Many restaurants offer some gluten-free options. Mexican restaurants, with their emphasis on corn flour and Ethiopian restaurants that use all-teff flour to make injera are good choices for diners steering clear of wheat, rye and barley. But for anyone with celiac disease, just having gluten-free options in a restaurant that serves gluten may not be enough. Food can be contaminated by the presence of gluten in a kitchen and can trigger an autoimmune response in some with gluten sensitivities. Even airborne particles can be enough to cause a reaction.
A kitchen can be certified gluten-free, though as with organic certification, there’s a licensing fee, so many restaurants skip the certification despite having a fully gluten-free facility. If they don’t offer any items containing gluten on their menu they’re dedicated gluten-free, meaning chances are they’re a pretty clean facility.
Whether you’re looking for a bakery, nice dinner out, quick lunch or breakfast coffee spot, we have several good gluten-free restaurants in the East Bay. Some gluten-free spots may also be vegan, or avoid soy, nuts and other allergens.
Mariposa Baking Company
With an entry through a parking lot off Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, you might miss Mariposa Bakery if you weren’t looking for it. That would be a shame, because it’s a cheery, light-filled space that smells of warm, buttery baked goods with a dedicated gluten-free kitchen serving breakfast (all day), lunch and a variety of baked goods.
Launched by Patti Furey Crane in 2004, Mariposa quickly developed a devoted following. Crane continues to tweak the breads in an effort “to get the perfect crumb, thickness and textural interest.” Without gluten, breads and baked goods made from combinations of rice, potato, tapioca and other flours can be cake-y, dense and too heavy-tasting. Mariposa mostly seems to have it down, though a few items, like the cinnamon rolls, are a little thick and chewy compared with gluten counterparts.
Many menu items are vegan, dairy- and soy-free, and a few paleo. Mariposa has a variety of breakfast and lunchtime sandwiches ($9.95-$10.95), bagels and cream cheese ($5) and four different kinds of personal pizzas ($7-$8.75) made with seasonal and local produce, meats and cheeses. I particularly enjoyed the French Toast Bites ($6.50) with cinnamon sugar and maple syrup, as well as a rich, moist, indulgent, chocolate-y German Chocolate cupcake ($4) that didn’t lack anything for being gluten-less. A ginger cookie ($2.25) was crispy and sweet, despite not containing cane sugar. Strawberry, watermelon, and gingerberry kombucha are available on tap ($3.75). Nearly all items are made on-site, and the bake shop also sells local gluten-free products like Cult Crackers and Endorfin Chocolate.
Eat in at one of the wood tables with red metal chairs, or take out breads, pizza dough, lasagne, ravioli, cookie dough and other items to enjoy at home.
Mariposa’s Oakland Bakeshop is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Mariposa also sells to local retailers like Whole Foods, and restaurants like Ike’s sandwiches and pizzerias. Mariposa Baking Company, 5427 Telegraph Ave. (at 55th), Unit D3, Oakland
Located in an outdoor food court within a high-rise office building complex in Oakland City Center, CORE Kitchen is a place for quick breakfasts and lunches. The restaurant is 100% organic, gluten-free and vegan. This not-for-profit B Corp company also tries to hire formerly incarcerated people and sources produce from “resource-poor” local farms.
On a recent visit, I noticed that many people seemed to be ordering food to go, but the space is comfortable for dining-in, with lots of windows, and several wood tables and chairs indoors and outside. With challenging street parking and just a dozen items on its menu, CORE probably isn’t a destination on its own as much as a good stop for people working, or otherwise, in the area.
CORE prepares whole, fresh foods in creative combinations. For breakfast, there’s a chia pudding, made with chia seeds, cashews and medjool dates, or another version made with avocado rather than chia, flavored with cacao and vanilla bean ($5). For something more savory, an American Breakfast is made from zucchini and potato latkes with quinoa, avocado carrot bacon, and tahini sauce ($8).
From the nine hot and cold lunch choices, I got the Thai coconut cashew zoodles ($11), spiraled zucchini noodles, broccoli and grated carrots topped with a rich coconut almond sauce. The dish was generously portioned and could almost serve two people. I was intrigued by, but didn’t try, the hot BBQ jackfruit sandwich topped with cabbage slaw and cashew cream served in a potato latke with chips ($12). Vegan food can be light and not particularly filling, in part due to the absence of animal fats, but CORE’s rich nut sauces make the dishes satisfying. The California ($11), a cold collard wrap with hummus, sprouts, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato and carrot was a popular choice among the other diners.
CORE offers no gluten-free breads or baked goods, but they do have pressed juices, natural sodas and local organic coffee. CORE Kitchen is open 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. CORE Kitchen, 499 14th St. (between Broadway and Clay), #119, Oakland
A 100% dedicated gluten-free kitchen, C CASA at Public Market Emeryville serves Mexican-fare using sustainable fish and grass-fed meats, and will make dishes dairy-free by request. The menu includes more than 14 different kinds of tacos, quesadillas, seven generous-sized salads and various sides.
On a recent visit, I had a Chilorio taco ($6.50) made from moist, tender shredded beef slow cooked with garlic and ancho chile, mixed with chopped romaine, avocado with lime crème, and soft-pink colored onions quick pickled in citrus and vinegar, all piled on a house-made white corn tortilla. I ordered one taco and some extra corn tortillas ($.50 each), which was plenty, though others may want two tacos. The tortilla had good texture and weight, but I wished it had a little more flavor. My partner had a taco with ground buffalo, goat cheese, chorizo black beans, mixed greens and chipotle aioli that was rich and tasty ($7.50).
