Visit New York City
The Big Apple is a haven for special-diet tourists
Pack your bag! New York City is a top destination for visitors from around the world—and with good reason. There’s lots of terrific dining and so much to see and do that it’s virtually impossible to squeeze it all into one trip. As to NYC’s intimidating reputation—fuhgettabotit! You’ll find New Yorkers to be accommodating.
With the plethora of dining choices, New York has become the go-to place for gluten-free pilgrimages. There are restaurants for every culinary niche and the city’s chefs and servers are eager to meet special dietary needs. By doing your research in advance, you can fill your visit with delicious adventures and interesting activities suited just for you.
NYC is one of the globe’s major hubs, usually an easy plane ride from wherever you are. Catch a train to Grand Central Station or hop a plane to JFK International, LaGuardia or Newark airports. Once in the city, follow these tips for getting around.
Use the Subway
If you’re a first-time visitor, don’t be daunted by the prospect of riding the subway. It will save you time and money as you navigate the city. Websites like hopstop.com provide step-by-step instructions for traveling by subway or bus and can help you find the best stops. Unlimited daily and weekly passes are available.
Hail a Cab
Designated “taxi stands” aren’t common in NYC unless you’re at the train station or airport. Wave down a cab on any street—just make sure it’s an official yellow cab. You can tell a cab is available if the numbers on the fixture on top of the cab are lit up and the “off duty” lettering on either side of the numbers is off. Give your driver the intersection of where you’re going, rather than the address (16th and Ninth,” rather than 75 Ninth Avenue). All official cabs now accept credit cards.
Care for Your Feet
Even with the subway and cabs at your service, you’ll likely walk a lot. Wear the most comfortable shoes you own. The woman on the sidewalk wearing the fancy stilettos? She switched out of her flats moments before.
No matter the time of year, you are likely to experience temperature variations. It will be colder than you expect when walking five blocks in the March wind. During the summer, you’ll have sweltering temps outside only to be blasted with AC once you enter a store.
Top To-Do’s in NYC
For general sightseeing, check out Times Square where lights amaze day or night. See the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry for free. (The boat to Ellis Island stops at Lady Liberty.) If you’re a Beatles’ fan, check out Strawberry Fields, John Lennon’s memorial in Central Park across from The Dakota apartment building on 72nd and Central Park West. If you’re a sports enthusiast, take in a ball game at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field (the Mets); there’s specially designated gluten-free food at Citi Field. For a pleasant walk that even veteran New Yorkers enjoy, stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.
1. Visit a Museum.
If NYC’s biggest ancient and modern art collections at the Met and the Museum of Modern Art aren’t enough, visit one of the smaller museums. Although it gets less fanfare, the Museum of the City of NY on 103rd and 5th Avenue will definitely enhance your visit. Also, try the Cloisters, the Frick, the Whitney or the Museum of Natural History. The Forbes Museum downtown boasts the largest collection of Fabergé eggs and the Museum of American Finance includes a $2 million Monopoly game board.
2. Enjoy the Theater.
Broadway and Off-Broadway theater offerings are unparalleled. Booking in advance is recommended. Some half-price tickets are available at the TKTS ticket booth (twitter.com/tkts) the day of the show. Shakespeare in the Park (shakespeareinthepark.org) may also appeal.
3. Be on TV.
Be a part of a studio audience–guaranteed celebrity sighting! Free tickets are available for many of television’s popular shows, including The Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The View.
4. Explore Central Park and beyond.
A green escape in the middle of NYC’s concrete jungle, Central Park offers running paths, castles, roller skating dance troupes—and more. Winter brings ice skating at Rockefeller Center rink. In warmer months, see a performance at Summer Stage and a rainbow of flowers at the Conservatory Gardens (105th Street and 5th Avenue). Note: If you like outdoor music, check out the summer concert series hosted by The Today Show and Good Morning America.
With entire guidebooks dedicated to NYC shopping, just walking through Soho and Chinatown is a shopper’s high. For iconic shops, visit Madison and 5th Avenues or head out to Brooklyn Flea (brooklynflea.com) on Saturdays to shop with the locals. For bargain hunting at its best, check out c21stores.com.
6. Go Up, Look Down.
Viewing the city from on high is a must. Savvy tourists can snag views at The Empire State Building, The Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, the roof of the Met Museum and the cable car to Roosevelt Island.
New York offers an embarrassment of riches for a gluten-free culinary tour. Here’s a guide for your rendezvous with delectability.
A small trattoria-style restaurant with a wonderful owner who knows his regulars and greets them with joy. Ambiance to spare! Gluten-free pasta, bread and ravioli. Virtually anything on the menu can be made gluten free. Weekday lunch special. GFRAP,* Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 415 3rd Ave. at 29th St.
