Boston is full of fabulous restaurants which properly cater toward gluten-free diners. Find some of them here!

After more than 40 years of living with celiac disease, my reflexes are trained to detect gluten danger zones when I eat out. I rarely relax until the server has answered all my questions and still the angst lingers with me throughout the meal. Will my food be safe; will I find stray macaroni in my Cole slaw; will they bring my gluten-free bread separately so it’s free from gluten-y crumbs; will the kitchen use a clean pot and colander to make my pasta? If you’re on a gluten-free diet, you know the drill…and the worries.

However, I jump at the chance to visit our son in Boston and to eat at the restaurants in Bean Town. I eat without worry, thanks to the rigorous food allergy training in many restaurants.

thinking cup boston

Beth Hillson

This program has a lot to do with the efforts of Boston-based celebrity chef Ming Tsai, who has a son with severe food allergies. Ming helped make the Bay State the first in the country to mandate restaurants to establish specific protocols for serving food allergic guests. Thank you, Chef!

This big push to educate chefs and servers about food allergies started in 2009. It set up protocols for serving diners with food sensitivities. A trained employee in the front of the house (the dining room) and another in the kitchen (the back of the house), communicate the diner’s dietary needs so nothing gets mixed up as it’s translated from the diner to the server to the chef and back. Today most restaurants are familiar with my diet and know how to minimize cross-contamination. They ask if my diet is a food preference or a true allergy. When I say allergy, the kitchen cranks it up a few notches, not just using gluten-free ingredients, but also preparing my food in a separate location, using a dedicated fryer, grill, and toaster.

We go to Boston often to visit our son who has celiac disease and his girlfriend; it’s a real treat for us to eat in some of the delightfully funky establishments in town and know we can dine worry-free.

thinking cup boston

Beth Hillson

The broad mix of ethnicities makes for lots of food adventures from creative vegetarian, to tapas, Japanese, Asian fusion, Vietnamese, seafood, Italian, and Cambodian. Last time we dined at a Persian restaurant that my son had raved about. Under the gold dome of the State House on Beacon Hill, Lala Rokh has been a local favorite for more than 20 years. Family owned and operated, their mantra is “Food to Please the Soul.” When we went, the staff greeted us like we were long lost relatives – perhaps because my son is friends with one of the servers. We were comfortable from the get-go.

The homemade pita bread stayed on the gluten side of the table, but the rest of the meal was safe: roasted eggplant, lamb kabobs, sweet potato puree, hummus, and a delicious rice dish. I’m eager to go back. But, there are so many great restaurants to try. It’s nice to have so many choices!

Breakfast, too, is gluten-free friendly in many of the local spots. We stopped at the Thinking Cup on Tremont Street, near our hotel. I’ll admit, my gluten radar was up even though I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee. Despite seeing gluten-free offerings throughout the tiny eatery, I couldn’t dismiss all those gluten-filled scones, bread, and muffins. My worries were unfounded. The simple question, dietary-preference-or-allergy, sent them into the back to prepare my sausage, cheese and egg sandwich in a separate area. Whew.

No wonder I like Boston!

Here are some of the great gluten-free friendly restaurants we’ve tried in Boston:

Alden & Harlow (voted one of the best new restaurants in Cambridge)

Davios (Italian)

Elephant Walk (Cambodian and French cuisine)

Lala Rokh (Persian/Middle Eastern)

Legal Seafoods

Mistral Bistro (French/European)

Myers + Chang (Asian/Indonesian)

Nebo Restaurant

Sweetgreen (Vegetarian)

Donna’s Restaurant (Breakfast)

The Friendly Toast (Breakfast)

Thinking Cup (Breakfast)

Note: There is always the chance of a mishap no matter how versed a restaurant is in gluten-free diets. A mistake in the kitchen, a new staff member, the well-trained manager has a day off…Don’t take anything for granted. Always double check and, if something does not look right, send it back.

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