As part of our 2017 California road trip, we headed to the Southern city of San Diego. We loved the city’s mix of green space, sandy beaches and urban drive and we found lots of amazing gluten free food to keep us going.
There is even a gluten free bakery here (plus a couple of additional dedicated gluten free locations, which have opened since our visit)! I also found some outstanding gluten free brunch spots that could cater for me as a coeliac. I hope you enjoy San Diego as much as I did!
Gluten Free San Diego
Balbao Park and Surrounds
This fabulous park houses San Diego zoo and is definitely worth a visit, whether or not you visit the zoo. There is some fantastic architecture to behold, a Spanish village and some beautiful landscaping to walk around. Bag yourself a gluten free picnic (with supplies from the nearby gluten free bakery) or eat at one of these gluten free friendly cafes in the local neighbourhood.
So let’s start with that gluten free bakery I mentioned! This wonderful fully gluten free bakery is also free from a number of other allergens (check out their website for full details). This really is a must-visit place while you are in San Diego. Please have one of their gluten free pretzel rolls – do ittttt. Whatever else you order will be excellent too, but those pretzel rolls were something special. My husband reckons he prefers them to regular bread and I was happily munching them straight from the bag. We tried one of their campfire cupcakes and some other treats too – everything was scrumptious.
A cute little cafe that was fab for gluten free and very reassuring about coeliacs needs. They advised me not to have anything from the fryer (potatoes and chips) but said they would take extra care to avoid cross contamination when preparing my brunch and the bread would be cooked in a clean pan.
We had the Tuscan eggs Benedict with added prosciutto and a side salad instead of potatoes. It was lovely – on wholegrain gluten free bread with wilted spinach, sundried tomatoes and a buttery hollandaise sauce on perfect poached eggs. We also tried the Valentine French toast on gluten free cinnamon and raisin bread as it sounded epic. French toast stuffed and topped with raspberries and drizzled with white chocolate sauce. It was huge! Two thick slices of gluten free bread cut in half with all the drizzle. It wasn’t too sickly either, but definitely packed a sugary punch! All that delicious gluten free food was easily washed down with fresh orange juice and a foamy chai tea latte.We really rated this brunch spot – nice and airy, with friendly helpful staff.
This little place was two doors down from Fig Tree. We didn’t eat here but I wanted to mention it in case the line for Fig Tree Cafe is too big. They have gluten free bread on the menu for brunch items and sandwiches, plus lots of nice smoothies and some outside tables.
Snooze Eatery was recommended to me by a coeliac blogger friend, who had visited earlier in the year (thanks for the tip, Refrain From the Grain!). Although they have a notice on their menu saying that there is a risk of cross-contamination, she assures me that she ate here twice with no ill effects. It was hectic busy so we decided not to eat here, but I hear their gluten free pancakes are something special.
San Diego Zoo
A note to let you know that I couldn’t find any gluten free options here (really disappointing!), hence please take gluten free supplies with you. Grab yourself a takeaway sandwich from Fig Tree Cafe and a cupcake from Starry Lane to have as your gluten free zoo lunch.
After the zoo, have a walk round Balboa park, as you will quickly discover how pretty it is and it shouldn’t be missed.
Central San Diego and South Park
We tried a couple of places around the centre of the city and in the South Park suburb, as follows.
They serve mega gluten free pizzas at this Italian pizzeria, which is incredibly popular. Best to book a table in advance. They can cater for coeliacs with gluten free crusts prepared and cooked separately. The crust was impressively puffy and thick. Like a soft bread roll with nice chewy crusts. Toppings include mushroom, prosciutto and truffle oil.
More pizza, but American this time! Fresh Brothers do EXCELLENT gluten free pizza and have measures in place to prevent cross-contamination. The pizza we had from Fresh Brothers was one of the best I have ever had. They do takeaway so you could even have a cheeky pizza lunch on the beach if you fancy it.
This craft brewing company has opened since we visited, but they operate a fully gluten free kitchen so could be a great place to try. The menu at their East Village location include Brazilian cheese bread, pork sliders, mac n cheese and other delicious-sounding fare.
We arrived into San Diego quite late in the evening and we were reeeeally hungry. DS found this spot as it advertised lots of gluten free options. The food was an average standard but they were excellent for gluten free and preventing cross-contamination. We accidentally shared a 1 person 4 course menu between the two of us…but we were still full afterwards! The menu consisted of cheese fondue with bacon and potato bits, gluten free bread and veggies for dipping. Then a salad and meat fondue for the main
We stayed in a BEAUTIFUL boutique hotel in the Gaslamp District called the Pendry. They have a number of restaurants onsite and I was told all of them were able to cater for gluten free and coeliac dietary requirements. We didn’t get a chance to eat here but I really recommend a stay as their rooms were super cool and stylish with incredibly comfortable beds. Plus as a guest you get free entry to their rooftop pool parties. Thanks for having us, Pendry Hotel team!
Since we visited, a couple of dedicated gluten free eateries have opened in this part of the city:
Gluten free bakery with a grab and go offering, plus you can preorder specific treats if you contact them a minimum of 48 hours in advance. Their website mentions cinnamon buns, cakes, bagels, bread and more.
With a fully gluten free food menu, this taquito restaurant is a great choice for coeliacs.
This paleo dessert shop is gluten free too. Check out their website to see their product range.
Mission Beach is very close to the city and is an awesome place to spend a sunny day. The ocean on one side with waves perfect for bodyboarding. A calm clear lagoon on the other side, with SUP and kayak rentals. The lovely shallow water and soft white sand makes it perfect for kids too. You can hire bikes for $10 a day and there are lots of surf hire shops too, or places to buy beach stuff.
A Latin American inspired brunch spot with serious portions. They have gluten free bread and a dedicated menu. Staff were very accommodating when I mentioned I was coeliac, saying the potatoes would be shallow fried in an individual pan and my bread would be toasted on tin foil to avoid cross contamination. I had Papas Locos – a huuuuge plate of food, fried potatoes topped with black beans, tomatoes, cheese, spring onions and sour cream. I also added a side of scrambled eggs and it came with epic rosemary gluten free bread.
La Jolla is just North of San Diego and we stopped here for the day on our way down through California. The beaches are beautiful and teaming with wildlife. From sealions colonies lounging all over the rocks to the harmless, spotted leopard sharks darting across the beaches, this place is a snorklers paradise. Have a dip in the warm waters or lounge on the sand until the sun goes down. We opted to have a picnic here, but I spotted couple of restaurants that said they could cater for gluten free.
This restaurant looked lovely with very cool interiors. They had a number of dishes that could be adapted to be gluten free, which were starred in the menu for easy reference.
A Mexican chain restaurant that was recommended to me by my Instagram followers. I was told they offer a good variety of gluten free options.
There you have it, my gluten free San Diego guide! If you like what you have read here, please check out my other California guides and gluten free travel guides. I would also love to hear your feedback and other recommendations – do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.