I love food. I also have Celiac and can’t eat gluten. But…I love food. As a result, I’ve done quite a bit of research into all the best places to eat in the area where I live. I thought it might be nice to do a little write-up on the topic to help you gluten free travelers to North San Diego County. This includes the coastal areas of Solana Beach, Cardiff, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, as well as Stone World Bistro in Escondido. I’ve also included a few places around the county, especially when an establishment has multiple locations.
So, without further adieu, I give you my (very long) guide to gluten free om nom nom in Coastal North County San Diego.
Pizza Port: Their tagline is “tasty grub and grog” and they aren’t wrong. Their pizzas are really good and they have a lot of different toppings and styles to choose from. Pizza Port is also a brewery and although we GF folks can’t go around downing beers, they do offer wine, cider, and there’s always 1 or 2 GF beers on offer, so drink up! Their gluten free pizza is delicious and actually large enough to share with somebody if you want. They have locations in San Clemente, Solana Beach, and two Carlsbad locations. Other GF items you can order are chicken wings, salads, and a veggie basket. You know…in case you feel like being healthier and not eating pizza, but why would you want to do that?
Blaze Pizza: Blaze is actually a chain with a ton of locations around the country, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. It’s a really great little place where you order at the counter, assembly line style and they will build your pizza exactly how you want it with whatever toppings, sauces, cheeses, etc. you desire. What’s nice about this place is not only do they offer gluten free pizza crust, but they will also change their gloves for you when making your pizza in order to avoid cross-contamination. For those of you whose reactions are really severe, this can be a life saver.
CYO Pizza and Salad: CYO stands for ‘craft your own’, so the name really explains itself. They will let you create your own pizza or salad combinations so it is made just to your liking, and they do offer gluten free crust, so it’s a great place to go when you want things made just to your liking. They are located in Carlsbad.
Gregorio’s: Gregorio’s is a sit down Italian restaurant in the heart of Carlsbad village. This place actually has gluten free pasta available as a substitution on any of their pasta dishes…so chow away, my friend!
Pandora’s Pizza: This Encinitas pizza shop offers pizza, paninis, and salads. They have gluten free options for both their paninis and pizza, and of course salads are gluten free as long as there are no croutons or dressing with gluten added.
Paradise Pizza: This little pizza shop in Carlsbad village is great for takeout and they do deliver to certain areas. They are a little expensive, but the pizzas are good. They offer gluten free pizzas, sandwiches, and calzones (yes, calzones!!).
Best Pizza and Brew: With locations in Cardiff by the sea and Mira Mesa, this is a great place for gluten free pizzas (even if they do use Comic Sans for their menu font, but that’s a graphic designer rant for another day…the pizza is good).
Project Pie La Costa: Project Pie is another place where you can build your own pizza. It’s a casual, order at the counter establishment.
Burger Lounge: This one is my favorite! Their burgers are seriously delicious (and they also have pretty good salads, too). They offer gluten free buns for their burgers. Definitely recommend this one! They are a chain with locations all over Southern California. San Diego area locations include Carlsbad, Coronado, Del Mar, Del Sur, Gaslamp, Hillcrest, Kensington, La Jolla, and Little Italy.
In-N-Out: The one, the only, the original. If you’re coming to visit us in Southern California, a stop at the famous In-N-Out Burger is pretty much obligatory. I love it so much that I wrote an entire post proclaiming my undying love for the magical goodness that is In-N-Out, so it of course gets my highest recommendation. Locations are all over the place so find the one nearest you! For GF tastiness, order your burger protein style (lettuce wrapped). Don’t worry…it’s still amazing without the bun. Read my post on In-N-Out for more information on their menu and the various options available.
Pure Burger: Another good place to pick up a GF burger is to go to Pure Burger in Carlsbad. Everything that is gluten free on their menu is very clearly marked so it’s pretty easy to make sure you aren’t accidentally ordering gluten, and it’s pretty delicious, too!
I put this category in quotations because I’m also going to use it to describe pretty much any beer-centric eatery in town.
Stone World Bistro: The famous Stone World Bistro is attached to the famous Stone Brewery where they make such beers as Arrogant Bastard Ale. That’s not for us, however (sadly). Not to fret, though! The bistro is a seriously good restaurant and they take care of their gluten free patrons with clearly marked GF menu items. Not much luck on the GF beer there, but I like to order a cider and relax in the outdoor patio area with my friends when I go there, so it’s all good. They have locations in Escondido and Liberty Station in the San Diego area, so definitely pay them a visit. This is a good crowd pleaser too if you’re traveling with other people who are annoyed at you for only wanting to go to GF restaurants.