Dishes at C Casa are fresh, bright and filling, relying on the flavors of the fresh ingredients rather than a lot of complex spices. Besides meat, tacos come with a range of veggie fillings. The sweet potato and black beans taco is topped with pea shoots, goat cheese, avocado crema and toasted pumpkin seeds ($5.75). Quesadillas with three different filling options ($8.50) were popular with other diners. Dinner plate specials feature grilled salmon or steak over corn, beans and other vegetables ($17.95 each). A spicy Mexican brownie ($2.75) is the only dessert option, but it was enough. To drink, there are agua frescas, local wine and craft beer.
Weekday lunchtimes are busy, but turnover is quick. C CASA is open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., daily except Sunday, when it closes at 7:30 p.m. C CASA, Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville
With nearly a dozen locations around California, Berkeley’s Project Juice sits in a new storefront off Fourth Street. Its smoothies, bowls and other offerings are all organic, gluten-, dairy-, soy- and peanut free, with locally sourced fruits and vegetables. Six yellow wire stool seats at a wood bar and some outdoor seating are inviting enough, though most customers were ordering to go when I was there.
I had a 16 oz. Protein Cacao smoothie ($9.75), a dark-brown combination of house-made almond milk, hemp seeds, cacao powder and nibs, maca and sea salt. Perfectly satisfying and filling, if a bit bitter from the unsweetened cacao. The price point is high for a smoothie ($9.25-$10.25), but Project Juice seems to have a strong following. The shop was full, with people looking like they’d just finished workouts or arrived from the SoulCycle place around the corner.
Besides smoothies, Paleo Protein Waffles ($6.95) can be topped with almond butter, banana, probiotic coconut yogurt or hemp seeds, and Toasts ($4.95) come with various spreads. Super bowls ($10.95-$11.45) are the size of a cottage cheese container and are made with a base of açaí berry or greens, including a topping choice of granola, seasonal berries, cashews or cacao nibs; and then a boost of probiotics, protein, kale or bee pollen to finish. Kombucha is $4.95 and they have a wide array of pressed juices and various salads in plastic containers in a cold case.
Project Juice is open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Project Juice, 1911 Fourth St. (near Hearst), Ste. 101, Berkeley
Set on a quiet side street in West Berkeley with easy street parking, Sanctuary Bistro is a nice lunch or special dinner option. The restaurant describes itself as vegan, but according to the menu, all items are also gluten-free, organic and largely locally sourced. It’s cozy inside, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, white hanging lights and roughly 10 wood tables and a bar against the open kitchen. I thought the space felt intimate, though my dining companion felt like people were seated a little distractingly close to us.
Sanctuary offers a nice wine list, along with several gluten-free beers (Glutenberg, Buck Wild Ale brewed in Oakland, Ground Breaker and others). It also offers subtly flavored, interesting kombuchas, Plum Thyme being my favorite. Its attractively plated dishes were generous and filling. I overheard several people say they had ordered too much.
The chef delivered an amuse bouche to our table to start, a sweet, rich almost smoky pecan mousse on a baguette slice. The restaurant serves its own house-baked gluten-free baguettes, which its also offers for sale ($10) on Wednesdays and Fridays. The crust was crispy and the interior chewy and dense, but lacked some crumb in the way many gluten-free breads do. We shared a broccoli and “bacon” souffle ($10) that arrived piping hot from the oven. A salty and satisfying dish, its flavors were complex and interesting, but it was more like a mousse than a souffle. The brown shitake mushroom “bacon” strips were chewy and a little crisp, mimicking the texture of the real thing.
Small ($13) and large ($20) plates are available as main dishes. I ordered a small plate, a buckwheat and wild rice crepe stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, which was plenty for a meal. The satisfying filled crepe sat on a reddish tomato “cream” sauce, which while good, was just a little too piquant and vinegar-y. My dinner companion had a large dish, a spice-rubbed portobello mushroom with Yukon gold potatoes, carrots, avocado garlic aioli and a spicy stoneground mustard sauce that he particularly liked. Perhaps it’s the rich nut-based sauces, but we both felt very full. Sanctuary offers many desserts ($10) to cap your meal, including crème brûlée; cashew cheesecake with pecan and almond crust; tiramisu and a raw carrot napoleon with no sugar.
Reservations are advised; the restaurant was completely filled on the night we visited. Sanctuary Bistro is open for lunch, Wednesday through Friday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.); dinner, Wednesday through Sunday (5:30– 9 p.m.) and brunch, Saturday and Sunday (8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m). It is closed Monday and Tuesday. Sanctuary Bistro, 1019 Camelia St. (at 10th), Berkeley
Certified Kitchen is not a restaurant, but perhaps a place for anyone on a restrictive diet looking for new gluten-free products produced locally. This commercial kitchen facility and incubator rents dedicated organic and gluten-free facilities to food entrepreneurs looking for professional grade kitchens, as well as guidance on becoming certified organic and gluten-free producers.
Certified Kitchens was created by husband-wife team, Thomas and Marie Banis, the latter who founded gluten-free Giddy Up & Go Granola. New Bread Gluten-Free Company (which also bakes cookies and cupcakes) has been baking out of the space for three years now. Mark Dresser from Big Little Soup Bowl has just started cooking at Certified Kitchens, as well as Tony and Susan DiStefano from Tandem Natural Foods. Former tenants include Gluten Free Klippy’s and Gillian Reynolds’ Jamnation. Check Certified Kitchens’ Facebook page for other food makers who rent space there. Certified Kitchens, 2428 Shattuck Ave. (between Channing and Haste), Berkeley