Allergy-friendly food finds in San Francisco and LA
I recently went on vacation, in an attempt to escape the unfortunate long-lasting Canadian winter and to do not much of anything besides eat and drink wonderful things.
Travelling and eating can be difficult things to do with food allergies; it's hard to get your bearings in a new place anyway without the added pressure of not being able to eat at many of the restaurants and cafes.
For this trip, we discovered the magic that is Foursquare (which works best if you also have their check-in app Swarm) and I highly recommend for anyone who is wandering around a new area and not sure where to go. We found it especially useful for vetting restaurants because the menu is linked right in the app, making it ridiculously easy to scan through a number of places at once to see which was the best option for my allergies.
*Also apologies for the less than ideal photo quality of some of these shots - I packed light and didn't bring the DSLR, so some iPhone Hail Mary's were had.
First off, this is an absolutely beautiful city and I so recommend going if you get the chance. As someone who thinks vacationing should be wandering through the city, eating, drinking and enjoying the sun, this is the place.
Golden Era - 395 Golden Gate Ave.
This was the very first time I've ever eaten Vietnamese food. I know, right? Normally it is riddled with eggs, nuts and fish so I don't go anywhere near it. However, this spot is completely vegan, and there are many dishes without nuts. They were also happy to remove nuts from any of the dishes for allergies. I had a wonton soup with a vegan egg noodle and tofu, and it was the stuff of dreams. I get it, people. I get why this cuisine is so popular.
Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar - 950 Mason St.
I have to be honest, I wouldn't recommend this place if you're looking for stellar food. However, if you're looking for a fun dining experience, this place should be at the top of your list. The restaurant and bar is wrapped around a swimming pool, fenced in with bamboo and tiki torches, with thatched roofs over top most of the tables. The live band is sent out onto the pool in a tiki themed boat/shack and they play all the songs you would imagine they play when you're on a tropical vacation. The cuisine is Pan Asian, and they were really lovely about accommodating my allergies. The drinks are all fruity and served in crazy glasses with paper umbrellas. Even if you're not into themes, this place was just kitschy enough to be a great time.
Gracias Madre - 2211 Mission St.
I've been told that California has some fantastic Mexican food, and I was so excited to try it. This was another vegan restaurant, which did use quite a few nut products that they were happy to remove from dishes when asked. I had the vegan tacos without the cashew cheese, and everything from the tortilla to the fresh vegetables to the homemade refried beans were delicious.
Zero Zero - 826 Folsom St.
If you're feeling carbs (like really feeling like carb loading), this place was great. It's very difficult to find restaurants that hand-make pasta who don't use eggs in their dough. I've only been able to eat fresh pasta a few times because of it, and absolutely love to whenever I can. And though I don't have a huge pool of experiences to draw from, this was easily the best fresh pasta I've eaten; it was al dente and soaked up the lovely tomato sauce so nicely. The pizza had a nice chewy crust with simple toppings. If you're Celiac or gluten free, I wouldn't recommend because, honestly, the gluten-y everything is the best part of this place.
Farm:Table - 754 Post St.
This is likely once of my favourite breakfast places I've eaten at, ever. Anyone with an egg allergy knows, going out for breakfast and brunch is one of the most difficult eating out experiences. I remember when I was growing up always being stuck with the oatmeal. And don't get me wrong, I like oatmeal. But restaurant oatmeal always leaves something to be desired. These steel cut oats and fresh fruit made me so happy the only thing I could eat on the menu was the oatmeal. The texture was amazing and the fruit all tasted as bright and colourful as it looked. I also had my first turmeric latte and fell it love.
Blue Barn - 2105 Chestnut St.
U-pick salad in a bowl the size of your face. Need I say more? I love being able to pick my own toppings for anything because it's so much easier to avoid allergens that way. There were so many great options, lots of alternative proteins, and lots of different dressings. This seemed like an ideal place for any food allergy. Bonus: everything tasted so fresh and healthy. They also had their own kombucha on tap which was a great life choice.
