Gluten-Free on the Go
I’ve been in a bit of a celebrating mode lately. Without going into too much detail let’s just say that a year of health issues, accidents, and hard work at work, the year seems to be evening out and I feel as though I’m drifting on the water with my face in the sun. I mean this in a good way.
Do you know that feeling? Perhaps you have to reach back to your childhood to recall floating on your back in a river, ocean, lake, pool, what have-you with your face rosey from the heat of the afternoon sun and your eyes glazed by the brilliance of the blue sky. This is an important feeling. If you don’t know this feeling, immediately do the following: draw yourself a bath, turn on “The Light,” by Philip Glass and close your eyes. This requires some imagination, but I believe in you. Do your best to envision the blue sky and the warmth of the sun. Refuse any other thought, just water, sky, sun. You don’t need an hour or a day, just five minutes like this to feel your body lighten to a wisp that could float out to the sky.
This is how I’ve felt for a few weeks now and as life is full of opposing forces and unexpected switches, I’m trying to to seal this into my mind as best as I can.
Enter a trip to LA to celebrate my dear friend’s birthday. LA is what I’m really hear to talk about. More importantly I’m here to talk about eating as gluten-free vegetarian in LA, which I might tell you was surprisingly difficult. A good many restaurants quickly told me that they didn’t have gluten-free but they had vegan food that I could eat (this was without me mentioning being vegetarian as well). Apparently in LA, food restrictions are generally related to diet fads. I love butter, I love dairy, I actually love gluten, unfortunately my body does some pretty crazy things when I eat it. I love LA (mostly because of the food and the museums) so let me be your guide to where to eat next time you go without worrying about allergy risks.
Neighborhood: Miracle Mile
Price: $18/plate (breakfast)
Ambience: highly French themed, charming
Service: Counter Service
Beverage of Choice: skip the coffee, move to the bubbles
Republique as a facility has a focused eye for detail. The interior is beautifully decorated, and the pastry case is straight out of heaven: it will make your gluten-free heart weep tears of disappointment, for alas there are only three items you can eat in this bounteous display (and they are cookies). For all the attention to detail and glorious cooking they’ve forgotten to pay attention to the quality of their coffee. My advice: skip the coffee and opt for breakfast bubbles. There’s too much good coffee in LA to be wasted on mediocre restaurant slop.
Honestly, normally I would say this is a hard pass, especially if you’re vegetarian and gluten-free, or maybe just because you hate waiting in ridiculous lines for breakfast. However-if you should find yourself in the company of non-gf friends who want to eat here, by all means go. Just don’t go on the weekend.
It’s not that the food didn’t look impeccable, it was simply that there was only one item on the breakfast menu (granola does not count) that I could eat. Just one: the Pupusa and it was so damned good it’s made it to the site. I’m embarrassed to say I ate it too quickly to recall the cheesy, eggy wonder. It was rich, it was delicious, the egg was perfectly cooked, the pupusa: delightful. So go, splurge on steeply priced breakfast and soak in the richness of delicious French cooking.
*Menu changes regularly so all before you go to make sure you have gf options.
Neighborhood: Los Feliz
Price: 3.5/ taco
Ambience: casual, small, outdoor seating
Service: Quick and Kind
Beverage of Choice: Coffee Manufactory on drip: not too shabby
Where do I begin? How many ways can I sing the praises for one of my top-three LA taco joints? I stop by here anytime I’m in LA or even somewhat near to it. They have plentiful gluten-free and vegetarian options and their tacos are to die for. The there’s the fact that their chips are made in a gluten-free fryer so you’re safe to partake in their Cowboy Cup (a nice combo of quac, pico, slaw, and black beans).
My advice: skip the guac and chips and EAT MORE TACOS!
My personal favorite is the potato taco. The potatoes are perfectly cripsy, the cheese melty, the feeling in your heart after eating: A+. I don’t think you need more words from me.
Neighborhood: Downtown LA
Price: $14-$20/plate for vegetarian/gf options
Ambience: hip, but not overly dressy, light airy ambience
Service: Kind, patient, helpful!
Beverage of Choice: Anything from their cocktail list.
This was my second visit to PYT and it did not disappoint. The menu was completely different than the last time I visited and the plates so delectable that my carnivorous, gluten-eating friend still thought it was the best food she had eaten in LA. I have no pictures of the place as I was completely taken with my food and company, so you’ll have to spy it out on the interwebs for yourself.
Here is what I have to say about P.Y.T: their vegetable-based menu is more exquisite than most Michelin-rated restaurants I’ve supped at. Each plate is based around vegetables and completely succeeds in presenting an inspiring and diverse flavor palette. You do not miss the meat, you do not have to worry about gluten. I only mentioned my gluten allergy once and after that the server was sure to present each dish assuring me what it was made from so that I didn’t have to think to double-check.
My friend and I shared four plates between us: all vegetarian and gluten-free. There was not a single dish that stood out as a favorite because each one was immaculate.
Final advice: don’t skip dessert. The Peanut Pudding is comfort straight from the gods.
Bakery: Erin McKenna’s Bakery
Ambience: small, kitcshy, unintimidating
Service: Friendly and confident
Beverage of Choice: Drip coffee straight from Stumptown
Erin McKenna’s is originally from New York but opened up a storefront in LA in 2009. Their bakery is a haven for vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher and gmo-free alike. Their focus is definitely on donuts and cupcakes, but they have a smattering of other baked good offerings as well. I opted for the brownie-based chocolate, vanilla cupcake on recommendation from the cashier. She knew what was up. That cupcake was basically a brownie with a frosting. The chocolate base was perfectly moist and not-too rich. My selection of donuts consisted of the Salted Caramel, Blueberry Lemon, and Coffee Crunch. They were all delicious, the coffee crunch was definitely my fave, but trying them side-to-side I’m sad to say they all tasted quite alike. Sugary and delicious but exactly delicate flavors. Go if you want friendly service and an indulgent treat!
PYT and HomeState were definitely the winners of the food I tried, both for value, ambience, service and obviously the food itself. If you’re in Atwater Village make sure you stop at Wanderlust Creamery for an ice cream. They’ll guide you on their gluten-free options. If all this sweetness is too much for you, stop by Flore Vegan in Silverlake for a salad fit for a king and a menu clearly marked with gluten-free options.