Like many others in Southern California, I spend a lot of weekends in Las Vegas. It’s only a 5 hour drive, or a 50 minute flight, so every Friday night we pour in Nevada in mass for a weekend of fun. It’s actually quite amusing if you fly…your Friday evening flight out of San Diego or L.A. or Orange County or wherever you’re departing from will be full of lively, excitable types. You’ll see bachelorette parties constantly exclaiming, “WOOOOO!!!” and groups of friends getting the party started early by ordering as many drinks as they can on the short flight. If you return on Sunday night, you’ll experience a completely silent flight full of the same people, looking considerable worse for wear than they did just two nights earlier.
Personally, I don’t really go too crazy when I visit Vegas. I have a friend there that I stay with and visit while in town, and we mostly do fun activities, do active stuff like hiking at Red Rock or running in 5K races, play mechanical horse racing at The D (It’s the best, and if you bet conservatively, a $20 bill can last you three hours, which I consider more than getting my money’s worth), and of course dine out at some pretty fabulous places.
When you’re celiac like me, dining out can be a stressful experience. You’re essentially putting the fate of your health into the hands of a kitchen who may or may not understand celiac disease or…worse…may not care enough to take necessary precautions. I was recently glutented twice in one month (what we celiacs say when we accidentally ingested gluten and then experienced the horrifically crippling illness that lasts up to a week after), so my trip to Vegas one week after the last incident understandably gave me a bit of anxiety in the food area. Thankfully, there are some pretty great places around the city that take good care to accommodate us. Hooray!
Since Las Vegas is a city of many high-end restaurants, you won’t have much trouble getting accommodated if you have the budget for fine dining. We had two fancy meals on this particular weekend and they were both wonderful, and in both cases the staff was very considerate and helpful in going through all my options on the menu.
Saturday night, we had dinner at celebrity chef David Chang’s Momofuku, located inside the Cosmopolitan. I called ahead to ensure they would be able to accommodate me (Asian restaurants in particular get me nervous because there is a lot of hidden gluten in things like soy sauce) and the guy on the phone was absolutely wonderful in breaking down a lot of the options. He suggested that we also talk to our server when we got there and that they would be able to explain and help even further. When we arrived, I did just that, and I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful and knowledgeable they were. Our server went over all the menu items that were gluten free and also explained that if there was something I really wanted to try, he would be able to ask the chefs if it would be possible to modify it to be GF as well. Momofuku is famous for their noodles, which sadly I couldn’t try, but I had an absolutely wonderful meal of Steamed Whole Branzino (a fish) with charred lemon, brown butter dashi, and herbs.
Yum! I also had an order of Shishito peppers as an appetizer and they were wonderful. For dessert, we went next door to Milk Bar, which is associated with Momofuku, to have some dessert. They had three gluten free cookies on their menu, so I tried two of the flavors and really liked it. All in all, it was a wonderful meal and left me feeling pretty happy and satisfied.
Andiamo Italian Steakhouse
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I had one of the best experiences as a celiac in my life here. This is a pretty high-end steakhouse located inside of the D, in Downtown Las Vegas (not on the strip). Steakhouses are pretty safe places for me to eat, in general, as steak is of course gluten free, as are many of the traditional sides one can order at a steakhouse such as baked potatoes and steamed vegetables. Still, when we made the reservation online, we did mention in the comments that one of the diners needed to eat gluten free. Our server was Sandra, an absolutely wonderful woman who blew me away with the level of service she provided. She explained that her niece also has celiac disease and visits her often, so she was very aware of exactly the kind of dietary restrictions I had and what I could and could not eat. She went over the menu with great care and told me what was safe to eat, and she really went above and beyond in making sure I had an amazing dining experience. Upon arrival, she dropped off some eggplant dip and bread for the table, but gave me my own little bowl of eggplant dip that I could eat that wouldn’t be cross-contaminated by the others and their bread. I then ended up eating a Caesar salad that she made table-side. We all had the Caesar, so what she did was mixed together all the GF ingredients first, served me my salad, and then added in the croutons for the other two, non-GF diners after I had already been served my salad. The next course was a very small dish of a very delicious creamy tomato pasta. The others had spaghetti, but she made sure I had some with a gluten free penne as a substitution. For the main course, I had a filet mignon with béarnaise sauce (the GF option of the sauces) and a baked potato. I left absolutely stuffed and so happy from having such a wonderful experience. It was a pricey meal, but so worth it. If you’re in Vegas and looking for a steakhouse, I highly recommend this one. Bonus points if you’re able to get Sandra as your server because she was the absolute best. What a breath of fresh air! I can’t wait to go back next time I’m in town.
