I have always loved to travel, but once I found out that I was gluten intolerant the joy of spontaneously picking somewhere to eat went away and was replaced with slight anxiety of not knowing where I could eat. So now when I travel I research beforehand to find the best restaurants with gluten-free (GF) options. I always try to find several options in a specific area so I can keep some spontaneity and flexibility about where I am going to eat, so I don’t feel tied down to one specific place. When choosing a restaurant I always make sure that the restaurant always has, 1) several options for me to choose from and 2) has options I actually want to eat. The second point is the hardest part about traveling when you have food allergies; sure there is usually several salad options at any restaurant but personally I rarely crave a salad, especially when I am on vacation and want to experience the local cuisine. Through this process, I found and ate at some AMAZING GF restaurants for my recent trip to San Diego for a friend’s wedding. Below are the highlights!
1) The Mission
A local favorite for breakfast or lunch. The Mission serves all your favorite breakfast and lunch items with a fusion of Chino-Latin influence. The Mission’s East Village location off of J street was an easy five-minute walk from our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego. It was so delicious that we went back TWO more times! The mixture of convenience, deliciousness, and surplus of GF options made this place a no brainer. (Ask your waiter for a GF menu). Everything I tried was good especially the Vegetarian Plato Verde con Huevos, Chilaquiles, Papas Loco and for your gluten-loving friends the blueberry pancakes were fantastic according to my boyfriend, Glenn. Plan for a 20-30 minute wait if you go during popular times but it’s definitely worth the wait.
2) Bencotto Italian Kitchen
Located in Little Italy, Bencotto Italian Kitchen is a great place for a romantic dinner date or a rehearsal dinner. Even with a limited menu for the rehearsal dinner, there were still several options for me to choose from including GF pasta dishes! Bencotto prides itself on making their pasta from scratch daily using only organic ingredients. As an Italian American one of the things I miss the most is pasta, so it was very special for me to be able to eat a good old fashioned bowl of Gnocchi Bolognese GF pasta. For dessert, I had the Torta Caprese, a flourless chocolate almond cake with whipped cream that was pretty good. I was grateful for a dessert option. The service was excellent and the night ran seamlessly for a large party. Get dressed up and go here with the one you love for a special night on the town.
3) Snooze: An A.M. Eatery
Snooze is a transplant restaurant originating from Denver that opened a location in the trendy neighborhood of Hillcrest. From the Yelp reviews I knew to come early before the wait gets too crazy. I thought it would be a great place to go to before we headed to the San Diego Zoo (10 minute Uber drive away) for the day. We were at the restaurant no later than 8:15 AM and there was already a wait! The line didn’t discourage me, the line excited me because I knew Snooze was going to live up to the hype I had been reading about online… and it did! Although nothing is labeled GF on the menu, I was extremely impressed with the level of knowledge the waiter had about the GF options offered on the top of his head. I took advantage of ‘mix and match’ benedicts, one of my personal favorite breakfast items. I ordered the Chile Verde Benny & Bella! Bella! Benny benedicts. Overall, Snooze is a great option for the entire family including families with small children. You will feel right at home at Snooze.
4) The Red Door
If you can only go to one restaurant on this list, go to The Red Door. The food was nothing short of phenomenal. The owners of The Red Door, Tom & Trish Watlington’s philosophy is, “if they couldn’t grow it themselves or buy it locally, humanely treated & sustainable harvested, it wasn’t hitting the table”. The taste of the food is not only of a higher caliber but you can feel good while you eat it knowing you are supporting the local community in the process. We started off our dinner with the appetizer Spicy Garden Snap Peas and I sipped on Prom Night (St Germain, lime zest and champagne). Literally the best cocktail I have ever had. For dinner, I ordered the special for the day, the Scallops with Brussel Sprouts, Glenn ordered the Autonomy Farm Shortribs and my friend, Danielle ordered the Catalina Offshore Fresh Catch. Danielle was born and raised in Southern Florida but during dinner said that this was the best fish she has ever had. I tried her fish and I agree! From start to finish, the waitress made us feel welcome and comfortable. I can’t say enough good things about this restaurant. I will definitely be coming back next time I am in San Diego.
5) Oscar’s Mexican Seafood
We went to the North Pacific Beach location after hiking on a trail to the beach at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. My boyfriend had been to San Diego before and raved about the fish tacos he ate in San Diego. So our goal for lunch that day was to find a good fish taco place and we found it at Oscar’s. Oscar’s from the outside looks like a hole in the wall taco joint with seating/standing tables outside only. The tacos are on corn tortillas (naturally GF). We feasted on grilled octopus, smoked fish and the taco special of the day, spicy tuna. You can choose to spruce up your taco with their signature sour cream based sauces and salsa. However, expect to wait awhile to get your food. This place is extremely popular but definitely worth the wait.
Have you been to any of these restaurants? What are your favorite GF restaurants in San Diego? I would love to hear your thoughts!