MANHATTAN — Calling a restaurant in advance, notifying the waiter of allergies, double checking the meal is safe — these are some of the hazards to navigate when dating gluten-free in New York.
To help those trying to navigate the food-centric city of New York with a gluten-free agenda, DNAinfo has compiled a list of 10 understanding eateries that, without being glaringly obvious, make it easier to avoid diet dramas.
5 Napkin Burger, Hell’s Kitchen, Upper West Side, Union Square and Astoria, Queens
With a new store now in Union Square, the ever-expanding empire of 5 Napkin Burger is inclusive of the gluten intolerant. With a gluten-free bun and a separate fryer to minimize cross-contamination, this food joint is a surprising oasis in the bread-centric world of burgers.
Gluten-free Recommendation: Pick any type of burger, such as the Original 5 Napkin Burger with ground beef, caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese and rosemary aoli, and ask for the gluten-free bun ($13.50)
Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers St., Chinatown
Fly under the radar with your gluten-free allergy at the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a "hipsterized" Chinese restaurant tucked away on a tiny back street in Chinatown. Gluten-free options on the menu are subtly highlighted giving those intolerant a choice of 20 meals or small plates.
Gluten-free Recommendation: The owner and manager, Wilson Tang, 33, recommends the scallion and cilantro rice roll ($2.95), a tofu skin roll ($3.50) and blanched Chinese broccoli ($7.95). However, Tang warned due to ingredients in other dishes cross-contamination is a risk for those with severe allergies.
The Meatball Factory, 231 2nd Ave., East Village and Gramercy
Breadcrumbs are the standard binder for most meatballs. This is not always the case at the Meatball Factory, which borders the East Village and Gramercy. Top Chef Season One finalist Dave Martin uses potatoes to bind. Coupled with a choose-your-own-sauce situation, the Meatball Factory is perfect for a casual date.
Gluten-free Recommendation: Hog Wild Meatball made from braised heritage pork shoulder with BBQ sauce ($10.50) or the Vegan’s Dream made from veggies such as roasted sweet onion, carrot, mushroom and asparagus ($10.50). Gluten-free sides are also on the menu with roasted Brussels sprouts ($6) and roasted mushrooms ($6).
S’MAC, 345 E. 12th St., East Village
It took seven months of trial and error for Sarita Ekya, 36, to re-engineer her famous mac and cheese recipe without flour. The change, along with a rice-pasta option, has opened up her East Village eatery to thousands of new customers. Eat-in, takeout and take-and-bake are all options.
Gluten-free Recommendation: Gluten-free customers can eat any combination of cheese and "mix-ins." Ekya, who became gluten-intolerant after the menu change, recommends the Alpine with gruyere cheese and a slab of bacon. ($8.75)
Friedman’s Lunch, 75 9th Ave., Chelsea
Chef Justin Brunwasser has created a gluten-friendly zone among the numerous bakeries in Chelsea Markets. With sandwiches, pancakes and even fried chicken, Brunwasser has proven the sky is the limit for those with a gluten intolerance.
Gluten-free Recommendation: gluten-free pancakes with berry compote and maple syrup would work perfectly for a brunch date. ($11)
Pala Pizza, 198 Allen St., Lower East Side
Flava bean and gabanza flour along with tapioca are some of the ingredients that makes Pala Pizza world renowned for those on the gluten-free circuit. The process took owner Edena Barreto three years before a respectable option was found so those intolerant could enjoy all the accompanying toppings at the Lower East Side pie shop.
Gluten-free recommendation: Barreto suggests the ETNA Pizza with the gluten-free crust option — eggplant, cherry tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta salata cheese and basil. ($18)
Bloom’s Deli, 350 Lexington Ave., Midtown East
For a touch of old school New York, this Murray Hill deli is perfect with its gluten-free menu section. Bloom’s offers almost 50 choices that are gluten free, including all the classics.
Gluten-free recommendation: Special Reuben Sandwich with pastrami or corned beef, Swiss cheese, hot sauerkraut and Russian dressing served open face on gluten-free bread. ($15.96)
Bistango, 415 3rd Ave., Kips Bay
This hidden Kips Bay gem offers the often wheat-heavy Italian food with a gluten-free option. Low-light ambiance, white tablecloths and well-presented food makes for a higher-end and inconspicuous gluten-friendly date.
Gluten-free recommendations: Wild Mushroom and Ricotta Ravioli ($19) with a dessert of Torta diCioccolato, single layer chocolate cake ($7).
Lumi, 963 Lexington Ave., Upper East Side
The classic New York Italian restaurant where, in the first "Sex and the City" movie, Charlotte delivers her famous line to Big — "I curse the day you were born" — also offers a three-course gluten-free menu. Pastas, antipastos, main dishes and desserts are carefully prepared for those with an intolerance.
Gluten-free recommendations: Steamed vegetables with homemade herbed goat cheese ($10.50) and grilled salmon fillet over eggplant "Pasticio" and drizzled with peso sauce. ($25)
Highland Park, 206 E. 34th St., Murray Hill
This Murray Hill establishment is a rare gluten-friendly gastro pub and, yes, there are even gluten-free beers. Co-owner and manager Christopher Collins simply wanted Highland Park to be hospitable to the needs of its clients, resulting in a slew of regulars who come in for their gluten-free fix.
Gluten-free Recommendation: NY Shell Steak Salad, spinach, portobello mushrooms, red onions, balsamic vinaigrette ($9) and Steak Frites, NY Shell Steak, garlic truffle fries and greens. ($23)