TravelAug/Sep 2014 Issue

Visit Portland! Featured: Gluten-Free Dining Guide

This friendly, progressive Oregon town is a gluten-free, allergy-friendly foodie fest.

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Portland, Oregon: Birkenstock-wearing, fleece-clad, vegan hikers. Bespeckled hipster architects. Politically correct, naked bike-riding protesters. This caricature of Portland—evidenced on the hit show Portlandia—is lovingly embraced by this free-thinking town.

Over the past decade, Portland has also gained a well deserved reputation of being a hangout for the most conscientious foodies—vegans, locavores, farm-to-table, sustainable, gluten-free, food-allergic…you name it.

A large percentage of restaurants in Portland denote gluten-free items on the menu. And for those that don’t, the wait staff is almost always educated about which items are gluten-free. Most are also happy to accommodate customers with food allergies. There are even a number of restaurants that are entirely, or almost entirely, gluten-free.

So when you visit Portland, you’ll simply be over the moon with the options—not only what to do but also where to eat. And you’ll never, ever get stuck trying to find safe snacks at a convenience store just to make sure you don’t get lightheaded on your day out.

Here are some of Portland’s attractions and some favorite places to eat. Of course, with the exception of restaurants that are entirely gluten-free, always make sure you double-check with the wait staff that your meal is safe. There’s little danger you’ll get a confused look or an exasperated sigh in response.


Hawthorne District

Photo by Charlotte Cunningham

Portland's food carts offer great variety and many have allergy-friendly options.

The Hawthorne District in SE Portland is a classic Portland scene with a mix of cute local stores, including an oil and lotion shop where you can choose your own blend of scents, several gently used clothing places, gift shops and even The Bagdad Theater and Pub (, a movie theater that can deliver gluten-free beer and a burger on a gluten-free bun to your balcony seat. If you want something other than a burger, you’re in luck. Hawthorne is one of the best places in town to find top-notch gluten-free food.

Photo by Rebecca Dru

Cultured Caveman food cart in Portland’s Hawthorne District is a favorite.

Good Eats

The food cart scene in Portland is remarkable. There are typically more than 500 carts at any given time in the city, with a number of exclusively gluten-free carts. A favorite is Cultured Caveman* (, featuring Paleo food that’s free of gluten, dairy and soy. All of the ingredients are ethically and locally sourced.

Harlow* ( is a low-key restaurant where you order your food at the counter and the staff brings it to you when it’s ready. Highlights at this gluten-free, vegetarian restaurant include oatmeal banana walnut pancakes and huevos rancheros, as well as fresh juice, smoothies, gluten-free beer and mixed drinks.

A neighborhood fixture, the Sapphire Hotel+ ( isn’t actually a hotel. It’s a romantic bar and restaurant. Originally, it was a turn-of-the-century, seedy hotel inhabited by sailors, travelers and ladies of the night. Warm and intimate, Sapphire Hotel has a cozy atmosphere, creative cocktails and tasty food, almost all of which can be made gluten-free.

A mainstay of the gluten-free scene in Portland, Hawthorne Fish House* ( serves gluten-free fish and chips, breaded in brown rice flour and cooked in dedicated fryers. It also has several gluten-free beer options, with one gluten-free beer on tap.

A recent addition to the Hawthorne scene, Teote* ( serves authentic arepas, homemade Venezuelan-style corn cakes stuffed with everything from brisket to pork shoulder. Teote does not use any gluten-containing products (although there is a cross-contact caution for the masa). A bar upstairs opens nightly at 5 pm and in summer, a large outdoor space features a dedicated gluten-free beer tap and gluten-free cider tap.

A short hop from Hawthorne is the Division Street area. This street is exploding with restaurants. Two favorites are Pok Pok+ (, a popular Vietnamese street food restaurant—be prepared for a long wait—that identifies gluten-free food on its menu and Nuestra Cocina‡ (, a mid-range gourmet Mexican restaurant with many gluten-free and dairy-free options.

Sellwood, Brooklyn and Industrial Southeast Districts

Photo by Tarah Engelke of Dogwood Photography

Known for its myriad antique shops, the Sellwood area also has many other fun things to do. Drop in for a class at Sellwood Yoga ( and then grab a pair of funky socks or tights at Sock Dreams ( Also near Sellwood is Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge (, famous for its majestic blue herons and marshland trails. The area is also home to Oaks Park Amusement Park and Roller Rink ( to entertain younger ones.

Industrial Southeast is home to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry ( With a variety of interactive exhibits, OMSI is a must if you’re coming to town with kids. Its newly remodeled cafeteria has many gluten-free options noted on the menu. OMSI also houses the U.S. Navy’s last non-nuclear, fast-attack submarine, the USS Blueback, open for tours year-round.

At OMSI, water lovers can pick up a jet boat ride from Willamette Jetboat Excursions ( that takes you up and down the Willamette River, where you can check out the sights from the water.

