One of the best ways to spend a weekend is driving up and down the Central California coast. With highlights such as Big Sur and the famous Monterey Peninsula, there’s no shortage of breathtaking views. As much as I love seeing the sights, one of the best things about traveling is discovering new restaurants and recipes!
My husband and I both live strict gluten free and dairy free lifestyles, which can sometimes make it difficult to find reliable food options when we’re traveling. When we made the trek from the Bay area to Los Angeles several years ago, we were not able to readily find gluten free options in the Central Coast stretch since most of those that accommodated were either in Los Angeles or San Francisco, with little in between that advertised a gluten free menu or Celiac friendly offerings. However, thanks to a vocal allergy community (and an unfortunate rise in allergies among children), this seems to be changing now that restaurants are becoming more aware of their customers’ needs.
We were fortunate to find a few places that accommodated gluten and dairy allergies, so I wanted to share my findings with you. As always, though, always tell your server about your allergies so that they can make special arrangements and confirm menu items with you.
If you have any locations to add, questions about the restaurants below, or any additional information to share, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me through my blog site. Safe and happy travels!
San Luis Obispo
Address: 1023 Chorro Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Menu: Their menus are stored by season and year, so you should go to their main site at http://www.lunaredslo.com/. Their gluten free and vegan options are clearly marked in parenthesis after each item.
Review: Located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo next to the historic Mission plaza, this hip location features live music, a late night menu, indoor and outdoor seating, and of course gluten free and vegan options! Luna Red even offered a special menu for the month of May for Celiac Awareness month. Once you take a peek at their menu, you will notice that there’s no lack of gluten free and dairy free options. Since Luna Red is a tapas restaurant (small plates shared among friends), we had lots of fun trying out many different options. Our server was well versed on their gluten free offerings, and she readily provided gluten free substitutions or worked with the chef to substitute ingredients. This is very easily one of my favorite restaurants.
Favorites: Black Bean and Avocado Fritters with paprika salt and fresh lime instead of lime crema sauce, Local Spuds – crispy heirloom potatoes and marinated olives with ketchup instead of sambal rouillé, and Smoked Paprika Hummus with cucumbers instead of flatbread
Address: 778 Higuera Street, Suite D, San Luis Obispo 93401
Menu: http://www.blisscafeslo.com/Bliss-Cafe-menu.pdf Gluten free menu items are marked “GF” and the entire restaurant is vegan.
Review: Bliss Café is also located near the historic Mission plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo, but it has an earthier vibe than Luna Red. You can stop in here for a snack or a full meal, and everything is ordered via counter service. Bliss Cafe’s menu is heavy on the vegetables since they are entirely vegan; however, they are pretty unique in their offerings and have plenty of creatively designed dishes. They make all of their dressings fresh in-house, and offer organic soy, rice, and coconut milk for their smoothies. They offer a creek side patio as well as plentiful indoor seating.
Favorites: Check out their Bhakti Bowl of the day. Have fun experimenting with all of their options, as they clearly mark gluten free items.
Le St. Tropez
Address: Dolores Street (between Ocean & Seventh), Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921
Menu: Their lunch menu is located at http://www.lesttropezcarmel.com/?page_id=14 but there are several menus on their site. Menu items are marked with a + sign if they can be prepared gluten free (which is actually most of their menu), and specify dairy allergy for further modifications.
Review: Le St. Tropez is located in the heart of downtown Carmel-By-the-Sea, conveniently located near shopping, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the Carmel entrance of 17-Mile Drive. As the name implies, they serve up French cuisine. They took all of our allergies seriously and even served up a hearty basket of freshly baked bread. (You can tell the difference since the gluten free bread doesn’t come with cheese on it, but it’s worth confirming with your server.) So yummy! We had no issues with cross-contamination, and had a wonderful experience. We will be sure to dine here again the next time we visit Carmel!
Favorites: Chicken Breast Aux Artichauts Et Champignons, which comes with assorted vegetables and crispy herb-dusted potatoes (mushrooms instead of mushroom sauce, and potatoes cooked in oil), and Mediterranean Clam Chowder (in a tomato base, gluten and dairy free)
Address: 791 Foam Street, Monterey, CA 93940
Website/Menu: None as of July 2013 (new restaurant). However, they are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Cantaro/1070216633118263
Review: I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first walked into El Cantaro due to the fact that it looked like a traditional Mexican restaurant without gluten free signage, but we were pleasantly surprised after receiving our meal. My husband and I both opted for the veggie fajitas and they were wonderful! The ingredients were very fresh and the black and pinto beans were cooked to perfection. It’s important to note that you will need to specify your allergies here, though, since they have to clean the grill prior to preparing your meal. Otherwise, you might be subjected to cross-contamination. Since it’s not far from Fisherman’s Wharf (a few minute walk), be prepared to search for parking as their lot only accommodates a few cars. We found a metered spot not too far away though. Stop here before going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a nice date!
Favorites: We absolutely loved the veggie fajitas.
Address: 3534 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
They offer gluten free pizzas, drinks, and salads. They do offer some gluten free desserts, although the last time we went there they were not dairy free. They also offer vegan cheeses as well.
Review: Pizza Guru is probably one of the most well known places in Santa Barbara that accommodates gluten free and dairy free diets, as they offer gluten free pizza crust, dairy free cheese, and multiple vegan options. Additionally, they also have several organic offerings on the menu. While I love the fact that they offer gluten free crust, I generally get a salad since I’m not a fan of Bob’s Red Mill pizza crusts (which is the mix that they have been using). They are easy to find as they are on State Street near Whole Foods, although they are a bit far from the water. We have gone there to grab some food before heading off to the beach. Parking is easy, since they have a lot right next to the restaurant. It’s easy to miss though if you’re not looking.
Favorites: Their Greek salad is great, and it’s HUGE. Be sure to have any items removed that you may be allergic to (such as cheeses or nuts). If you do opt for a pizza, their gluten free and vegan ranch is a great option for sauce.