Guest article by Jaclyn Hubersberger
Dining out is one of my absolute favorite activities. So when I received my celiac diagnosis, I thought my world was ending. No more pizza, pasta or sandwiches. Good-bye to sushi happy hours and baked goods. “Having a beer” was now a thing of the past.
On one hand, it was a relief to know I wasn’t dying, and that by eliminating gluten from my diet I could relieve all the symptoms that had left my life in a state of disarray. On the other hand, I knew future family gatherings and social outings were going to require a certain degree of diligence and abstinence on my part.
For those of us with celiac disease and severe gluten sensitivity, dining out can cause anxiety. Even though we are fortunate to live in a city where almost every restaurant has gluten-free options, cross-contamination and uninformed restaurant staff present a real risk. I had to find this out the hard way while navigating this disease and learning as I went along. Getting accidentally “glutened” isn’t pretty—the symptoms can range from gastrointestinal to neurological, and it can take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks to recover.
I’m aiming to open your eyes to a world beyond bunless burgers and skimpy salads. Whether you can’t eat gluten or simply choose not to, here are my top ten tried and true gluten-free eats in Austin.
(Note: It’s always a good idea to disclose upfront that you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, so extra precaution can be taken when preparing your meal.)
1/ Wild Wood Bakehouse
Wild Wood Bakehouse takes the top spot, and deservingly so. This is where I go for what I call “anxiety-free dining.” It is Austin’s only 100% gluten-free kitchen and they maintain a close association with the Celiac Disease Foundation.
What to order: pizza, pasta, anything with bread and paleo cupcakes—all the things traditionally thought to be forbidden. Go nuts.
3016 Guadalupe St., Ste. 200 – Website
Pizza, Bakeries, Gluten-Free – $$
2/ Casa de Luz
Casa de Luz is where I go when I want a retreat-like dining experience, with communal seating and a holistic approach to eating. All meals adhere to a macrobiotic diet, based on Taoist principles of the balance of yin and yang, and are 100% organic, vegan and gluten-free. Whether you’re an herbivore or omnivore, if you haven’t experienced Casa de Luz, I recommend you try it.
What to order: the menu items are prepared fresh daily, so there are no decisions to make! Relax and find your Zen while waiting for your meal to be served.
1701 Toomey Road – Website
Vegan, Gluten-Free – $$
3/ The Steeping Room
Tea is serious business at The Steeping Room, but that’s certainly not the only thing they do well. Gluten-free options are clearly marked on the menu and staff members are friendly and helpful.
What to order: Buddha Bowl with chicken: daily grain and beans, sautéed greens and sweet potato medallions with sesame tamari vinaigrette. Order an iced coconut green tea to go!
4400 N. Lamar Blvd. and 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Ste. 112 – Website
Coffee & Tea, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free – $$
In the past I could not confidently eat at a sushi restaurant, but the folks at Uchi quickly put my fears to rest. The waitstaff is well informed when it comes to food allergies and can assist you in modifying items to suit your dietary needs.
What to order: from their everyday menu, the Machi Cure is my favorite: smoked yellowtail, yucca crisp, Marcona almond and Asian pear.
801 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Sushi Bars, Japanese – $$$$
5/ Odd Duck
The staff at Odd Duck is very conscientious when it comes to dietary restrictions and a gluten-free menu is available. Their regular menu also has several items that are naturally gluten-free.
What to order: their menu changes frequently based on availability of local ingredients, but take my (and 796 Yelpers) word for it—you can’t go wrong at Odd Duck.
1201 S. Lamar Blvd. – Website
American (New) – $$$
Most Asian fusion restaurants are off-limits due to their liberal use of soy sauce, but this tiny eatery on East Seventh Street between Red River Street and I-35 has a gluten-free menu and their staff is knowledgeable about what does and does not contain gluten.
What to order: Mix Mix Bibimbap (wheat-free sauce): steamed rice in a ring of fresh julienned veggies and organic baby greens. Add avocado and fried egg.
621 E. 7th St. – Website
Asian Fusion, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free – $
7/ Fresa’s Chicken
A chicken joint that sources local, pasture-raised chickens, makes fresh corn tortillas from scratch and has a drive-thru. Need I say more?
What to order: Achiote and Citrus Chicken Meal: Mexican rice, charro beans, grilled onion, jalapeño, lime, salsas and corn tortillas.
915 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Mexican – $$
8/ Bento + Picnic
Located inside Austin Bouldering Project, these bento box beauties are always gluten-free, non-GMO and locally and responsibly sourced. Vegetarian, vegan and dairy-free options are also available.
What to order: Egg Bento: Japanese-style rolled omelette, honey butter cornbread and seasonal vegetables.
979 Springdale Road, Ste. 150 – Website
Gluten-Free, Japanese – $$
Tacodeli is an Austin staple, and for good reason: their tacos are undeniably some of the best in a city where you can get a taco on nearly every corner. Their corn tortillas are warmed in a separate area to prevent cross-contamination and their menu is almost entirely gluten-free.
What to order: Frontera Fundido taco with sirloin, jack cheese glaze and sautéed poblano-onion rajas.
Multiple locations – Website
Mexican, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free – $
10/ Thai Fresh
Here is a restaurant that indicates items on their menu that are not gluten-free, rather than those that are. They also offer gluten-free and vegan baked goods in their adjacent cafe.
What to order: gluten-free and dairy-free fried chicken and waffles served with lemongrass tamarind syrup and toasted sesame seeds. A Sunday brunch favorite.
909 W. Mary St. – Website
Thai, Coffee & Tea – $$
Email me if your Austin favorite isn’t on this list!
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite gluten-free spot in Austin?
Fresh Heim in way far northwest Austin on Research Blvd at Lake Creek Parkway is completely gluten-free.
Hey Michele – Wow, three years ago! Anyhow, I took your advice and we went to Fresh Heim. One of the best meals we’ve had in Austin. I had steak and salad. Best salad I’ve ever had and the steak was cooked properly. So many joints in Austin will agree to cook a medium rare steak and present you with a rare steak! Why is that? Soon Park (perhaps it’s Soon Park’s wife) does the cooking and it is fantastic. SAM
Word of warning for anyone with celiac or high sensitivity. At Thai Fresh, the chicken is fried in a shared fryer where gluten containing items are also fried. So while the batter itself is gluten free, it is almost 100% certainly cross contaminated. The waffle is safe and very tasty by itself though.
The owner at Thai fresh is celiac, and I have talked to the staff about the fryer as I also have a very serious wheat allergy. Neither she nor I nor any celiac friend I have ever gone with has reacted to the fryer. They do clearly disclose that it is not a completely gluten free fryer. Each person has to make their own judgement, but because so little of what they fry contains gluten, this is not your typical fryer. But thanks for the heads up!
Thanks for making this comment 🙂
ATX Cocina is 100% GF, too.
Tso Chinese Delivery out of the Arboretum and Cherrywood has their entire menu with gluten-free options, which is pretty rare for a Chinese restaurant. All of their deep fry batters are corn starch based. Bonus: delivery is free, and there are no tips allowed: http://tsodelivery.com
Mother’s Cafe and Garden in Hyde Park is super gluten free friendly 🙂