Winging It Gluten-Free in New York City

gluten-free-new-york-city

I love Mrs. Dude’s birthday…more than my own even.

On my birthday, I simply get older.

But on her birthday, we’ve made it an unofficial annual tradition to go to one of my favorite places in the world for the weekend: New York City.

Normally, when I leave the gluten-free comforts of my own home for an extended time, I do all sorts of research and bring all kinds of food with me.

For this trip, for whatever reason, I decided to wing it.

I know…not the smartest thing for a celiac to do.

Gluten free at Friedman's Lunch
Hell yeah that's gluten-free bread and gluten-free pancakes.

Here’s a retro diary of my gluten-free weekend in New York City.

Friday Arrival: We got almost to the city in great time. Then came the Holland Tunnel, where we sat, unmoved, INSIDE the tunnel for 30 minutes. I’m not a big fan of high bridges. Mrs. Dude hates tunnels. I got the better of the deal.

Friday Dinner: We knew we wanted sushi but we also wanted a cool atmosphere. Found a place called Koi up by Bryant Park. A brisk 20 minute walk and we made it. Got our table and gave my celiac speech to the manager expecting no issues.

I was crushed.

She said their sushi rice contains gluten.

BUT she also told me how her sister was just recently diagnosed with celiac disease.

Her symptoms? Her hair and her toe nails were falling out! Unreal the havoc this disease can wreck on people.

Anyway, she said they can make my sushi without the gluten.

And they did. And it was amazing.

Side note: When Mrs. Dude and I go out for sushi at home, the bill comes to about $35.

The final tab at Koi? $147.

Welcome to New York City.

Saturday Breakfast/Lunch: Had no idea where to go. I was actually cool with finding a place where Mrs. Dude could have whatever she wanted and I’d just grab a banana and a coffee.

I’ve learned to realize that it can’t always be about the food for me. It’s more important to put the focus on WHO I’m with and not WHAT I can eat.

le bain
The ultra-hip Le Bain cocktail lounge - where the average female guest was a foot taller than me.

But I reached out to Jennifer Esposito for any advice and she came back with a suggestion of Friedman’s Lunch, located in Chelsea Market.

She said the owner’s wife had celiac disease so he knows his stuff.

The menu was a celiac’s dream. Almost every item could be made gluten-free.

I went with the pancakes.

I wasn’t disappointed. At all.

Saturday Cocktail Hour: Walking around the city for 4 hours can seriously work up an appetite. We had plans with my brother and his wife for dinner and met them for a drink at their hotel first. They were staying at a pretty funky hotel called The Standard.

Went to the roof top bar called Le Bain and each ordered one drink.

$87.

Welcome to New York City.

Saturday Dinner: We had reservations at Colicchio & Sons on 10th Ave.

Collichio & Sons - A gluten free paradise
A gluten-free paradise and home to my two new BFF's, Lorraine and Bennett.

All I can say is wow!

They were well-versed in gluten-free and totally got how careful I needed to be.

They put me 100% at ease and it was by far one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Grilled octopus for an appetizer and a halibut entree that I’m still drooling over.

Plus, they brought me out my own gluten-free bread and a gluten-free dessert without even ordering one.

A great night all around and a special shout-out to the bartender Bennett for his martinis and to our server Lorraine, who went above and beyond the call of duty for me.

It’s the first time I ever hugged my server after a meal.

Maybe Bennett’s martinis had something to do with that.

Gluten free NYC
Had to pose next to the Hendrick's mural
Sunday Breakfast: We had plans to meet with Jennifer Esposito for coffee and to check out her new gluten-free bakery that she’ll be opening in January.

I got a tweet from her late Saturday night.

She got glutened.

By her mom.

She was in pretty bad shape so we took a rain check.

Where did we end up then?

Back to Friedman’s Lunch.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Then homeward bound, where I took an eating sabbatical for the rest of the day and I’ll take a spending sabbatical for the rest of the week.

So I survived a gluten-free weekend in New York City without any advance planning.

Do I recommend this approach? Absolutely not.

But it’s good to know it can be done.

