Maybe your dietary restrictions are a matter of choice (the low-carb thing, veganism), or maybe they're more about bodily sensitivity or disease — celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a wheat allergy, or a form of dermatitis.
Or maybe you just don’t care for gluten. No matter which box you check, plenty of Phoenix-area menus have you covered. Some are 100 percent dedicated gluten-free eateries, while others offer gluten-free options and substitutes. Either way, you've got options. Here is your field guide to eating sans gluten in the Valley.
Perhaps the best gluten-free starter in town is the real cornbread with green chile at Chelsea’s Kitchen. It’s made in house, and it’s also pretty popular, so make sure it’s available before you get excited. And if you plan on sticking around, Chelsea’s Kitchen has a gluten-free option for many of its dishes. All you have to do is ask.
For more gluten-free bread a little further north, Tonto Bar & Grill at Rancho Manana offers a gluten-free bread basket made of quinoa, flax, sunflower, and sesame seed.
Anyone who knows gluten-free restaurants in Phoenix knows, and recommends, Jewel’s Café. Menu items are 100 percent free of gluten, and use locally sourced ingredients. It's also a pretty unique place — especially during brunch.
Go for the popcorn chicken and doughnuts, the cornbread pancakes and chicken, or the brunch sandwich: eggs, sausage, and cheddar cheese on a butter bun with a side of potatoes and buttermilk syrup for dunking or pouring all over the plate. Farther down the menu, there’s hot chicken and waffles.
If you’re looking to share (or not), try the Hatch green chile cheese curds, tempura ghost broccoli, sweet potato waffle fries, or brunch tacos. But the Frites Street fries deserve their own sentence.
To drink? Jewel’s Café offers brunch cocktails like the classic Bloody Mary, bottomless mimosa, and sparkling rose.
Another favorite gluten-friendly eatery is Pomegranate Café. Gluten-free (or at least gluten-free-adaptable) dishes include the pumpkin praline French toast, In Season Scramble, and the banana-heavy Chimpanzee Bowl. One of the cafe’s weekend brunch specials is the Pomegranate Sampler, which includes a choice of scrambled eggs or tofu, the pancake of the day or French toast, harvest hash, and tempeh “bacon.”
It's all in the name at Mama Jim's Gluten Free Kitchen. The roving food truck rolls around with offerings like the Swaffle (battered sausage waffle), breakfast burritos, chicken chunks, fries, and more.
Fox Restaurant Concepts has earned a reputation for being supportive of the gluten-free community, thanks to its menu items and a generally knowledgeable waitstaff. At Flower Child, you can't do much better than the Vietnamese Crunch Salad, which comes packed with quinoa, bell peppers, pineapple, avocado, cashews, and more. And the majority of the sandwiches and burgers at Zinburger can be modified for gluten-sensitive diners, as can its loaded fries and shakes (Butterfinger, thank you).
Speaking of burgers, Pizza People Pub has gluten-free buns (and pasta and pizza options) at the ready. The Stand Burger Shoppe in Arcadia also offers a gluten-free bun for The Standard, its famous burger.
Also in Arcadia, Chef Justin Beckett turns down the gluten dial with some menu items at Beckett’s Table. Go for the duck confit or a salad, or plan for entrees like the pork chop, scallops, or shrimp and grits.
True Food Kitchen offers a clearly marked menu of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. That includes the seared chicken satay, Good Earth Kale Cobb, Korean noodle bowl, Mauritius Island Redfish, and more.
Given that Italian food isn't often thought of as a particularly healthy cuisine, Picazzo's Healthy Italian Kitchen is an interesting name. But they do things a little differently than Nonnie at Picazzo’s. While not a completely dedicated gluten-free restaurant, its menu of salads, entrees, pasta and pizza can be served sans gluten. Think gluten-free focaccia, chicken piccata with zucchini noodles, chicken and eggplant Parmesan, and tiramisu for dessert.
And we haven’t forgotten about pizza.
They’ve got gluten-free cauliflower crust at Fired Pie, as well as Venezia’s, Upper Crust Pizza Patio & Wine Bar, and Zesty Zzeeks. You can even order the spanakopita — gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with spinach, lemon, garlic, kalamata olives, and a myriad of cheeses like feta, fontina, Asiago, and herb Parmesan — at Alamo Drafthouse locations in Tempe and Chandler.
Pita Jungle always has the back of Arizonans with dietary restrictions, and gluten-sensitive people are no exception. PJ offers gluten-free pizza crust for its beloved glazed chicken lavash pizza and gluten-free buns for the salmon burger, as well as gluten-free pitas and wraps.
Yaya's Mexican Bar + Grill is both a gluten-free and paleo-friendly Mexican eatery with food-truck roots. It claimed to be the first gluten-free food truck in Arizona back in 2015, and the physical location still slings gluten-free menudo, tortilla soup, enchiladas, and sides like cilantro lime cauliflower rice.
Gluten Free Creations Bakery, as the name implies, is a 100 percent zero-gluten eatery. While this place has a number of breakfast items — muffins, scones, bread — the desserts here take the cake. Three, in fact. Choose from the triple chocolate marble, lemon cream cheese, and cherry almond bundt cakes. Gluten Free Creations Bakery also offers cookies and brownies, with and without dairy ingredients.
While Nami is known for its vegan bites, it also offers gluten-free sheet cake, cheesecake, cookies, and doughnuts. What kind of doughnuts? Chocolate zebra, banana nut, blueberry, lemon poppy seed, and coconut latte. For more anti-inflammatory doughnuts, as well as other desserts, stop by My Gal Sal Bakery and Catering.
Last, but most fun, is Spooky's Swirls, Chandler's 100 percent gluten-free, horror-themed bakery. Enjoy a cupcake resembling the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, or Han Solo frozen in carbonite while perusing movie props exhibited by the Horror & SciFi Prop Preservation Association.
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Scottsdale’s Blue Clover Distillery offers small-batch vodka made with naturally gluten-free corn in flavors like blood orange, regular orange, and regular lemon. In fact, if you head over to Old Town you can try signature cocktails like the Scottsdale Sunset (Blue Clover Distillery grapefruit vodka, lemon, aperol, prosecco, and lavender bitters) right in the distillery.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on April 19, 2019. It was updated on January 17, 2020.