Those who know me best know that I don’t take vacations. When I do take time off of work, it is typically to go home for the holidays – not personal travel for fun. However, I am turning over a new leaf (I’m going abroad for the first time this December!). With one of my best friends and fellow celiac living in NYC for the summer with free housing, I had to consider making the trek to the Big Apple. I mean how often can you and a friend explore NYC and not have to pay for housing?? Yeah. Exactly.
Traveling Gluten Free
One of the biggest concerns celiacs face deals with eating out. When you entrust someone else to prepare your meal, you are gambling. The odds increase tenfold that you may experience a cross contamination incident — especially when the kitchen / chef in question isn’t laboring in a 100% gluten free environment. That’s why these days, I rarely eat out.
However, when you are on the road and immersing yourself in a new city, half the fun comes when you experience the culture, and as we all know, Culture = Food.
Lucky for me, I was exploring with a fellow G-free gal, and on top of that, New York City has a plethora of options for those risking their well-being for a taste of the local cuisine.
New York City: Heaven on Earth for A Celiac
When I dine out, I usually play it safe. I go for salads at lunch/dinner time or eggs for breakfast/brunch because I know they are naturally gluten free and don’t frequently come into contact with utensils/dishes that could have traces of gluten. Boring, I know.
This time around though, I didn’t want to limit myself. Frankly, I didn’t want to live off salads, when I was experiencing the melting pot of culture in the city that never sleeps. And, to my surprise (and delight!), I found through much research that NYC has dozens of 100% gluten free restaurants that won’t allow gluten in the building. Jackpot!
Since, I was only in for a long weekend (and on a budget — NYC ain’t cheap y’all, even with free housing), I unfortunately couldn’t experience them all, but I did get a taste of what some of the gluten free establishments have to offer.
Due to our crazy type-A personalities, Sam and I made a point to plan an itinerary filled with good food and lots of fun! I won’t bore you (aka make you green with envy) over every single detail — but I will give you a glimpse of three different dining experiences on our excursion.
On a budget – I did 4 days under $250 and that includes transportation and food. I’m amazing (and humble) I know. Our best meal – thanks to Gilt City – was on my first night in NYC. With my Gilt Voucher, Sam and I had two apps, two entrees, two glasses of wine, and dessert for under 50 bucks. Score!
I love Greek food, so when I came across Mykonos Blue I was sold. Located in the Hayden Hotel in Chelsea, this Greek joint is family-owned and operated. Christ, even all of the patrons were Greek (well aside from the two of us). We clearly had found a hidden gem. The place where all the Greeks go for a bite that tastes just like it was prepared in the Greek Isles!
To start, Sam and I ordered dolmades (my all-time favorite Greek dish – stuffed grape leaves) and melitzana feta (eggplant stuffed with feta and parsley in a tomato red sauce). Talk about authentic. Both were divine. The dolmades were perfect. Paired with cucumber yogurt sauce, it was light and refreshing. A great start to our meal.
We then ordered our two entrees, the koutopoulo (chicken with roasted potatoes) and solomos (grilled salmon paired with rice). The chicken – Sam’s choice – was cooked to perfection. It melted in your mouth. Both of us agreed, it was the best chicken we’d had in ages.
Lastly, we were provided with a dessert. Since we informed them of our dietary restrictions, our waitress and server made special accommodations. They served us two scoops of dark chocolate mousse. In my opinion, chocolate desserts can often be too rich, especially when eating out, however, this dark chocolate was to die for.
It’s safe to say, we were filled to brim and Sam is already planning her trip back, since she has until August left with her summer associate role. Lucky girl!
Day 2: After hitting up 4 of the 5 boroughs and walking nearly 30 miles, Sam and I worked up an appetite. That said, we wanted to try our first 100% gluten free establishment. Enter Wild. Located in West Village, this local favorite was launched in 2006 by a gal struggling with food allergies just like all of us.
As a city that boasts the BEST PIZZA in the US (I’m not backing down from this claim – aka fact of life), The owner of the allergy-friendly establishment blessed us kiddos with intolerances and allergies to have the best slice of pie that the city has to offer without jeopardizing our health.
Stoked to try out the pizza, we ordered the green pizza (a pie topped with pesto, tomato, chicken, peppers, onions, mozzarella, and EVOO – delish!) and the daily special salad entree – the “Summer” salad (a bed of greens piled sky high with chicken, fresh berries, oranges, pears, and a touch of goat cheese).
Let me tell you. We both were pleasantly surprised. Especially myself, the world’s toughest pizza critic – thanks to my Dad. The crust was not too thin or too thick, and the pesto was perfection. And let’s not forget the summer salad. It was pleasantly light, and refreshing but still satisfied my painstaking hunger.
With a sweet-tooth and a dessert menu, we felt we deserved a treat after walking nearly a marathon in the summer sun. Thus came, a platter of gorgeous gluten free and even vegan delights.
Wanting to try them all, we figured we’d just do one of each category, a fruity and chocolate option. The best of both worlds. We opted for the raspberry cheesecake and chocolate brownie topped with a peanut butter mousse.
Frankly, I would come back just for dessert. Both were beyond delicious. As noted above, chocolate desserts can be hit or miss when dining out, but we were in luck. It was perfection — and it was topped with peanut butter. I mean come on – Chocolate and Peanut Butter go hand-in-hand. Am I right?
It took all of my will power to not gobble them both down in one sitting.
You’ve got to check this place out next time you visit the city. Hands down was the best 100% gluten free restaurant I have ever been to.
After a long weekend of hustle and bustle in the big city, the trip was coming to a close. Thus, it was vital that we indulge for the “Last Supper”. All of you gluten free foodies insisted I hit up the well-known Senza Gluten. So I had to visit the hot spot.
Though, it was my least favorite meal of the weekend, I will say they had the best service when accommodating food allergies and they boasted a beautiful atmosphere to dine. Plenty of Greenery and Sinatra. Forget about it! I have never been seated and immediately asked if I had any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Christ, the waitress usually asks if I want water. But not at Senza. They certainly put the customer first.
We started the meal with a dairy free and gluten free bread bowl. Though it was warm and paired with EVOO, I’m not going to lie — it was mediocre. I was expecting a roll or even a loaf of Italian bread. Instead, we were served slices of white sandwich bread comparable to a lesser udis-like option. Definitely disappointing.
From here, we went on to our entrees. Sam got the chicken parm and I ordered the swordfish. I only tasted the sauce of Sam’s dish, and thought it was okay, nothing special, but Sam thought it was divine. I have yet – and doubt – I will ever find a match to my dad’s red sauce. And frankly I don’t like sweeter versions, which this certainly was. My swordfish was delish though! My plate was piled high with fish, so I got to take home a whole piece for lunch on the plane! #Winning.
Though, the meal wasn’t anything extraordinary in my opinion, Sam loved her food, so if you aren’t a snob when it comes to red sauce and prime Italian cuisine like me, I’d still check it out. Maybe the brunch would be more my cup of tea.
All in all, my trip exceeded expectations. Sam and I had a ball, and I can’t wait to visit her next year and the year after that — you get the picture. The Big Apple treated us celiac gals just like the queens that we truly are, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Kudos to you NYC – you stole my heart.