it’s something customers really want. That being said, of all the restaurants doing it, there’s no doubt that Tony’s does it the best. In addition, Tony’s takes the preparation of its gluten-free pies very seriously though does caution that there may be a chance of cross contamination.
17 Wholesome Bakery
A dedicated gluten-free, vegan, low-glycemic, and generally delicious bakery, Wholesome is the passion project of Mandy Harper. Creating recipes to serve her own dietary needs, she founded her operation in 2009, opening with a brick-and-mortar location of her own in January 2018 to keep up with demand. Wholesome is a go-to for gluten-free cakes, cookies, and other sweets that you can feel good about.