The Eastbank Esplanade (, accessible for pedestrians and cyclists, runs 1½ miles along the east bank of the Willamette River and includes a 1,200-foot floating walkway. If you’re on foot, keep an eye out for cyclists, skateboarders and in-line skaters—they come up quickly!

Good Eats

Jade Teahouse and Patisserie+ ( features a delicious combination of Southeast Asian cuisine and French baking. The entrées and assorted pastries are mostly gluten-free. The staff understands cross-contamination and keeps the wheat pastries in a separate display from the gluten-free goodies.

Brooklyn House Restaurant* (, which features healthy, European-style comfort food, deliberately doesn’t mention gluten-free on its menu, even though the entire restaurant is gluten-free. The staff wants people to come for what’s in the food, not what’s not in it. Start with a hot basket of gluten-free bread and garlic butter (or oil). Most of the food is made to order so make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy your meal.

Portland takes its beer seriously and gluten-free beer is no exception. Harvester Gastropub* ( is the gluten-free dining and drinking establishment attached to Portland’s first dedicated gluten-free brewery. The pub has delicious food made by chef Neil Davidson and a bevy of gluten-free beer on tap.

Restaurant Key

* Restaurant is all gluten-free or almost entirely gluten-free. May have bottled beer, packaged foods with gluten ingredients or a distinct area of the kitchen where they handle gluten items. No ambient flour.

+ Restaurant notes gluten-free items on the menu

Restaurant is happy to accommodate gluten-free dietary needs. Ask your server.

The Pearl District

Twenty years ago, the Pearl District was almost exclusively industrial. Now it’s the place to go for shopping, arts and touristy meanderings. On the first Thursday of the month, galleries open to the public and in decent weather, local artists sell their wares on the street.

Jamison Square ( has a large tiered fountain where kids cool off on hot summer days and a grassy area that’s perfect for picnicking. You can pick up some gluten-free goodies from nearby Whole Foods Market.

If you’re a yoga type, drop in for a community class at Yoga Pearl (, a beautiful space in the heart of the district.

On the edge of the Pearl is one of Portland’s best-known attractions, Powell’s City of Books (, housing more than 1 million new and used books. If you love books, Powell’s is a must.

Good Eats

Prasad* (, located inside Yoga Pearl, is a vegan café that’s 100 percent gluten-free. It’s a great place to stop for a quick lunch when you’re out and about.

Kick back at Deschutes Brewery+ ( They have a gluten-free-friendly menu with a dedicated fryer for gluten-free fries. Bonus: One of their gluten-free beers is on tap.

The authentic Peruvian restaurant Andina+ ( was one of the first eateries in Portland to cater to the gluten-free community. The staff will bring you steaming-hot yuca to the table instead of bread and happily adjust many of the dishes to meet your dietary needs.

Oba+ ( is a longtime Portland fixture, which says quite a bit in a town that can have a high restaurant turnover. Oba serves nuevo Latino cuisine and has more than 30 options on its gluten-free menu. With a festive atmosphere, it’s a great place to go for special occasions or a night on the town.

Another favorite in the Pearl is Seres Restaurant and Xiao Chi Bar+ ( This modern, sustainable Chinese restaurant offers gluten-free options (the sesame beef is particularly delicious) and a popular happy hour, as well as a Xiao Chi or small bites menu.

At Verde Cocina+ (, a farm-to-fork establishment that uses no gluten-containing ingredients, the vegetables are fresh and abundant and the corn tortillas are hand-made to order. One delicious option is the buenos dias breakfast, which includes tortillas, veggies, beans and “bacon candy,” slow-roasted chunks of sweet bacon to top off your dish.

Restaurant Key

* Restaurant is all gluten-free or almost entirely gluten-free. May have bottled beer, packaged foods with gluten ingredients or a distinct area of the kitchen where they handle gluten items. No ambient flour.

+ Restaurant notes gluten-free items on the menu

  Restaurant is happy to accommodate gluten-free dietary needs. Ask your server.

Getting Around

In Portland, it’s quite easy to get around by public transportation, as well as to navigate by car. The city is divided into quadrants. North/South, it’s divided by Burnside Street, and East/West, it’s divided by the Willamette River. There are nine bridges in Portland that span the Willamette, including a new bridge for pedestrians, bicycles and public transportation that’s slated to be completed in 2015.


The public transportation system in Portland is a safe and easy way to travel across the city. The buses, MAX light rail and streetcar are all run by TriMet (, with interchangeable tickets. The MAX red line takes you from the airport to the heart of the city. Two streetcar lines cover a significant portion of inner Portland.

Rental Car

The airport is the easiest place to pick up a rental car, although a few rental agencies are scattered throughout the city.


If you get a monthly membership before you arrive in the city, you can use Zipcars ( that are parked around town, renting them by the hour.


Bring your bicycle or rent one at the many bike rental places in the city. Portland is an extremely bike-friendly town. It’s said to have a higher percentage of bicycle commuters than any other major city in the country.


There are several taxi companies in Portland. While it’s possible to hail a cab in the downtown area, in other regions of the city, you’ll need to call for a pickup.