Welcome to New York City.

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38 thoughts on “Winging It Gluten-Free in New York City”

    1. Put on it your serious to-do list Alysa. It’s not for everybody, but I lived there for three years back in the day and I’ve got such an attachment to the place.

      And it doesn’t have to be too expensive. Plenty of great restaurants that are totally reasonable.

  1. I love it! Seriously gives me hope that one day I could walk into a city without hours of pre-planning and be welcomed with open arms. Do I think that will happen everywhere right now? No. Do I have hope for us in the future? YES! 🙂 I’m so happy you had a great weekend. 🙂

    1. Thanks Erica. It’s nothing I recommend unless you are real confident about where you’re going and what you’re doing. There was a Whole Foods across from our hotel, so worst-case scenario, I could always grab something there.

  2. GD, your weekend rocked. Cyber pass a martini, I need one. I had the very opposite happen to me. I stupidly ate at a FF restaurant and got food poisoned by a baked potato. O M G. I bleakly welcomed an imminent death. It was that bad. Dude’s point is right on, unless you are confident about where you are, plan ahead.

    Cheers-
    Jersey Girl

  3. Awesome ~ I am glad you guys had such a fabulous time in NYC – it is definitely on my bucket list to travel to NYC one of these days …

    Sorry to hear that Jennifer had to postpone your meetup and that she was ill … hope she feels on the way to stabilizing soon!

    Ah … NYC … I am going to have to start a “dream” and make a plan to go there 🙂 thanks for the post and a heads up on some great eating places to check out.

  4. I love your reports and I love NYC, so glad it all turned out so well for you. Mrs. Dude and I have the same birthday! I’m curious about sushi – I love it but don’t order it any more. What are some of the questions I should ask specifically in a sushi restaurant?

    1. You need to ask about the sushi rice. There are a few places that cook the rice in soy sauce or something else to hold the rice together.

      Also…no eel, which is almost always cooked in gluten.

      An no california roll, which has imitation crab…a no no.

  5. Should you go to New York again, I highly recommend this place:

    http://risotteria.com/

    The menu focuses on risotto – which is usually gluten free anyway – and it’s delicious. The bread-sticks that come at the beginning of the meal are gluten free, and they also do gluten free pizza & panini sandwiches (though I haven’t bothered to try these – the risotto is too good to pass up).

    They’ve got a big gluten free beer list and a bunch of different gluten free baked goods for desert – including gluten-free versions of things like twinkies and oreo cookies. Restaurant is tiny and you may need to wait to get in, but it’s totally worth it!

    1. We passed right by Risotteria Kate and I was very familiar with it, though I’ve never eaten there. I was tempted, but I was full at the time. Next time for sure.

  6. Happy Bday wishes to Mrs. D!! Fellow November babe.

    and thank you so much for this wonderful review!!! It is great timing as we are thinking about going there very soon. It’s on my bucket list of “things to do now that I’m better” 🙂 .We used to go a few times a year and we miss it.

    NYC is where we were married and it is absolutely one of our most fav places on the planet. What’s not to like, right?

    Your story brought up some very fond memories.
    We were married at noon and 4 hours later we were at Radio City Music Hall so I could see Santa and the Rockettes. 🙂
    Later, we dined at LeBernardin
    For the four of us….$500+.
    The next night, Aureole…$500+.
    A round of drinks…$48
    Theater tickets $250/pair.
    Mayflower Hotel 2 nights $400. (not there anymore, bummer:( )
    Those are prices from 15 years ago…
    Best weekend of my life?
    Priceless.

    What can you do? It’s NYC, baby.

    LOVE the pics, too–thanks for sharing those. You look great.

    And I always say celiac is a head-to-toe disease and that story of the woman losing her hair?—well, I can relate (sadly). It’s starting to come back. Bald men are sexy. Women, um, not as much.:(

    Rock on, dude-I’m triple thrilled for you that you had such a great weekend!! yaaay!!!

    1. Thanks Irish. We accept the fact that we’ll overpay for pretty much everything when we go. Makes it a bit easier to swallow.

