No menu better embodies California cuisine then Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Born out of her desire for a community to have access to locally grown foods, Water’s Chez Panisse has since set the standard for farm to table fare. It was restaurants like Chez Panisse that inspired the slow food movement 40 years ago and they continue to set the standard today. Having an opportunity to experience the 5 course prixe fix menu at Chez Panisse, I phoned to verify that the meal could be made 100% gluten free. Without hesitation, I was told these needs were to be easily accommodated as the menu consists almost entirely of organic, seasonal ingredients which are naturally free of gluten. Alas, I could not have been more impressed by the caliber of food.  Each course was distinct and well thought out, yet tasted effortless. Two minor substitutions were needed for the five courses, I was served wild jasmine rice in place of handmade pasta, hardly a compromise once topped with the delicate morel mushroom cream sauce. Their homemade espresso ice cream drizzled in caramel sauce had to be served without a tiny sliver of cake. Although their prixe fix menu changes nightly, gluten free and vegetarian diets are always accommodated.

1517 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709-1598
(510) 548-5525


In the past couple months, a seemingly exponential growth in gluten free awareness has resulted in an explosion of new gf products, related news articles, and menu options at local restaurants. The whole thing really hit home at the AT&T park the other night during a Giants game when I came across a sign for gluten free hot dogs. Yup, they were serving gluten free hot dogs outfitted with a tapioca flour bun and a gluten free Red Bridge beer. Seated behind home plate, I enjoyed the first all out hot dog I’ve had in over 5 years. Up until this month, gluten free hot dog buns could be described only as dense, crumbly rolls you might find packaged at the bottom of the freezer section in Whole Foods. Giving up on the bun all together, I decided eating a hot dog on a plate was too unappetizing to bear. Now with popular brands like Udi’s and Rudi’s debuting their new line of BBQ friendly gluten free breads (that are actually amazing in texture and flavor), getting a gluten free hot dog at the ballpark may seem like less of a novelty in a short time. For now, the hot dog, the bun and the beer were a total thrill. I’m not sure as to where the tapioca buns are sourced, but they resemble any other sweet white bread hot dog bun you’d expect to find at a baseball game. The hot dogs and Red Bridge beer are sold at the Budweiser Brew Pub in Promenade Section 112.


Although I’m typically not one for chain restaurants, Roy’s Restaurant in SOMA has a gluten free menu I’d be happy to revisit. With locations in major US cities, their menu features elegant Hawaiian fusion cuisine in an upscale setting. Gluten free items like citrus tarragon grilled salmon or blackened ahi tuna served with spicy mustard sauce are  prepared with gf tamari making these dishes an unusual treat.  You’ll also find outstanding entrees such as their braised short rib with mashed potatoes. Complete your dinner with Roy’s melting hot chocolate souffle: a warm, gooey chocolate masterpiece served with vanilla ice cream.  My meal at Roy’s wasn’t in any way compromised by being gluten free, it’s refreshing to dine at a restaurant that fully accommodates their gf customers from first course to last. Their website offers a link to their local gluten free menus which are updated seasonally.

575 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

(415) 777-0277


Straw is a new restaurant in Hayes Valley with a great gluten free menu and a rather unusual theme: carnival fare. While you may envision their patrons consuming fried sugary treats, the menu at Straw is decidedly gourmet. Straw cleverly uses the carnival theme as inspiration for menu items like truffle oil popcorn and”carny” sandwiches on gf bread: think salami and brie with apricot preserves, or sharp cheddar with honey baked ham. So far I’ve only had Straw’s brunch, which actually does not yet have it’s own gf menu. Despite this fact, the waiters are very knowledgeable about cross contamination and let me know that several of the brunch dishes were naturally gluten free, or easily modified to be. I ordered “Wilber’s Revival” which was a braised pork hash (they subbed potatoes for the creamy grits…not sure why the grits weren’t gf). Served with gluten free toast, this meal was not only delicious, but reasonably priced. I will definitely be back to try their gluten free dinner menu in the near future. Its exciting that a restaurant this creative is doing gluten free food from the start.  Stay tuned.

203 Octavia Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 431-3663


Located in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, Just For You is a down-home breakfast spot that serves up Saturday morning comfort food. While their menu boasts “we have gluten free bread!” and pancakes, celiacs should be somewhat wary. I’ve been told by several waiters that the kitchen does not use dedicated cooking surfaces to prepare the GF foods. The safest menu items are their egg dishes with gf toast (their gluten free bread is quite good). As a celiac, its great to be included on menus, but restaurants like this would be better off employing the proper processes to avoid cross contamination, and make it worth their while.

Featured dish: Breakfast Sandwich

732 22nd St
San Francisco, CA 94107-3424

(415) 647-3033

Nov 172010

This popover recipe is a must for any gluten deprived individual. I was apprehensive to try it  because my previous  experiments baking light buttery puffs resulted in a a squeaky, crumbly mouthful of gluten free dust. Since my humble beginnings, I’ve gotten pretty good at the baking the basics from scratch; i.e. pancakes, cookies, and bread- but these popover rolls are a true feat, and possibly one of the easiest, tastiest baked goods I’ve created.

Here is Mark Bittman’s recipe, made gluten-free!

Time: about 35 minutes


2 eggs

1 cup milk ( I used 2%)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for pan

1 cup gluten free flour ( I used 2/3 cup brown rice flour, and filled the rest of the cup with a little  bob’s red mill GF all purpose flour, sorghum flour, and GF oat flour).

1 teaspoon fresh thyme


Preheat oven to 425. Pour about 1 teaspoon of melted butter into each cup of a muffin tin (12 cup muffin tin). Place muffin tin in hot oven while prepping the batter (for about 2 minutes or so).

To make the batter, whisk the eggs and milk together, then add the sugar, salt and tablespoon of melted butter and mix. Slowly add the cup of flour to the mixture and whisk until smooth, then mix in the thyme. Texture should be smooth and a little thinner than pancake batter.

Carefully remove the muffin tin from the oven, and then quickly fill each cup half way with the batter. Bake immediatley in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 15 minutes. His recipe discourages you from peeking at them while they cook. The popovers should bake unchecked for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.


House made gluten free sandwich bread is served at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, located just off of  SOMA’s beautiful South Park.  Step up to their lunch counter and order from a selection of gourmet grilled cheese options. Sit at the bar or outside and enjoy the feel of this historic part of town. When your grilled cheese is served, prepare to be blown away because a.) you’re about to eat a sandwich and b.) the thickly sliced, moist yet crunchy GF house made bread is pretty darn perfect. The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen also serves soups, salads, and homemade pickles. The extra .50 cents for gluten free bread is a welcomed compromise for the opportunity to indulge in a good old grilled cheese.

Featured item: “Jalapeño Popper”- chèvre, monterey jack, applewood-smoked bacon, apricot-jalapeño relish.