Jane Coffee - 925 Larkin St.
This was a great little spot for a good coffee and a good breakfast/lunch/snack. The popularity of avocado toast has really been a great things for egg and nut allergies because it's served at all the trendy little spots, usually isn't terribly expensive (keyword: usually) and is really simple to modify if necessary. I really enjoyed the pickled onions and jalapenos on top for a little kick and contrast with the avocado.
Atelier Crenn - 3127 Fillmore St.
Now this is a restaurant I only recommend if you're willing to spend some money and really enjoy the entire experience that is fine dining. My boyfriend and I are food people, and eating at a Michelin star restaurant has been on our list for a while. I made the reservation a few months before the trip and had all my allergies cleared with the staff. In restaurants such as this one, the only option is the tasting menu, in which you don't know what you're eating for the evening until the course appears. Because of this, food allergies often aren't welcome, but Atelier Crenn was willing to modify the tasting menu for me and gave me a meal that was very similar in taste to what every other guest has. The wine pairings were so interesting and were, well, paired fantastically well with every dish. It was a truly wonderful time, and it was nice to feel so taken care of. If anything, this is a reminder to not be afraid to ask if a restaurant of this caliber is willing to accommodate allergies, because it's a lovely evening if you're interested.
We stayed at the Ace Hotel right in the heart of downtown, and that was a fantastic experience. Downtown L.A. is continually growing and there are so many great shops and restaurants popping up within walking distance from one another. LA is unfortunately where I fell apart in the food photography category - many of the restaurants were really dark.
Brack Shop Tavern - 525 West 7th St.
This is a great little spot with a ton of vegan pub options on the menu. We had fresh hummus and veggies, falafel sliders on naan bread and deep friend pickles with an egg-free batter. All super delicious. Bonus points for the staff who were very accommodating and made it feel like we've been there a hundred times.
Umami Burger - 852 South Broadway
I recommend this place not because of what I ate, but because of what I wanted to eat. They have something called the Impossible Burger, which is burger meant to taste like a typical patty, except it's made from entirely vegetarian ingredients. By the time we arrived there (yeah we extended our happy hour a little longer than planned), the Impossible Burger was sold out. On the plus side, their regular beef burger patties are made without eggs so I wasn't totally out of luck. I wouldn't say it was the best burger I'd ever had, but it was much, much better than your typical chain restaurant burger.
The LA Chapter at The Ace Hotel - 929 South Broadway
Continuing my avocado toast taste-testing (try saying that five times fast) there is a cute little restaurant in the Ace Hotel. It is everything you would imagine a hipster restaurant to be (and living in Vancouver, my standards are pretty high in that regard). I can't say there were particularly great options for allergies, however there were a lot of different sides on the menu which could be cobbled together to create a meal too.
Perch LA - 448 Hill St.
This spot has to have one of the greatest views from it's rooftop bar. The restaurant itself was exceptionally busy and we weren't able to eat dinner here, though having vetted the menu beforehand it did look like there were some allergy free options. We did get to go up to the roof of the building and have a cocktail, which was amazing, and I highly recommend it for that alone.
Dune Downtown - 199 Wet Olympic Blvd
This little restaurant has some of the best falafel and tzatziki I've ever had. I will preface this by saying, for this to be some of the best falafel and tzatziki you've ever had, you really have to like garlic. Garlic was the predominant flavour, and it paired so well with the picked and fresh vegetable and chewy flatbread. It was also a really great price point for an easy lunch or dinner.
The Exchange Restaurant at The Freehand Hotel - 416 West 8th St.
This hotel and restaurant opened up the same week that we were in the city and we were super impressed with their space. The decor was interesting and fun, the cocktails were thoughtful and some of the best I've had, and the food was good. It was difficult to find things that were allergy friendly, though the staff was very kind about going through the menu and working through the options. I think this would be a great stop for happy hour and some snacks.