Bagby Beer Company: This little gem in South Oceanside is a fairly recent addition to town, and it’s a good one. Another brewery/restaurant that is definitely a crowd pleaser, they also happen to have fantastic food. This is another place where I just order a cider, although they do have some GF beer on offer as well. Their menu is diverse and a server or bartender can point out everything that is GF, or you can also order a pizza with GF crust.
Keep in mind MOST Mexican food places will have plenty of options on hand for you. Keys are getting corn tortillas instead of flour. So no burritos, but the tacos and enchiladas are still really good! That being said, here are a few I just think are delicious…
Norte (or Fidel’s): Both of these places, despite having different names, are essentially the same restaurant with the same menu. The locations are Carlsbad for Norte and Solana Beach for Fidels. Standard Mexican food fare in a really relaxed environment, but I’ve always found the servers really helpful when ordering here. If you get a taco with a corn tortilla, you should be in good shape.
Las Olas: Las Olas is another good one. Again, standard Mexican fare but this time with a Baja California spin on it (the grilled fish tacos are good). They have locations in Carlsbad and Cardiff and are very accommodating to special diets (not only GF but if you have a vegan in your group, they’ll be happy too).
Encinitas Fish Shop: This place is the best. Technically it’s a fish shop and not Mexican food, but I’m putting it in the Mexican food category because their fish tacos are to DIE for. Just make sure to order them on corn tortillas and you’re good to go.
Rubio’s: I know, I know. It’s a fast food place. But those grilled fish tacos have satisfied my hunger for a reasonable price on many an evening. Just make sure to order grilled fish (they have battered and fried versions) and make sure it’s coming on a corn tortilla. Or get a grilled fish salad. They have tons of locations, so look up the one nearest you. They also have this handy guide on their website which details all the allergen information.
Again, Asian food is usually pretty good and you can go wherever you want. Just make sure they aren’t putting soy sauce in your food because it has hidden wheat in it. That being said, here are a couple specific suggestions:
East Village Asian Diner: This little gem is located in downtown Encinitas and specializes in Korean fusion food. Their specialty is the Monk’s Stone Pot, which is basically a version of the Korean dish bibimbap, which I love. Pretty easy to eat pretty much whatever you want here, but just ask your server beforehand to hold any sauces that contain gluten. The Monk’s Stone pot is a rice bowl, so you’re in good shape with this one.
Rim Talay Thai Cuisine: In general, it’s pretty easy to get GF Thai food as long as they leave out certain ingredients, but this place actually caters to us, so I wanted to mention them here. Located in Oceanside, it’s a great place to get some delicious Thai cuisine without the worry of sneaky hidden gluten.
The Thursday Oceanside Sunset Market: This is a street fair that takes place in downtown Oceanside every Thursday evening and features craft booths, live entertainment, and tons and tons of food. What’s nice about it is that there are a lot of booths that feature specifically gluten free food (even the most amazing GF pastries I’ve EVER tried in my life) so you would be missing out if you skipped out on this weekly event. They have food from all over the world at this street fair. Just look for the booths that advertise ‘gluten free’ and then chow down!
The Wednesday Carlsbad Farmer’s Market: Smaller than the market in Oceanside, the farmer’s market in Carlsbad is also worth a visit. There are of course all the usual farmer’s market offerings, but also a lot of great booths selling things like hummus, cheeses, and I’ve even seen gluten free pasta on offer. Check it out!
Breakfast and Diners
Who doesn’t love a good greasy spoon? If you order eggs and bacon, you’re pretty much safe at any diner, but these are a couple of my favorites:
Swami’s: This is a delicious little breakfast and lunch spot with 9 locations throughout San Diego County and has a lot of great food. They have all the classic breakfast specialties but also offer gluten free pancakes and gluten free bread for sandwiches, toast, etc. so your options are a lot more open here than at other places. I like to get the eggs Benedict on GF bread.
Naked Cafe: Naked Cafe is a breakfast option with a healthier twist to it. They have four locations: Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and Point Loma. The menu is delicious and all their allergens as well as food preferences like vegan are very clearly marked on their menu.
Ok…so you can walk into pretty much any grocery store in town and find some GF things to eat. You’re in Southern California, after all. That being said, the following stores are ones that I find have even more specialty products and offerings in stock.
