It's no secret that Charleston is one of the South's leading foodie destinations, stacking up more accolades each year for its talented chefs, one of a kind restaurants, and even its tradition of southern hospitality. Traveling to any city when you're committed to eating gluten free, and many visitors assume that gluten-free menu items are hard to find in a southern city, as southern cuisine is often thought of as mostly fried or barbequed. Not so in Charleston, where the restaurant scene is as diverse as any major city, and plentiful gluten-free dishes are served throughout town.
Gluten-free diners need only to stroll down King Street to find the ideal restaurant for a satisfying gluten-free meal. For breakfast, gluten-free eaters should make a visit to the gourmet grocery, upscale deli and coffee bar-in-one that is Caviar & Bananas. When it comes to finding a midday meal in the Holy City that satisfies all dietary restrictions, the options are plenty: simply take your pick from soup and sandwich combos at Five Loaves Cafe, the rice wraps at Brown Dog Deli, or a couple of slices of gluten-free pizza, (yes, you read that correctly), from Mellow Mushroom.
Selecting a gluten-conscious dinner destination is easy in Charleston! If it's spicy Asian food you're after, visit Basil on Upper King, or venture down the street to Co, a Thai and Vietnamese hybrid offering an entire menu of gluten-free items! For a lighter alternative, stop into Verde, a salad bar with dozens of toppings and dressings.
Bon Banh Mi
This little but enticing local restaurant is located on Spring Street, in one of Charleston's quickest developing culinary neighborhoods. Dubbed a sandwich bar by its owners, Bon Banh Mi lives up to its name, dishing out tasty Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, fresh tacos, and salads with your choice of protein. Filling options include five-spice pork, five-spice tofu, red curry beef, homemade pate and Vietnamese ham, egg and Canadian bacon, and ginger lemongrass chicken. Gluten-free diners, rejoice! The banh mi tacos are wrapped with corn tortillas!
In-house seating is limited inside this small restaurant, but Bon Banh Mi eats are quickly and easily packed away for take out. Bon Banh Mi offers free delivery to anywhere on the Charleston peninsula, and online ordering is available on their website. (843-414-7320)
Caviar & Bananas
Gluten-free diners are in luck! Caviar & Bananas' delicious brunch, lunch, and dinner items are available at two locations, on George Street near the College of Charleston and within the Charleston City Market. This downtown hotspot is gourmet grocery, deli, cafe, and coffee bar all in one, ideal for a group of visitors with different tastes and dietary restrictions. Gluten-free diners will appreciate the vast variety of options at Caviar & Bananas, from freshly rolled sushi, cheese and charcuterie boards, design your own sandwiches made with gluten free bread, create your own salads with dozens of topping choices, and of course, their prepared deli side dishes. Popular prepped side items include the "Naked" Kale Salad, Succotash, and Quinoa Salad, all gluten-free! (843-577-7757, 843-577-9997)
Black Bean Company
Black Bean Company, now with three locations across Charleston and Columbia, has taken up permanent residence in the heart of vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free eaters. The Black Bean Company regulars will tell you that they keep coming back due to the size of the stuffed wraps, the variety of both omnivore, vegetarian and vegan salad and wrap choices, and the consistent freshness of the ingredients.
Black Bean's downtown and James Island locations offer Power Gyros, mini Snackers, salads, Pure Energy Wraps with or without meat, and Pure Vegan Wraps. Sides, unfortunately, only come with your entree at an additional charge, available in 4, 8 and 16 oz servings of yogurt and granola, couscous, pasta salad, potato salad and fruit salad. Menu highlights include the Festival Wrap with squash, zucchini, black beans and rice, and the Almost Summer, with chicken, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, candied almonds, arugula and raspberry vinaigrette. (843-277-0990)
Whether the craving for pizza strikes you for lunch or dinner, Charleston's Mellow Mushroom on King Street is your ideal destination. Serving up some of the Southeast's most famous pies, with a trademark style that revolves around a "groovy" restaurant theme and unusual topping combos, Mellow is also a haven for gluten-free diners. They even offer an entire alternative gluten-free menu with specialty pies prepared with a vegan, ancient grains, gluten-free pizza crust and topped with a long list of gluten-free ingredients!
