Are you looking for restaurants with gluten free options, but find yourself getting overwhelmed or stuck? Been there. I absolutely love finding a city’s best gluten free restaurants, and I share these in my gluten free travel guides. But while I obviously recommend checking those guides out, they don’t cover the issue of how I find gluten free restaurants in the first place. Instead of giving you yet another list of restaurants with gluten free options, today I’m going to empower you to find those restaurants yourself.
I have a pretty simple set of resources that help me find restaurants with gluten free options all around the world. Whether you’re looking for a new date night spot at home, a gluten free pizza takeaway, or a restaurant in a totally new-to-you city, these resources will help.
How to find restaurants with gluten free options
Finding safe gluten free restaurants can be difficult or overwhelming, particularly if you’re a newly diagnosed celiac who is venturing out of your own kitchen for the first time. Actually, it’s still difficult if you’ve been celiac for 10 years! I want to make it a little less difficult for you… and dare I say… actually fun!
I also want to empower you to not rely on those annoying, automatically generated lists of a place’s “10 best gluten free restaurants.” Having the skills to find safe gluten free restaurants yourself will enable you to eat out more, be more confident and safe, and feel more comfortable traveling. Using the following resources, you’ll find a bounty of restaurants with gluten free options – maybe even more than you have time to eat at!
After you read this post, head over to my guide to eating out gluten free where you can read all the questions I ask about cross contact, to determine if a place is safe to eat.
7 resources for finding restaurants with gluten free options
I’ve included seven resources below, roughly in the order that I use them. For instance, if you get to the third resource and you already have a list of 29 possible restaurants with gluten free options, you might choose not to use the other resources!
I recommend writing the restaurant names down somewhere (like the notes app on your phone, or a spreadsheet if you’re feeling extra). Personally, if I’m traveling, I input all the restaurants into a personalized Google My Maps, so I can see where the restaurants are located in relation to myself (you can use this offline, too!). This makes it easy to pop into the nearest restaurant with gluten free options, with minimal stress!
1. Google “place name” + “gluten free” and variations of that keyword
Good for: Your first step to finding gluten free restaurants
My first step is always a simple Google search. My preference is to look at articles by bloggers (like myself!), rather than large sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp.
Why? It’s easy for restaurants to be listed in “top 10 gluten free restaurants” articles on sites like TripAdvisor or Zomato. These articles are automatically generated and all a restaurant has to do to be included is is select a simple tab on their profile – this doesn’t actually mean they have gluten free options or are safe, though!
I prefer reading bloggers‘ perspectives because they are usually honest, show photos, explain their experience, and sometimes mention cross contact (although not everyone does). There are, however, some important caveats to this.
First of all, check when a blog post was published (or updated – I regularly go back and update my older blog posts with restaurant closures, etc.). Many times I’ve tracked a restaurant down in person after reading a good review, only to find it permanently closed (this happened a LOT in Prague). Always double check!
Second, just because Joe Bloggs says a restaurant has gluten free hamburger buns doesn’t mean they actually do, or still have them, or even prepare them in a safe way. You might have different standards for cross contact than Joe. Joe might have visited the restaurant under different management, or at a different location. These are all things you should keep on your mind, and that we’ll discuss further down in this article!
2. Search “place name” + “gluten free” on Pinterest
Good for: Finding gluten free guides to larger cities
Another resource I love for finding gluten free restaurants is Pinterest! Did you know Pinterest is actually a search engine, not a social media platform? I highly recommend making an account and searching through the gluten free restaurant reviews and travel guides. You can start with my gluten free travel board, or check out this group board with pins from many gluten free bloggers.
You probably have a specific place in mind, though, so pop that in the search tab and see what comes up. I’ve found that Pinterest is more recipe heavy than restaurant review / travel heavy at this point in time. So you might not find much if you’re heading to a small, remote place. But for big cities you will definitely find some great resources on Pinterest.
3. Ask for recommendations in gluten free Facebook groups
Good for: Finding restaurants with gluten free options in less touristy places
Facebook groups can be a fabulous resource when finding gluten free restaurants. My favorite group is the Gluten Free Travel group run by my fellow blogger Jodi. This group has thousands of people in it from all around the world. If I’m heading somewhere new (or even close to home), I will ask the group for restaurant recommendations. Typically at least one person in the group is a local and can give you some great recommendations.
