Friday, September 26, 2008

GF & V Restaurant Roundup

Before I had to eliminate gluten from my diet I was on another diet of sorts, not by necessity but by choice. I was part time vegan full time vegetarian, eating mostly veggie meats, tofu, soy milk products and of course an array of grains, fruits and veggies. Once I realized I had to give up gluten I slowly started to incorporate real cheeses, white meat and even fish into my diet thinking that it would be impossibly challenging to be gluten free and vegetarian. Over the years while I have come to love my new diet (how did I live without real cheese before!?) I have also realized that being vegetarian or even vegan and gluten free is not the impossible task I once imagined it would be. While I am no longer vegetarian and have no immediate plans to go back to being one I am however selective about the meats and other animal products I do cook with and consume and would say about 75% of the meal I prepare and eat end up being vegetarian ones. I am also a big fan of eating vegetarian when dining out. Many restaurants are becoming more and more conscious of food allergies and alternative diets and changing their menus to accommodate the wants and needs of the dining public. Here are a few of my vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free friendly restaurant favorites as well as a few new finds.

Pizza Fusion

This was my second visit to the newish Pizza Fusion in Hillcrest and it was just as delicious as the first! This pizza place really does have something for everyone, gluten free crust, soy cheese, goat cheese, light mozzarella, free range meats, organic veggies and fake meats. My dear friend Natalie just happened to go on a Thursday which is gluten free night and each pie comes with two free toppings. We shared a gluten free crust pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, feta and half pepperonis for Nat and half tri color peppers for me.



I love that they offer a full sized gluten free pizza here! The thin crust is the perfect amount of bread as to not fill you up to fast or distract from the deliciousness of the topping ingredients.

Spread



The owners of this place use to have a shop called Nutters downtown that sold homemade peanut butter and peanut butter sandwiches. They still sell their swoon worthy peanut butters at the new place but they now also serve incredibly creative, fresh and delicious vegetarian dishes, some of which incorporate their peanut butters. They are open for dinner but I highly recommend going for Sunday brunch (if you go be sure to call first though because they travel for catering often and are sometimes closed on random days). Their menu changes daily depending upon what fresh and flavorful ingredients they find at the market and the owners are awesomely knowledgeable about food allergies and always recommend something delicious and gluten free for me. Be sure to pick up one of their decadent peanut butters before you leave, trust me you will not be disappointed.

Soltan Banoo

This is quite possibly my favorite restaurant in San Diego! If it was not so far from where I live I would be there once a week. Healthy and amazingly delicious Persian food served by the friendliest staff. The restaurant itself is incredibly cozy, gorgeously decorated with Persian rugs, paintings and furniture, and exudes the most welcoming ambiance. Their menu boasts an extensive selection of both vegan and vegetarian options and most dishes that include meat can be made with tofu instead. Even though it takes a bit longer to prepare one of my favorites is the Salmon Kebab Plate which comes with fresh grilled salmon, jasmine rice with dill, roasted veggies, and their delicious shiraz salad. Just be sure to order it without the pita if you are gluten free. Also equally yummy is the Zereshk Pollo which is jasmine rice speckled with barberries, orange peel and almonds and can be served with tofu instead of chicken if you are vegetarian.



If you can by chance get there on a Tuesday their daily special the Fesenjoon is the best I have ever tasted!



A scrumptious stew of pomegranate and walnut served with chicken or tofu alongside basmati rice, sooo yummy! They also have an extensive tea menu as well, the orange robious with soy on a cool evening is always a delicious way to end a scrumptious Persian meal.

Veggie Grill



This OC gem is a vegetarian and gluten free paradise! All of the salads and sandwiches on the menu are vegetarian and they also offer a supplemental gluten free menu which instructs you how to order some of their scrumptious offerings gluten free. For dinner I choose the Baja Fresh Salad and a Raspberry Strawberry Cooler.



The salad was packed full of fresh fruits and veggies like papaya, avocado, roasted corn salsa, cucumber and chopped romaine. Served atop a bed of quinoa and drizzled with a ginger papaya vinaigrette this scrumptious salad is not only vegan but completely gluten free.

Many of their sandwiches can be made gluten free as well by substituting tempeh for other fake meats and using kale in lieu of a bun. My only wish is that they could get a second fryer so they can make a gluten free version of their sweet potato fries as they are my favorite!

Hacienda De Vega



At the south end of Escondido there is a lovely placed right off of Center City Parkway called Hacienda de Vega. Almost all of their seating is outside surrounding a beautiful fountain and lush landscaping and their menu consists of flavorful and fresh home style Mexican dishes. On Friday nights they have live music and their Sunday brunch on a sunshiny day is always a treat. The boast a veggie menu called garden selections that have tasty offerings such as potato rolled tacos with black beans instead of refried. For gluten free diners obviously steer clear of any fried dishes and flour tortillas and mention to the server that you have food allergies and they are great about checking with the chef to make sure a dish is safe. Their Mahi Mahi Tacos are spiced to perfection and served with fresh and hot corn tortillas.



Of course I also love their fresh salsas and their muy grande mango margaritas.



Apertivo

This charming Italian tapas restaurant and wine bar in North Park is really great with food allergies and special diets and if you tell them you cannot have gluten or do not eat meat they will recommend a long list of delicious offerings that you can have. I love the chicken diablo, roasted baby carrots, crimini mushrooms, caprese salad, and the butternut squash when in season.

Ki’s

Located in North County coastal along the 101 in Cardiff is a vegetarian friendly place called Ki’s. They offer casual take out and dine in downstairs during the day and dinner upstairs in the evenings. When I worked in Solana Beach I use to frequent this place for their delicious salads on my lunch breaks. Dining upstairs in their indoor/outdoor patio in the evenings is the perfect spot to enjoy a beautiful San Diego sunset and some fresh seafood. I love the Baked Salmon in Parchment cooked with basil tomato and feta served with oven roasted potatoes and fresh veggies. Equally delish is the Mahi Mahi served atop wild rice and asparagus topped with a chunky mango salsa and macadamia nuts.



Inform the server if you cannot have gluten and they will let the chef know and make sure your food is prepared properly. If you are a fan of wine try to go on a Tuesday as they offer half priced bottles.

SpiritLand Bistro

If you happen to find yourself in or nearby the fabulous town of Santa Barbara you must find time to make your way to this delightful eatery which I reviewed last June. Everything on the menu is fresh, organic, made with love, and incredibly delicious. As if that was not enough every item is also labeled clearly as to which diet it is safe for (GF, V, Veg, SF, EF, DF, and Raw).

Blissful, Living Food and Juice

There use to be a chain of raw food restaurants in San Diego called Cilantro Live, sadly they all went out of business but the same owners have recently reopened a new place in Carlsbad called Blissful. I have yet to try this new restaurant but their menu seems to be fairly similar to what was offered at Cilantro. I like to go for raw food whenever I feel like I need something really healthy and nutritious (since everything there is!) and the best part is that every item on the menu is gluten free and vegan so you have plenty of options to choose from. As soon as I have a chance to visit this new place I will be sure to post a full review of my tastings!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rachel!
I love this entry! Though we have discussed oh so many more restaurants, this is a beautiful list! I love your taste in food and cannot wait to try these places! I'll come after you for other recommendations later ;)

SANDY LAO

rachel marie said...

thanks sweetie! there are many more reviews soon to come, i just need to revisit some of my favs and bring my camera along for some delicious pix! guess that means i will be eating out a lot the next month or so, oh it's a rough life! ;)

xoxo