- Trader Joe’s (locations all over)
- Whole Foods (many locations)
- Sprouts Farmer’s Market (many locations)
- Cream of the Crop (South Oceanside)
- Seaside Market (Cardiff-by-the-sea)
Specialty, “GF-only” Establishments
2Good2B: This place is the best! It’s a cafe and bakery that is completely, 100% gluten free. It’s also corn and soy free, so if you have multiple allergies, this is a great place to go. They serve breakfast and lunch in their cafe and they also sell freshly baked breads and cupcakes at the bakery counter. They are located in Encinitas.
Healthy Creations: This little gem is also located in Encinitas and is really easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there since it’s tucked into the back of a little parking lot. However, if you’re looking for some gluten free takeout, go check them out! Their menu includes salads, wraps, sandwiches, paninis, power bowls, and more. They cater to all dietary needs, including GF, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, goat dairy only, allergen free, salt free, and others by request.
Fancy Schmancy Places
I don’t go to too many fancy schmancy meals so sorry if this section is a little thin. I’m pretty sure most of the fancy spots in town are pretty good at accommodating special dietary needs, so definitely inquire if there’s somewhere specific you want to go. However, I did want to throw out a couple options I know of in case you’re in need of a fancy dinner out.
Chart House: With locations in Cardiff and Coronado, you can enjoy some fancy oceanfront dining. They have a pretty comprehensive dedicated gluten free menu, which you can view here (subject to change, so check with them on the current items). I’m a big fan of the King Crab.
Roy’s La Jolla: Ok, so maybe this place is in La Jolla which technically isn’t part of the outlined area, but it’s not THAT far of a drive, you’ll probably want to visit La Jolla while you’re in town anyway, and this place is seriously awesome. They will print you a special gluten free menu if you let them know you need one, so definitely bring it up. They actually have a few other locations throughout California, including one on the downtown San Diego waterfront, so keep them in mind if you’re venturing outside of North County as well.
This category is a bit of a cop out, I admit. Bascially, it’s anywhere that you don’t have to look presentable to eat at that doesn’t exactly fit in one of the above categories. Whatever. I like these places and I wanted to share them with you.
Tin Leaf Fresh Kitchen: This is a pretty good casual dining establishment in Carlsbad (one of those order at the counter and have your food delivered at the table places). They offer gluten free bread for any of their sandwiches, and they also have some pretty good salads. There’s also usually one or two gluten free offerings available for dessert, so definitely check them out.
Sabor De Vida: This is a Brazilian restaurant and one of my favorite places in town (located in Encinitas). The great thing about this place is that at least 90% of their entire menu is naturally gluten free. There are just a few items that are off limits, so just ask them when you sit down and they will point out the no-no foods. Then go to town on whatever you feel like eating. If you haven’t had Brazilian food yet, you’re missing out. My favorite dish is the feijoada, which is a sort of meat and bean bowl served with rice and is only available on weekends. Don’t let my horrible description fool you…this is the most flavorful and amazing thing I’ve ever eaten. Try it!
Urban Plates: This is a casual restaurant that you order cafeteria style, and they have a lot of great things on offer like amazing salads, plates, soups, etc. San Diego area locations are Carlsbad, Del Mar, and La Jolla. You can view their gluten free information here.
Native Foods Cafe: This is a healthy cafe that serves a variety of foods. They do have a comprehensive list of their gluten free offerings, however I should warn you that they do use shared equipment so if your allergy is extreme, maybe skip this place. See their San Diego area locations here. Allergy information can be viewed here.
Lotus Cafe & Juice Bar: This Encinitas cafe offers a large variety of foods and has all of the gluten free options on their menu very clearly marked. They also offer some GF desserts like cupcakes. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Crazy Bowls and Wraps: I discovered this place on the recommendation of a coworker and I’ve been hooked ever since. They have four San Diego area locations in Carlsbad, Pacific Beach, Point Loma, and Mission Valley. All gluten free options on the menu are clearly marked.
Souplantation: Yeah, yeah. It’s a crappy chain restaurant. But it’s also got a massive salad bar where you can pile your plate high with veggies until you have broccoli and carrots coming out your ears. Oh, and they have baked potatoes too! They have 50 locations in California, including several in the San Diego area, so look up the one nearest you. When you get there, ask them to provide you with a gluten friendly guide, which will tell you what you can and cannot eat. Then chow down!
Are you a gluten free local or have you recently visited this area? If so, did I miss anything? I’m always excited to try a new place, and I’m sure my GF blog readers would be happy to hear about your suggestions as well!