A BBQ restaurant with a warm, down-home feel. Staff is very allergy aware. Ask for the special gluten-free menu. Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 116 E. 27th St. between Lexington & Park
An organic vegan dining experience that will please even the pickiest meat-lover’s palate. Just a few blocks away, sister restaurant Candle Café has a more casual feel and is better for kids. GFRAP
Tell Your Cab: 154 E. 79th St. between Lexington and 3rd
Yes, gluten-free pastrami sandwiches. Typical NY deli fare and comfort food, plus unusual gluten-free options like fried chicken and waffles, fish and chips, spaghetti and meatballs. All sandwiches can be made with gluten-free bread from Udi’s. Sides are served with a dedicated ice-cream scooper to prevent cross-contamination. Eat confidently knowing an owner has celiac disease. GFRAP, Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 75 Ninth Ave. at 15th St.
Gramercy Tavern-Front Room
Danny Meyer, the man behind Blue Smoke and 11 Madison Park, is the marvelous steward of this establishment. There’s no official allergy-friendly menu but the servers are well versed on menu ingredients and will help you find something delicious and safe. No reservation for the front room so plan to go during off hours.
Tell Your Cab: 42 E. 20th St. between Broadway and Park
Lilli and Loo
More than just Chinese food, Lilli and Loo offers a gluten-free pan-Asian menu that reflects Malaysian style and an intimate knowledge of celiac disease. Enjoy food that’s rich in flavor and exotic spices, including fun gluten-free options like dumplings and shrimp tempura. Sister restaurant Lili’s 57 (lilis57.com) is GFRAP certified. GFRAP, Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 792 Lexington Ave. at 61st St.
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary
A sweets shop seemingly from yesteryear operating today in Manhattan’s East Village. An entirely vegan menu boasts a wide-array of gluten-free “ice cream” flavors and ice cream cones. Note that soy, nuts or coconut are the basis for these vegan desserts. Take-away available. Very limited seating.
Tell Your Cab: 516 E. 6th St. between Ave. B and Ave. C
A great establishment for a pre-theater meal. Start with gluten-free foccaccia and appetizers and end with a gluten-free dessert. The restaurant’s signature item is Soccas, a chickpea dish that’s a cross between flatbread, pizza and crepe. GFRAP, Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 630 9th Ave. between 44th and 45th St.
Like walking into a restaurant in Italy. Mario Batali’s casual pizza and wine bar demonstrates great awareness for food allergies and offers gluten-free pasta. Superb options for the ultimate foodie and pickiest kids. TIP: Try the olive oil gelato for dessert. Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: One 5th Ave. at 8th St.
Peter’s Gourmet Diner
Its name derives from walls adorned with images of Peter—from Peter Sellers to Peter Pan. A little red star on the menu alerts to what cannot be prepared gluten free, leaving 8+ pages of gluten-free choices. Even gluten-free eggs benedict! GFRAP, Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 1606 1st Ave. between 83rd & 84th St.
Gluten-free heaven in a small space. Pizza, panini, risotto, salads, breadsticks and all desserts are gluten free. Yes, that means carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies, fudge brownies and more. GFRAP, Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 270 Bleecker St. between 6th & 7th Ave.
S’mac–Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese
Tell Your Cab: 345 E. 12th St. between 1st Ave. and Ave. A
From appetizers to dessert, satisfy your gluten-free desires. Enjoy large family-style portions or special small plates. GFRAP, Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 20 W. 72nd St. between Central Park West & Columbus Ave.
Hunting for the best burger is practically a sport in NYC—and this burger stand is a top contender. Add fries and frozen custard for the full experience. A gluten-free menu is available with food-allergen info listed on their website (shakeshack.com). Multiple locations, Kid friendly
Tucked away on a quiet street in Soho, this New American restaurant doesn’t have an official allergy-friendly menu but servers will help you find dishes made with seasonal ingredients, just right for your special diet.
Tell Your Cab: 199 Prince St. at 6th Ave.
The only dedicated gluten-free bakery in Manhattan. Cookies, muffins, breads, brownies, cupcakes. Moist, chocolate-y brownies, mini-cupcakes topped with unforgettable frosting. Oatmeal raisin cookies enthrall even gluten-gluttons. Limited savory choices include panini. There are dairy-free, egg-free, corn-free and soy-free options. Nuts are used but not in all products. Online ordering available (tulusbakery.com) for brownies and cookies. Kid friendly
Tell Your Cab: 338 E. 11th between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Catherine Oddenino, aglutenfreeguide.com, lives in Manhattan.