SXSW has come and gone, and Austin has returned to its regular level of activity: bustling. March to May is a high time for out-of-towners to visit before the heat returns and bakes its residents, bleaches the streets, and scorches the land. For gluten-free travelers, Austin can sometimes be stressful, since a lot of eating is on-the-go and service staff don’t always know what’s gluten-free.
With that in mind, here are eight delicious spots downtown and across I-35 that you might want to commit to memory so that you don’t have to whip out your phone every time you need to eat.
This spot is on Dirty Sixth itself, a beloved staple featured on Food Network and touted for “best burgers and bar food” in Austin by The Austin Chronicle, Austin360.com, and Fodor’s. Burgers can always arrive without the bun, their chili fries are a delicious goopy glop of gluten free paradise, and they also have gluten free hot dogs.
In the heart of downtown, this restaurant serves upscale, New American dishes and is open for brunch, lunch & dinner. Manyitems off of their regular menu can be adjusted, and, with celiacs in mind, the food is not prepared near anything that could cause cross-contamination. (But, as with any dining experience, cross contamination is always a possibility, no matter how slight.)
Menu favorites include the Seared Faroe Island Salmon prepared over a bed of arugula, the Raw Kale and Carrot Salad (red quinoa, red grapes, red onion, chickpea dressing, dill), the Roasted Beet and Arugula Salad (candied pecans, camembert, pickled shallots, cranberry vinaigrette) and last but not least, their Congress burger, a pretty famous staple. Made of ground brisket and chuck, topped with gruyere and horseradish pickles, it comes wrapped in lettuce. Outdoor seating available.
Frank has hot dogs, cold beer, live music, and an art wall. For the gluten free crowd, they offer sausages, hot dogs (with gf buns!), chili cheese fries, and cocktails. (Note: their vegan sausages and vegan franks are not gluten free.)
Also downtown on the “dirty” side of Seventh Street, this cafe has an outdoor patio. It’s healthy pan-Asian food with a conscience, so it’s vegan, no msg, all fresh ingredients, and low oil, sugar, and fat content, etc. etc. You will basically feel really good about yourself when choosing this spot because who knows what else you are doing to your body this week. Have some summer rolls, or try the obake bowl (with wheat free sauce), a light stir fry (mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, rice wine) without oil—make sure to add a fried egg or shrimp on top—or go for the Mix Mix Bibimbap, a light salad of shredded veggies surrounding rice (brown or white). Again, you can add fried egg, avocado, or tuna.
Grab something for now or later— food at this grab-and-go is pre-packaged in BPA-free, recyclable containers that are clearly labeled according to whatever need you may have: (gluten free, paleo, vegan vegetarian, dairy free), as well as common dietary allergens. Try the Vegetable “Lasagna” (tomato, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, mushroom, oven roasted marinara, and part skim ricotta), the Grass-Fed Beef Meatballs & Peppers, or my old standby, the Chicken & Green Chile “Enchiladas” which are gluten and dairy-free.
This place is always slammed, but if you can snag a spot on the rooftop, it is so much fun to have a bird’s eye view of all the action taking place on the street below. Relax with margaritas, chips and queso, enchiladas, grilled fajitas, fish tacos, paella, and many other gf options, designated on their special gluten-free menu.
Homemade, Peruvian dishes can be found at this tasty little food truck. Enjoy the Anticuchos (#2) (grilled a la plancha beef heart marinated in ají panca and spices, grilled potato, choclo, a peruvian corn, rocoto sauce and green onions), the Papas a la Huancaina (#3) (yukon gold potatoes with an ají amarillo and queso fresco sauce, hard boiled egg, alfonso olive), the Ají de Gallina (#8) (pulled chicken in a creamy ají amarillo sauce, Yukon gold potato, hard boiled egg, alfonso olive, served on garlic white rice), and the Arroz con Pollo (#9) (braised chicken, cilantro rice, salsa criolla). Best part? These are all under $10!
This restaurant’s ‘Late Night Bites’ menu (10pm-2am) is particularly thoughtful for the drunk-hungry zombies streaming through downtown as shows end. Any of their tacos, like the pork carnitas which include pickled onions and queso campesino can be made gluten free, as well as their burgers, which boast gluten free buns. Take note: their chips are NOT gluten free. This spot is quite popular since the location is in the middle of everything (part of the new JW Marriott) and the open air setup provides incredible people-watching…and lounging, so take that into consideration.
Megan Renart is a writer and editor who made Austin her home for 11 years and now travels along the west coast. She once won first place in a karaoke league for being her own self-contained duet and dressing up as half Dolly Parton, half Kenny Rogers, and singing Islands in the Stream.
Main photo by Jessica Mullen CC BY