Try their Gourmet White, and olive oil and garlic-based pizza with sun-dried tomatoes, Provolone, Mozzarella, and Feta cheeses, or the Mighty Meaty, with a red sauce base, Mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, ham, and bacon. (843-723-7374, 843-327-0346)
Basil Thai Restaurant
Basil Thai restaurant, located on Upper King, is wildly popular with both local and visiting Thai food lovers, and is packed with eager diners each night of the week. Basil also serves up a lunch menu of big proportions, an alternatively less crowded and cheaper option for those looking to eat here. Both mealtime menus are loaded with clearly marked vegetarian and gluten-free options, so these guests with can enjoy a wide variety of dishes. Gluten-free entrees include Pad Thai, Sweet & Sour, Green Curry, Red Curry, and Masaman Curry, as well as Shrimp, Chicken, or Beef Fried Rice. Other gluten-free salads, such as the Som Tum papaya salad, are also an option here. (843-724-3490)
Verde is an ideal lunch or dinner destination for vegans and vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, as well as omnivores. Located on busy King Street close to the College of Charleston and Marion Square Park, Verde serves up fresh and healthy salads to a large following of adoring fans. Their signature offering, the Create Your Own Salad, includes a base green, four veggie or fruit ingredients, and your choice of dressing, all chopped or tossed together. Additional proteins like cheese, chicken, shrimp and tofu will cost an additional $1.
Verde also offers Signature Salad Creations, which are already planned out for you. These include such pre-set salad combos as the Cobb on King, Mesa Verde, and the Curried Beet. Any salad, whether self-created or a signature, can be quickly made into a wrap! (843-579-2884)
Brown Dog Deli
Tucked into a small but cozy space on beautiful Broad Street downtown, Brown Dog Deli offers classic deli sandwiches alongside an eclectic menu of wraps, salads, and burgers. Omnivore options run from the traditional French Dip to specialty wraps and sandwiches like the Hawaiian Salmon Burger and Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sandwich. This popular lunch spot also boasts an entire menu of vegetarian and vegan options, including a Black Bean Burger, a Portobello Philly, and a Tempeh Rueben. All sandwiches and wraps on the Brown Dog Deli menu can be made with gluten-free bread or gluten-free brown rice wraps!
Brown Dog Deli offers free delivery to nearby areas downtown. (843-853-8081)
Five Loaves Cafe
Ask any local for their recommended healthy, gluten-free, and vegetarian-friendly restaurant, and they'll probably send you to Five Loaves downtown. Located on Coming street in a quiet residential area, Five Loaves has been serving a dedicated crowd of regulars for over ten years. What makes Five Loaves so special in the Charleston community is its dedication to an intricately planned, highly varied menu, with both regular and nightly offerings. Soups are a highlight at Five Loaves, which are housemade and different each day and night. Dessert options also change daily, and are consistently tempting.
Gluten-free diners will enjoy the wide selection of options on the Five Loaves lunch and dinner menus, including dishes like the Mushroom & Quinoa Salad, Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Salmon, and the Eggplant Wrapped Goat Cheese. What's more, all Five Loaves sandwiches can be prepared on Udi's gluten-free bread! (843-937-4303)
Dellz Uptown, one of several Dellz family ventures, is a mecca for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diners, and health-conscious eaters in Charleston. The restaurant itself is known for its "good vibes," with live music weekly and painted walls adorned with local art and earthy murals. The food served at Dellz Uptown keeps with the laid-back personality of the restaurant and staff, serving up hearty healthy portions of rice bowls, wraps, veggie nachos, and the famous Jazzy Pizzas.
Gluten free eaters will appreciate numerous items on the Dellz Uptown menu, like the Acorn Bowl, Veggie Nachos, and gluten-free cookies. (843-641-0352)
Co, sharing its name with the word "feast" in Vietnamese, is located on King Street in the heart of downtown Charleston. Like its name implies, Co is an authentic Vietnamese and Thai restaurant, serving up lunch and dinner from 11am to 11pm seven days a week. Co is well known and loved for serving up a full gluten-free menu of alternative small plates, noodles, salads, and rice stir fry dishes. Gluten-free diners can enjoy such appetizers as Malaysian Chili Wings, curry shrimp and spring rolls, and follow up with such popular plates as Green Papaya Salad, Beef Pho, Curry Laksa, or Hanoi Noodles. Gluten-free visitors will enjoy the wide variety of Co's alternative menu, while still being able to savor all of the same beloved Thai and Vietnamese spices. (843-720-3631)
About Clare Sweeney
A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare also ventured abroad to Spain and north to Boston before returning to Charleston and her beloved Lowcountry.
Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days enjoying the city’s perpetually sunny weather, nearby beaches and ever-growing food and craft beer scene.
Follow Clare on Twitter @LocalExpertCHS for the latest in local happenings!
Read more about Clare Sweeney here.
Connect with Clare via: Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest