Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eating Gluten Free in San Francisco!: Vacation Adventures

We recently returned from an epic trip to San Francisco. It was a blast to plan the trip (isn't so much of the fun in the planning?), choosing interesting gluten free restaurants and quirky boutique hotels, navigating parking and museums, and always carrying our jackets for that cold wind off the water.

The other epic part was us both getting bronchitis near the beginning of the trip and sticking with it. We didn't spend any days curled up in tiny balls in our hotel room - we just spent one morning at the doctor's office instead of hitting the Legion of Honor museum. Because we were so sick, I don't have great documentation of all the places we ate, but I'll give you some of the highlights. I do love seeing what's available for the gluten free folks in other cities, including Los Angeles and Phoenix in the past. The plan for our next big adventure is to stay well. No amount of cough drops, soft Kleenexes, medicated cough syrup, or out of network insurance coverage makes up for feeling hazy when you're supposed to be having the time of your life.

One thing Utah could take note of on the gluten free front: we had no issues with cross-contamination in San Francisco restaurants. Proper food preparation techniques, even in restaurants where the kitchen was smaller than my bathroom at home, were standard. Thank you, San Francisco, for good food service practices and honest menus. (I'm not saying cross-contamination doesn't exist there, but it was certainly easier to navigate than it is here at home).
Our second morning in San Francisco we hit the amazing Ferry Building Farmer's Market. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday local farmers fill the sidewalk in front of the Ferry Building on Pier 1. The Ferry Building itself is filled with various permanent food vendors and restaurants. It was a food lover's paradise. Outdoors, we got some wildflower honey and fresh fruit. There were a few gluten free vendors outside, including a gluten free granola (that unfortunately contained oats). But yay!

Inside the Ferry Building, we found our breakfasts for the rest of the trip: Mariposa Baking Company. The employees were helpful and all the foods were clearly marked with other allergens they contained (making it easy for us dairy free folks). We tried bear claws, apricot tarts, fruit danishes, cinnamon rolls, and a lemon coconut bar. The husband was a huge fan, and we were glad to have a Mariposa hamburger bun at Radish and Mariposa focaccia on a sandwich at the Tivoli Caffe in Berkeley.

Also inside the Ferry Building, the husband got a snack from Boccalone: Tasty Salted Pig Parts. I'm not the connoisseur of assorted salted meat that he is - not limited to sausage and pepperoni, but I thought it was tender, flavorful, and interesting. The guys at Boccalone even told us you can go back down to Mariposa and get sandwiches made with Boccalone meats! Nice.

Instead of a sandwich, we decided on burgers made at the Prather Ranch Beef stand inside the Ferry Building. That was our first encounter with employees who didn't seem quite like they knew how to prepare a gluten free meal, but again, we were lucky to have no cross-contamination. It was a fresh burger, piled with carmelized onions and maple smoked bacon, and we grabbed some Mariposa sandwich buns to make these burgers portable. That really hit the spot.

One evening we took in the Asian fusion at E & O Asian Kitchen. The tapas style menu connected beautifully with the dark and sultry lounge with phenomenal lighting. We tried the pea tendrils and black garlic, a dark and bitter dish that I loved. The spicy Sichuan cellophane noodles and the prawn salad rounded out our tasting. Personally, I was crazy over the prawn salad, packed with spicy peppers, Asian fruits like lychee and ruby grapefruit, cool cucumbers, and spicy onions. It was a great compliment to the cellophane noodles that were just a bit too hot to handle, so the fruits cooled everything well. A delicious and gluten free dinner.

Another favorite was a burger joint called The Counter in San Mateo. Each diner gets a form to fill out and mark off the toppings you want. The gluten free option is clearly shown, and we had huge juicy burgers with an assortment of toppings, nestled on a gluten free bun. We also got to share sweet potato fries and regular fries. Overall, we were stuffed when we left, and it was satisfying and felt like home.


One of the evenings deep into our feverish bronchitis sweats, we had dinner at Betelnut. Neither of us were feeling top notch, but the food and atmosphere here made it bearable when we really wished we were tucked in our own beds. Tapas style, we ordered a variety of menu items to share, and were not disappointed with their perfectly gluten free offerings. Niman Ranch beef skewers with coriander and jalapeno vinegar, a fantastic salad, and their signature whole gulf prawns with bacon and chili jam. Excellent.

Our last dinner was the most pleasant surprise. We dined at Lin Jia Asian Kitchen in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, and it was delightful. Just what we were hoping to find while in California. They had gluten free items marked on their menu, even though the items were somewhat limited. The husband ordered A Yi Pork, and I got a noodle dish. They were both so tender and flavorful, the staff was super friendly, the food was gluten free, and our tired bodies were satisfied.

We loved that San Francisco had such a variety of gluten free food available. The pastries from Mariposa, and so many tapas style places with great and exotic ingredients. It was interesting to cruise the lists of gluten free restaurants and realize most of the selection was Modern Asian and pizza. We don't do a lot of pizza these days, so we didn't try any while in San Francisco, but there seems to be a lot there.


  1. It's a common problem with World Adventures. I don't know the specifics of the problem but later patches and adventure is one of the best thing to do in summer specially..

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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