A few more restaurants to try…
Again, eat wherever you want but make sure to call ahead and investigate beforehand. Still, here are a few restaurants I’ve heard good things about or tried myself that I can happily recommend…
Mon Ami Gabi is a classic French bistro located in the Paris hotel and casino. They have a separate gluten free menu (woo hoo!) and from accounts I’ve heard from others, they take cross contamination pretty seriously. I can’t wait to try it!
Pizza Rock in Downtown Las Vegas is known for being one of the best pizza spots in Las Vegas, and they have something for us as well. Their gluten free menu isn’t hugely extensive, but it’s pretty good. They have two gluten free pizza options on offer…one vegetarian and one meat pizza. They both looked pretty good, but I tried the vegetarian one because it had goat cheese on it, and I find it hard to pass up an opportunity to eat goat cheese. The crust was really good! It was a pretty big pizza. Since my dining companions wanted to try something else on the menu, I had a whole huge pizza to myself. I ended up packaging up the rest, bringing it back to our friend’s apartment, and having pizza for a couple more meals later in the weekend. Good stuff, definitely recommended. They also had a couple gluten free beers and ciders on the menu, so I was able to have a drink with my friends while we ate. Double score.
If you’re looking for more, here are some listings from other gluten free diners who have explored some of the restaurants Las Vegas has to offer…
- Gluten Free in Las Vegas restaurant listings.
- Where to Find Gluten-Free Dishes in Las Vegas, by Eater Las Vegas.
- Enjoy a gluten-free stay on the Las Vegas Strip by blog.vegas.com.
- Celiac-Aware Chains in Las Vegas by Gluten Free Guidebook.
- Viva Las Vegas! by Gluten Free Guidebook.
- Pass the Bread: Where to Find Gluten-Free Baked Goods in Las Vegas.
So, I wanted to call out the above two restaurants because I ate there specifically on this last trip as well as some others I’ve experienced or heard about, but the truth of the matter is, Las Vegas is full of places that will be pretty wonderfully accommodating to celiacs. The key is, I find, to first look online to check out their menu, then call the restaurant directly ahead of time to let them know you’re interested in coming, but you have celiac disease and you want to know what kind of options there are. Some restaurants will be disappointingly unhelpful, but call a few different places and see what they say…because when you find those restaurants that are helpful (many high-end restaurants will be, in my experience), you’re going to have yourself an amazing evening and an incredible dining experience that you won’t soon forget.
But it’s not just high-end restaurants. Las Vegas has something for everybody. I’ve had really good brunches on several occasions at Eat in Downtown Las Vegas, for instance. I recommend their huevos motulenos or the shrimp and grits for a unique, delicious gluten free morning brunch.
One more thing I should mention is that if you’re either on a budget or extremely worried about cross-contamination, a good option may be to rent a hotel room that comes with a mini-fridge and stock up on some essentials at the Whole Foods, located just two miles from the Strip. Head on over there with your rental car or even in an Uber or Lyft if you’re not renting a car, and you’ll be able to stock up on all the groceries you need to safely get through your trip.
Are you celiac or gluten sensitive and know of any great restaurants in Las Vegas that we should try? Please, leave a comment so we can all benefit! 🙂
What sorts of experiences have you had dining in Las Vegas? I’d love to hear about it.