The tram isn’t exactly a way to get around but it’s technically transportation and it’s a great way to enjoy a sky-high view of the city. The Portland Aerial Tram ( runs from South Waterfront up the hill to Oregon Health & Science University. The upper terminal links to the 4T Trail (, a self-guided tour that takes you in a circle of the city by trail, tram, trolley (streetcar) and train (MAX).

Forest Park and Northwest District

Photo by Naomi A.

The Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden ( located in the West Hills is one of Portland’s hidden treasures. With 5½ acres of tranquil beauty, it is one of the most authentic of its sort outside of Japan. It’s a lovely way to connect with nature, beautiful in every season.

In the Northwest Hills, you’ll find Forest Park (, one of the country’s largest urban parks. It spans over 5,000 acres, including miles of trails for all levels of hikers and mountain bikers. If you want to hit the dirt, pick up a rental bike before you go. Colin Meloy’s spellbinding book, Wildwood Chronicles, is set in this park.

After you explore the woods, relax with a treatment at The Dragontree holistic day spa ( The Ayurvedic abhyanga massage and the detox foot bath are a soothing and rejuvenating combination, the perfect way to top off a day hike. While you’re there, check out their newly branded line of gluten-free tinctures.

Good Eats

At Bamboo Sushi (, the food is impeccable and the fish is sustainably harvested. The staff is educated on which dishes are friendly for those with food allergies and they’re happy to accommodate you. Make sure to ask for a bottle of wheat-free tamari.

Besaws+ ( is a well-known brunch spot in Portland that also offers lunch and dinner. This historic café dates back to 1903. The owner takes pride in serving the gluten-free and allergic community, with options such as gluten-free pancakes and French toast.

Dick’s Kitchen+ ( is an unconventional burger joint where you can get 100 percent grass-fed burgers, as well as buffalo, salmon and tempeh burgers on challah, vegan or gluten-free buns or served “naked.” They offer gluten-free baked fries, many vegan sides and guest burgers, including a “dork” burger made from duck and pork.

Restaurant Key

* Restaurant is all gluten-free or almost entirely gluten-free. May have bottled beer, packaged foods with gluten ingredients or a distinct area of the kitchen where they handle gluten items. No ambient flour.

+ Restaurant notes gluten-free items on the menu

Restaurant is happy to accommodate gluten-free dietary needs. Ask your server.

Downtown and Chinatown

Photo by

Forest Park, Lower Macleay Trail

Downtown Portland has much to offer visitors. The well-regarded Portland Art Museum ( has a wonderful permanent collection, as well as many compelling traveling exhibitions. The adjacent Masonic temple was renovated into a new modern wing for the museum in 2005. This alone is worth the trip.

During summer and early fall, visit the downtown Portland Farmers Market ( Located in the beautiful South Park blocks, this extensive market has close to 200 vendors and many allergy-friendly options.

To tour downtown, hop on a bike. Pedal Bike Tours ( offers a beginner-level, 3-hour, 9-mile historic downtown bike tour. Or get an introduction to the city through Cycle Portland’s ( 2-hour Essential Portland bike tour.

The Underground Portland walking tour ( is described on its website as “PG-13 and not for the faint of heart.” It tours the tunnels under the city, exploring the “worst of the illicit, naughty, bawdy, corrupt and shady activities of Portland’s not-so-proud past.”

Chinatown is home to the stunning Lan Su Chinese Garden (, designed by artisans from Suzhou, Portland’s sister city in China. It is said to be one of the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China.

Good Eats

Departure+ ( is an upscale Asian fusion restaurant located atop the Nines Hotel. The food is fabulous, staff is accommodating and the view of the city from the rooftop bar can’t be beat. The gluten-free menu lists a range of pan-Asian options.

Imperial+ (, inside historic Hotel Lucia, was opened by Vitaly Paley, one of Portland’s most acclaimed chefs. Enjoy an upscale dining experience that explores the Pacific Northwest. The food is delightful and many gluten-free options are noted on the menu.

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries* ( is a dedicated gluten-free and vegan bakery that serves wonderful baked goods and just launched a fabulous savory menu.

Café Yumm+ ( is a great place to grab a quick lunch. They offer a varied menu, from rice and bean bowls to bentos, with options for gluten-free and dairy-free meals.

Higgins ( is a classic upscale Portland restaurant that’s been a fixture in the city for 20 years. The food is exquisite and the staff is happy to accommodate requests for gluten-free and allergy-friendly options.

Dr. Samantha Brody is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist. She is owner of Evergreen Natural Health Center in Portland, Oregon, and editor of

Restaurant Key

* Restaurant is all gluten-free or almost entirely gluten-free. May have bottled beer, packaged foods with gluten ingredients or a distinct area of the kitchen where they handle gluten items. No ambient flour.

+ Restaurant notes gluten-free items on the menu

Restaurant is happy to accommodate gluten-free dietary needs. Ask your server.

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