Gluten-Free Vegan Options in the Bay Area: Yes, They Are Out There

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Certified Gluten-Free LogoPeople are giving up gluten. It may be because of a diagnosis of celiac disease or finding out you have a genetic predisposition to it. It may be a wheat allergy or from simply experiencing gluten intolerance whenever you eat it. Or it may just be a lifestyle choice after reading how gluten is a very recent addition to the human diet and that the medical community is realizing that the prevalence of celiac disease seems to have increased dramatically in recent years.

Unfortunately, testing for celiac disease and gluten intolerance is not perfect, so many individuals rely on their own instincts and bodies and embark on a complete makeover of their eating habits, realizing that they just feel better when they don't eat gluten.

Gluten and gluten-contaminated products are everywhere. And, often, they are in the foods we love the most. Bread, pasta, and cake are the most obvious culprits. But what about the wheat in soy sauce (used in the fermentation process), creamed soups (in the roux), or cola (via the caramel color)? Or malt vinegar, barley, rye, oats, triticale, and beer? Gluten hides in the most unexpected places.

Now imagine if you are gluten intolerant AND vegan. As I mentioned in a previous post, just because a vegan has to or chooses to avoid gluten, his or her ethical stance about animal products doesn't change. So, the elimination of gluten gets added to the vegan lifestyle. Luckily, awareness about gluten intolerance is becoming more prominent, making it easier for everyone to find food that works for them. Mainstream grocery stores like Safeway are tagging their gluten-free items. More and more exclusively vegan companies, like Eat Pastry are offering gluten-free products. Churches are even offering gluten-free wafers for communion. Allyson Kramer of Manifest Vegan transformed her vegan food blog to a gluten-free vegan food blog when she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009. And a recently launched blog called xgfx offers up animal-friendly, gluten-free recipes and resources because "While there are plenty of great resources out there for vegans, and many for the gluten-free crowd, there seem to be very few for folks like us who dwell in both camps." So, it’s easier than ever to find recipes and products that are safe and restaurants that are sensitive to the topic. But it's still rare enough that a little advice doesn't hurt.

In the Bay Area, several restaurants offer gluten-free vegan options that are definitely worth checking out. If you have celiac disease, or are severely gluten intolerant, I recommend calling ahead to see what practices they have in place in their kitchens to avoid contamination.


Gracias Outdoor Patio
Photo Credit: Gracias Madre

Most of Gracias Madre's menu is gluten-free. There are only a few items that aren’t. I recommend… everything! But The Papas al Horno, Quesadillas de Camote, Enchiladas con Mole, Platillo de Legumbres, and whatever cheesecake they have at the moment should be the first things you try. Can you tell this is my favorite restaurant?

souley vegan collage
Souley Vegan's Fried Okra, Yams, Mustard Greens, Potato Salad, and Cayenne Lemonade

Souley Vegan is your destination for comforting, healthy, simple soul food in a truly caring and down-to-earth environment. You can tell that owner Tamearra Dyson built this restaurant out of love and it's become a destination for home cooking for the community surrounding it, vegan or not. Souley Vegan labels the items on the menu that contain wheat. My recommendations are the crispy and light fried okra, the simple and tender yams, and the mustard greens. And make sure to grab a cayenne lemonade to sip on!

Gratitude Collage
Cafe Gratitude's "I Am Thriving" creamy tomato soup, "I Am Hearty" deep-dish pizza, "I Am Fortified" quinoa bowl, and "I Am Awakening" raw key lime pie

Café Gratitude recently went through a menu change (they are not exclusively raw anymore and have expanded to include cooked items). They've also lowered their prices by 24% in response to the rising cost of food and healthcare. They even offer a community-supported "I am Grateful" grain bowl where payment for the bowl is by donation ($7 recommended) and no one is turned away. The bowl was created "to allow for those in financial need to have access to organic vegan food." You don't see many restaurants offering that kind of service to their community.

They also happen to offer great gluten-free options -- as in pretty much the entire menu. Live mac and cheese, maple coconut "bacon" BLTs, and raw deep dish pizza. The creativity at Gratitude never ceases to amaze me. Important tip: make sure to eat dessert there (key lime pie highly recommended).

Source Collage
Source's Dan Dan Noodles, Truffle Macaroni & Cheese, and Baked Vegan Spinach Artichoke Fondue

Source is one of the most health-conscious, allergy-conscious, vegan-conscious places I have ever experienced. The staff is beyond kind and patient as you ask them over and over your usual "does this have...?" questions. Their cashew-cheese-based mac and cheese is gluten-free (if you ask for no breadcrumbs) and insanely yummy with truffle oil and a red pepper sauce drizzle. The gorgeous Dan Dan noodles are creamy and satisfying in an almond sweet soy sauce. And ask for live chips to go with an order of the Baked Vegan Spinach Artichoke Fondue to make it gluten-free. You won’t be disappointed.

Vik's Chaat Corner
VIK's Mix Vegetable Pakoras, Idli, and Masala Dosa.

I love VIK's. It's one of my favorite destinations on the weekend. Take the pup to Point Isabel, then pick up some Indian chaat and reminisce about my trip to Mumbai and Goa a few years back when I was too afraid to try anything served on the street. What’s great is that they recently started labeling their online menu with symbols for what's vegan and gluten-free, and luckily they have several items that are both—namely the Mix Vegetable Pakoras, Vegetable or Masala Dosa, Uttapam, and the Idli.


Here are a few additional places to check out:

  • The Buddha Girl Roll at Sushirrito is gluten-free and vegan and has a delectable combination of Hodo Soy Spicy Tofu Strips, roasted garnet yams, shiitake mushroom, shaved cabbage, avocado, green onions, and crumbled rice chips.
  • Vegan restaurant chain, Loving Hut, is happy to accommodate gluten-free guests. My fave is the Spicy Royal Noodle Soup at Westfield Centre. Just ask for gluten-free and they adjust the order for you.
  • Gather in Berkeley clearly marks their menu for gluten-free and vegan options, and urges guests to notify servers of any dietary restrictions so that they can be accommodated. Some of the gluten-free/vegan options currently include yuba "pappardelle" in a mushroom "Bolognese" sauce; a young carrot plate with hen of the woods mushrooms, hay-carrot top pesto, fava beans, dehydrated kale, charred peel, and espelette peppers; and their famous vegan "charcuterie."
  • Vegetarian (and super vegan-friendly) restaurant Ubuntu in Napa (named the #2 best new restaurant in the country by New York Times when it opened in 2008) has a lot of gluten-sensitive guests so they happily offer many options.
  • Millennium is a great destination for gluten-free vegan eating. The restaurant even held a Gluten-Free Winemaker Dinner back in March. A must-eat is their plate of Crusted Oyster Mushrooms (with chickpea flour & thyme dredge, radish salad with ginger aioli, and grapefruit-habanero chile jam).
  • Shangri-La Vegan in Oakland offers some of the cleanest food you can imagine. They post their menu daily on their website and most of the time the entire menu is gluten-free. With a Macrobiotic/Tibetan/Buddhist/100% organic menu (at very affordable prices), you will leave satisfied, light, and guilt-free.
  • Shangri-La moderate meal
    Shangri-La Vegan moderate meal. Photo Credit: Wendy Goodfriend