      And happy birthday to you…whenever the special day is.

  7. So glad to hear the weekend was a success! I love NYC, and that is actually where I am from originally.

    I love Risotteria, and used to eat there before I was gluten-free, just because risotto is my absolute favorite dish. So when I learned they were mostly GF after being diagnosed, I was thrilled. That kind of luck doesn’t happen often.

    I also supposed “winging it” is going to be more likely to be successful somewhere like NYC than a small town. Too bad it is so $$ though.

  8. Gotta love the accommodating restaurants! I was in Montreal recently and there was a restaurant that the plates were red for the gf food. They came and replaced my cutlery with red napkin wrapped cutlery when I told them I was ordering from the gf menu. THEY KEEP THE Gf CUTLERY SEPARATE.. Stuff like that makes me want to weep with gratitude. So glad you enjoyed yourself!!!

    1. We ate at Cheeseburgers in Paradise in Omaha, NE b/c they have gluten free buns made specially for just their restaurants. They also had the separately wrapped silverware. They are a chain, but I don’t know how large. I heard there’s one somewhere in Ohio … maybe Columbus.

  9. Wow that sounds like fun!

    Just glad to hear you and Mrs Dude had a great time.

    I loved your time lapse film. I live in fairly slow town now, and I reckon if I did the same here it would look like everyone was moving at a normal pace! Made me smile :). Nothing like the buzz of a big city though

  10. Sounds like your weekend was a blast,Hubby and I live in a fairly big city Grand Rapids MI,there thankfully are alot of options for me then I thought there were going to be for me when I was told I had no choice I had to be Gluten Free.We have a totally Gluten free store,many of super markets carry gluten free items,sometimes i have to hunt for them but I do find them,but I have learn in the short time I’ve been GF to shop the outside edges of the store.Our 13 yr old son is taking a Life Skills class in school and he asked his teacher if she would teach the class when Gluten free was and if she could also teach the class a few gluten free dishes and she did,I was like way to go KIDDO!!! when your the only gluten free person in a house with a hubby and 2 teenage boys it can get pretty hairy,but they are very very careful in the kitchen.thanks for your blog even my hubby reads it.

  11. I went to New York for the first time last year, and for the first time in my life as a Celiac I didn’t have to dip into my usual supply of LaraBars and crackers, or live on fruit and yogurt. Some days we ate lunch twice just to try another restaurant. I was so overwhelmed with the gluten-free selection! Here’s my list: Candle Café, Bloom’s Delicatessan, Nizza, Bar Breton, S’Mac, Blue Smoke, Risotteria, and Tu-Lu’s Bakery.

  12. WOW. It sounds like you went all out on your trip to NYC. $87 for two cocktails!?! I hope there was gluten-free gold in that drink.

    Being a native NYer, I have a very long list of gluten-free friendly places in NYC. You barely scratched the surface! I would be happy to share with your readers if you are interested.

    As for Friedman’s Lunch, I was there on Sunday. I had gluten-free fried chicken and waffles for the first time in my life. It was so beyond amazing that I wanted to lick the plate. If it weren’t for the crowds of people, I would have.

    1. What time were you there Sunday??

      The people right next to us (and I mean right next to us…you know how close the tables are there) had the chicken and waffles. They looked…disgustingly delicious.

      I thought about reaching out to you ahead of time, but time got away from me.

      Happy T-Giving Erin…

      1. As a lifelong Celiac, chicken and waffles was something that I never ate before. I saw this on the menu when I was there back in September and went out of my way to go back and get it this past weekend. Not a mistake. I did have to walk it off for a few hours afterwards though. It was a huge meal but so worth it.