The nice thing with that specific group is that it is for people who have celiac disease or who have gluten intolerance and follow cross contact strictly (everyone has to answer questions to be admitted to the group). So you can generally be confident in the recommendations you get!
4. Use the Find Me Gluten Free app
Good for: Finding dedicated gluten free restaurants, and restaurants with gluten free options near you
You should definitely download Find Me Gluten Free (if you haven’t already). This is basically a crowdsourced app specifically for gluten free restaurant reviews. Think of it like TripAdvisor – but all gluten free. The app is useful for a few things: 1) Finding restaurants with gluten free options close to your location, 2) Finding 100% gluten free restaurants.
Other than that, I personally find that Find Me Gluten Free is a little bit hit or miss.
First of all, depending on where you are, there might not be many reviews. I’ve literally had the app since 2013 so I can say it has a lot more reviews than back then, but it’s still patchy in rural areas, and outside North America. However for big North American (and some European) cities, you will find many useful reviews!
The other issue I’ve found is with the reviews themselves. I don’t always trust the reviews on this app – which are sometimes like three words long, with no details, and no context for if the reviewer is avoiding cross contact or not. A “great meal!” review on a McDonald’s is not very useful. This is why I tend to trust bloggers more, because you get more of their actual history, context, and trustworthiness.
Okay, okay, sorry for ragging on Find Me Gluten Free. I do use it, and I have definitely benefited from it! I just want you to be careful, and like everything else I’m mentioning, do your own investigations.
5. Look at TripAdvisor comments
Good for: If the other resources fail, this may turn up some restaurants to investigate
I know I just slated TripAdvisor a few points above, but BEAR WITH ME. TripAdvisor can still be a useful resource when finding gluten free restaurants. The trick is not to look at those automatically generated “top 10 gluten free restaurants” articles. Nope. You need to look at the actual comments, left by actual people!
Go to TripAdvisor and click onto a specific restaurant you are interested in. Then scroll down to the comments section and search for the phrase “gluten free.” If you’re lucky, some detailed comments will come up describing the gluten free options. I will then read through the comments and see if this restaurant seems like the real deal. (If it’s just a one off “gluten free options!” comment, I typically ignore it. But multiple comments with specific details is a good sign!).
6. Reach out to local celiac associations and support groups
Good for: If the other resources fail, associations and support groups can have your best interest and local insight
If all of the above fail, I reach out to the local celiac association. You can do this via the website, or many also have Facebook pages. If you can’t find an official organization, look for Facebook groups like “place name” + “gluten free”. You can also ask people in support groups in the area (and if you’re looking for restaurants in your hometown – go ahead and join that support group!). Here’s a list of some support groups across the USA. Typically these associations actually have a running list or document with all the safe gluten free restaurants in the area.
7. Reach out to a local dietitians’ office
Good for: Finding celiac safe or vetted restaurants with gluten free options
Similar to celiac associations and support groups, I’ve found that dietitians often have a document that includes local restaurants with gluten free options. Both celiac dietitians I’ve seen (at two separate hospitals) gave me lists for local restaurants. The benefit to this is that you can be confident that the person giving you the list really understands celiac disease and cross contact, because they are a health professional (although I do still recommend confirming that the list takes cross contact into account).
You probably can’t get (or don’t want) an actual appointment with the dietitian if you are traveling, but even then just reaching out to the office and requesting a general list is a good resource.
How to make sure the restaurant is safe to eat at
Using the above resources, you should be able to find a good selection of restaurants with gluten free options. Well, restaurants that reviewers say have gluten free options.
It’s important to do more research, especially if you have celiac disease or sensitivity to cross contact. For me, this usually involves reaching out to the restaurant ahead of time via phone, email, or social media. It also means asking specific questions at the restaurant before I’m seated, when I’m ordering my food, and when I receive my food. I’ve created a downloadable guide with 50+ questions to ask servers and chefs about cross contact (divided by cuisine so it’s not overwhelming). You can download it below!
In addition to that downloadable guide, I also have a full blog post with my top 15 tips for eating out gluten free. Best of luck as you put these resources to use, and be sure to let me know in the comments below if you have any questions!
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