"Gluten-free" appears to be the hottest new buzz word to dominate the culinary scene. While many suffer from celiac disease, many others have health concerns that seem to improve with the elimination of gluten from their diet. (The word is out that gluten-free, or GF, is often a wise way to go!) A gluten-free diet excludes the protein gluten, found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
When following a gluten-free diet, diners must use patience and creativity when it comes to finding substitutes for foods they once enjoyed. Eating out can become more of a headache, but, thankfully, the Seattle restaurant scene is doing what it can to ease the pain–even when it comes time for dessert. The city is not only home to several venues that serve strictly gluten-free goods (think Flying Apron Bakery in Fremont), but many restaurants and cafes are conscious to include GF options (or substitutions) on their standard menu.
Named after the Tuscan hill town where the owner/chefs met, Volterra brings an authentic slice of Italy to the Northwest. Although the tiled dining room may get noisy, you'll be too enthralled by the signature Tuscan Limoncello Rosemary Drop cocktail to notice. Careful attention to cooking and presentation of fine ingredients like truffles, homemade pastas, wild boar, and beef tenderloin result in dish after luscious dish. Savory orechiette in lamb ragu, accompanied by steamed asparagus in lemon-cheese sauce, is a favorite. Desserts include a rich tiramisu and chestnut panna cotta. The staff here seems amenable to diners with restrictions, so ask for gluten-free dessert selections. The knowledgeable staff won't let the largely Italian wine list get the better of you. (206-789-5100)
A casual tearoom located in Seattle's historic Ballard district, Miro Tea provides an excellent foray into the world of authentic eastern tea for anyone who's looking for a nice hot brew. In addition to their tea, Miro also offers several savory dishes as well as desserts that perfectly complement their tea menu. With an excellent knowledgeable staff and a bold menu, it's no wonder Miro Tea receives rave reviews from locals and tourists alike. Gluten-free diners will be happy to learn that crepes can be made GF (for $1 extra); try ones filled with fresh spinach and goat cheese topped with Spanish Serrano ham and an over-easy fried egg or with fresh, market pears Brie, mixed greens, balsamic reduction, honey and walnuts. (206-782-6832)
Macrina Bakery & Café
Perk up your afternoon with a piping hot cup of organic coffee at Macrina. Happily, a wide variety of cakes, artisanal breads and pastries is available to accompany your java. You'll have trouble deciding between chocolate cranberry coffeecake glazed with chocolate ganache and a Morning Glory muffin, studded with pineapple, raisins, apple, coconut and walnuts. Gluten-free patrons have no trouble finding treats they can delight in, too. Consistently garnering accolades from local publications, the friendly establishment is perfect for a rendezvous with old friends or for a quiet hour with the morning paper. The ambience is soothing and friendly, and works by local artists often grace the walls of the popular cafe. (206-448-4032)
First opened in December of 2008, Thrive set out on a rather defiant mission to tear down the myth that healthy vegetarian cuisine is lacking in flavor. Thrive accomplishes this goal by creating fantastic entrees with a little bit of a southwest kick: tacos, stuffed peppers and a variety of different kinds of chili to name just a few. They also offer tons of soups, salads and, possibly their biggest draw, their full menu of all natural organic juices. They also offer up a few culinary classes for those who are looking for a little more than just takeout. Healthy eating rules the scene at this gem! ((206) 525-0300, (206) 525-0666)
Trophy Cupcakes and Party - Wallingford
Opened in 2007, this "boutique bakery" caught the attention of aficionados, and the "cupcake craze" was seemingly everywhere. This Wallingford vintage schoolhouse was the first location, but three more followed in short order. Whether you prefer the good old standbys of vanilla or chocolate, or care to try the Elvis, Black Forest, or Raspberry Macaroon, you'll get a carefully crafted treat baked from scratch daily, made with the finest quality ingredients. The latest craze? The gluten-free red velvet. You can design your own completely custom cupcakes for an event, and the Wallingford location now offers a Party Room for rental - birthdays, showers, parties, even local meet-ups can take advantage of the great space and sweeten any meeting with a dozen cupcakes. ((206) 632-7020)
Flying Apron bakery celebrates good health by using gluten-free, vegan ingredients; whole grain wheat-free flours and non-hydrogenated oils. Diners can use alternative methods to sweeten items with such ingredients as agave, maple syrup and stevia. The best news? There's no guilt involved when sampling the cafe's goodies that range from salads and soups to the sweet (muffins, cupcakes, cookies) and the savory (personal pizzas and shepherd's pie). Chefs get creative with the mock rye bread, tofu scrambles, pepper peanut quinoa, pesto tapinade pizza and delectable veggie lasagna. A few sidewalk tables give diners a nice outdoor-dining option for when the Seattle sun shines. ((206) 442-1115)
This popular cupcake bakery and cafe first opened in 2003 and has since spread to numerous locations including those in Capitol Hill, Ballard and Madrona. Loyal fans return for the delicious, made-from-scratch-daily cupcakes and perks like a buttercream frosting made using only real and premium ingredients (like sweet local butter and dark Belgium chocolate). Gluten-free folks with a sweet tooth will enjoy the double fudge brownie delight made just for them. Their cafe's cupcakes can be paired with delicious artisan espresso under the house brand of Verite Coffee. The business partners with Washington farmers and producers, maintaining the belief that buying local is vital to building a strong community. Cupcake Royale is committed to giving back to the community and annually donates over 40,000 cupcakes to help raise funds for local nonprofits. ((206) 883-7656)
Known as Seattle's top vegetarian spot, this restaurant's menu is innovative and flavorful enough to win over even the most ardent carnivores. Have brunch in the sunny atrium and enjoy the soothing sounds of the indoor waterfall. Dishes such as cornmeal pancakes in pomegranate sauce or beignets with berries and ginger cream anglaise are served with complimentary fresh-squeezed orange juice. You'll also find plenty of specialty teas and juice blends to choose from as well. For gluten-free diners, relish desserts like the peach-blueberry crisp and chocolate brownies. (206-325-9100)
Chaco Canyon Cafe
These vibrant cafes in the U District and also West Seattle are set in a warm Southwestern décor; their mission is "to provide delicious organic sustenance for a wide variety of needs and individual tastes." The venue is proudly certified organic--and are 90-97% organic throughout the entire year. They feature a daily raw foods menu, composed of fresh organic produce, organic nuts, seeds, spices and oils the menu changes often and with the seasons. They also offer vegan sandwiches, several daily hot vegan soups, rice and quinoa bowls and a daily selection of vegan and wheat/gluten-free baked goods. Loyal customers also return for the "living juice," wheatgrass and smoothies. (206) 522-6966)
PCC Natural Market - Greenlake
With nine locations in the Puget Sound region, the Puget Consumer Co-op is our own local version of Whole Earth Foods. Community-owned and operated, carrying organic, locally produced goods from fruits & nuts to baked goods to cheeses to toothpaste & shampoo, the PCC is as much a quintessential Seattle experience as any "big" tourist attraction. It's the epitome of the locavore movement and mindset. You'll be able to find plenty of vegan options, as well as gluten-free items. Just remember to bring your own cloth bag for shopping. (206-525-3586)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China.
Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
Read more about Corinne Whiting here.
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