        Next time! Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    2. Erin: I’m from North Jersey, and also have family on Staten Island. I now live in Nebraska (almost WY). I’m making my FIRST TRIP HOME since being GF. We will be visiting family and friends, but also this is my ONE CHANCE to show my 2 teenage daughters all the marvels of NYC that were day trips for me growing up. So I’d LOVE to have any suggestions of places to eat. In order to see ALL my family (and our friends) might get a rental place (so we’d have a kitchen) instead of hotels, probably somewhere equidistant from Ringwood, NJ/Staten Island/Manhattan (probably on the Jersey side. We’re going to try to spend at least 3-days touring … kind of broken into lower Manhattan (Statue of Liberty, Battery Partk, Midtown (BROADWAY), and then more uptown (probably the MET). My daughter is Celiac and I’m GI, but this is our only chance before they fly the coop for us to take them out there … so we want it to be fantastic!

  13. You guys are awesome! I love your blog and recommend it as much as I can to gluten-free clients and contacts.I’m glad you had a great time in NYC. Miss you!

  14. A member on c.com PMed me with this list of NYC places he goes to often. He lives in Westchester.

    Thought you guys might like to have it–for future reference.I am sure he does not mind if I share:)

    He said:

    Here’s my personal favorite list:

    Tulu’s Bakery on 11th St and 1st Ave. Best gluten-free cupcakes anywhere.
    Pala Pizza off Houston downtown. By far the best gluten-free pizza in the world and I do mean world. People travel internationally to get it. Puts all other Pizza to shame. Roman style, not American style.
    Chinese: Lilli and Loo 61st and Lex. Chic modern chinese in midtown with extensive gluten-free menu. You can get fried general tso just like you used to have. Had lunch here last week. It’s awesome.
    Regular pizza: Mozzarelli’s on 23rd and Madison. They sell 6 different kinds of gluten-free by the slice which is highly unusual. Even one dairy free too. It’s much busier during the weekday, that’s when I would go, many more options than a weekend. They have lots of desserts too.
    Fancy Italian: Bistango on 29th and 3rd. Very popular with the gluten-free crowd, great menu and great food. My wife and I go here often.
    Lunch place: Friedman’s lunch in Chelsea Market. Very first restaurant I went to after going gluten-free. Nice owners.
    Risoterria: Famous as being the first gluten-free place in NYC. Those breadsticks are amazing. Word of warning: it’s very small. Don’t go at a busy time or you’ll be waiting a long time.
    S’Mac: A mac and cheese place that has gluten-free pasta and gluten-free corn flake topping. Create your own mac, trendy, counter service kind of place. Around the corner from Tulu’s on 12th st.http://www.smacnyc.com/home.html
    A recent find: http://www.taimmobile.com/ a Israeli food truck that sells gluten-free felafel and other really yummy middle eastern food. You have to check their website / twitter to see where they are each day.

    Places i’ve heard of and been meaning to try:

    Glaze Teriyaki Grill, multiple locations. Cheap (for NYC) lunch take out.
    Nizza on 9th Ave.
    Vic’s bagel bar on 3rd ave. gluten-free bagels with make your own filling.

    Places I’d skip:

    Babycakes: I thought the cupcakes were horrible
    Any chain restaurant!

    1. Irish: I found your list … YAY. I wonder how many sheets of paper it would take to just print this ENTIRE THREAD with everyone’s suggestions. I have one further place to suggest (though I haven’t been there yet b/c I live in Nebraska now). Schmackery’s! It is a new cookie shop in Hell’s Kitchen that has become the favorite place of several Broadway vets (Kristen Chenoweth! Ben Vereen!). It’s run by Zach Schmall who is also from NE and we did theater together out here. He has started offering GF cookies and I think has at least a couple flavors per day. NOTE: I haven’t asked him yet specifically about cross-contamination procedures, so if anyone goes there, be sure to CHECK. I will be going in June.

  15. Enjoyed your post. I know exactly what you mean about “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Though variety is the spice of life, I think when you have celiac, finding a restaurant where you can actually feel safe while enjoying a decent meal will keep you coming back .. & back! Sounds like you and your wife had a great time .. looking forward to visiting Colicchio and sons next time in NYC – thanks for the tip! p.s. sorry to read your later post of your “glutening”, glad you were back in the comfort of your own home tho!

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I AM someone who's been gluten-free since 2007 due to a diagnosis of severe celiac disease. I'm someone who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to going gluten-free. And I'm someone who will always give you the naked truth about going gluten free.

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