Going out to eat isn’t always easy for my family. With each of our special dietary restrictions–or needs–it can be pretty difficult sometimes.
- Me: vegan, gluten free, no corn
- Wifey: gluten free, no dairy, no corn, no soy
- Miss K: nut allergies, no coconut, no eggs
- Ben: no restrictions
I’m a little more adventurous than my wife. She is very tentative about trying out new places while I figure I can take one for the team if it means being able to add another restaurant option for the future. But then again, gluten affects her much worse than it does me. To simplify things for this post, though, I’m just going to focus on dining out as a gluten free vegan.
I realize that I am very fortunate to live in Southern California where I can actually find gluten free vegan options when I go out to eat. Even when there aren’t specific gluten free vegan items on the menu, I have found that a lot of places here are more than accommodating–especially when you’re pleasant about it. Of course, they still have to give the disclaimer that their kitchen isn’t a gluten free kitchen so there is always a risk of cross-contamination… but most restaurants really do their best to avoid it.
Here are some of my “go to ” places in Orange County where I can eat. Not all of these are plant-based restaurants, but I don’t always get to dine at vegetarian/vegan restaurants. I’m sure there are more but these are the spots where I have personally dined and can vouch for them. A few of these places already recognize me when I come in and already know my “usual” order. An * were represent places where I need to ask for specific substitutions or adjustments to items on the menu to make the dish gluten free, vegan, and/or corn free. (Note: I am not being compensated by any of these restaurants for their inclusion in my list.)
- Seabirds Kitchen
- Veggie Grill
- Native Foods Cafe
- Red Brick Pizza
- Elbows Mac ‘n Cheese
- Healthy Junk
- Blaze Pizza
- Freesoulcaffé *
- Secret Spot *
- Z Pizza
- Top Class Pizza
- Green Bliss *
- Cheesecake Factory *
- Lazy Dog Restaurant *
- Wahoo Fish Tacos *
- El Cantarito *
- Denny’s *
- Whole Foods Market
Here are some tips that make the experience pleasant for all:
- Do your research ahead of time, if you can. When possible, I try to find the restaurant’s menu online so I don’t have to spend so much time scrutinizing the menu at the restaurant. Also, it helps to know what to expect… sometimes I need to mentally and emotionally brace myself. I may even choose to eat something before going to restaurant if I know that my options will be limited.
- When you’re being seated, ask your server if they have a gluten free menu. I have found it’s much easier to make items vegan than gluten free so start in the gluten free menu if the restaurant has one.
- Let everyone else order first. Save the more complicated order(s) for last. There tends to be less confusion when the easy orders are taken first.
- Be flexible. You may not find an actual dish on the menu that will met your needs. I’ve actually put meals together by ordering a bunch of side dishes.
- Most importantly, be nice and pleasant. You want the servers and chef on your side. You can’t assume that the restaurant staff will completely understand what being gluten free and vegan entail, so clarify without being condescending. If your order comes to your table and it isn’t quite right, politely point out the error. I’ve occasionally had my meals comped by being nice after my plate came out of the kitchen wrong.
Happy and safe dining!
Do you have any further suggestions? What gluten free vegan friendly restaurants would you add to the list?