Restaurant News

A Field Guide to Gluten-Free Dining in Greater Phoenix

Gluten-free options are all over the Valley.
Gluten-free options are all over the Valley. Lauren Cusimano
Maybe your dietary restrictions are a lifestyle 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 eateries have gluten-free options. Some have 100 percent gluten-free kitchens, while others offer gluten-free menus and substitutes.

Here's your field guide to eating sans gluten in the Valley.

click to enlarge The green chile cornbread at Chelsea's Kitchen is a gluten-free dream. - MELISSA FOSSUM
The green chile cornbread at Chelsea's Kitchen is a gluten-free dream.
Melissa Fossum

Appetizers

Perhaps the best gluten-free starter in town is the real cornbread with green chile at Chelsea’s Kitchen in Arcadia. 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 in Cave Creek offers a gluten-free bread basket made of quinoa, flax, sunflower, and sesame seed.


Jewel’s Café brunch menu items are 100 percent free of gluten. - JUDY NICHOLS
Jewel’s Café brunch menu items are 100 percent free of gluten.
Judy Nichols

Breakfast

Anyone who knows gluten-free restaurants in Phoenix knows and recommends Jewel’s Café in east Phoenix. All menu items are 100 percent free of gluten and use locally sourced ingredients. Brunchers can 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. 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 — this one.

Another option is the 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.”

For the obvious breakfast dishes sans gluten, head to U.S. Egg. Gluten-free dishes there include a breakfast sandwich, eggs Benedict, those mega waffles, and French toast.

For a quick breakfast, Kaleidoscope Juice has grab-and-go gluten-free offerings like vegan muffins, brownies, granola, and protein cookies.

click to enlarge It's all about quality, and being sans gluten, at Zinburger. - JACOB TYLER DUNN
It's all about quality, and being sans gluten, at Zinburger.
Jacob Tyler Dunn

American

Fox Restaurant Concepts has earned a reputation for being supportive of the gluten-free community, thanks to its menu items and 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 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.

With locations in downtown Tempe and Chandler, Pedal Haus Brewery offers an entirely gluten-free menu. On it find entrees like crispy pork schnitzel, Haus-smoked salmon, and the Beer Can Chicken (half a roasted chicken marinated in the Day Drinker lager). Gluten-free sides include fried Brussels sprouts, coleslaw, and seasoned fries.

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.

click to enlarge Try the 10-inch cauliflower pizza at Zesty Zzeeks Pizza & Wings. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Try the 10-inch cauliflower pizza at Zesty Zzeeks Pizza & Wings.
Lauren Cusimano

Italian

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.

In addition, Pasta78 in Chandler is a build-your-own-pasta joint with a gluten-free pasta option — the penne. It’s imported from an Italian company, Sogno Toscano, and made with corn and rice.

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.

Mediterranean

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.

click to enlarge A well-dressed bowl of pho from Pho Binh Minh. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
A well-dressed bowl of pho from Pho Binh Minh.
Lauren Cusimano

Vietnamese

Though ramen is unfortunately off the table for those with a gluten-free diet, pho thankfully is still a go.

Scores of pho eateries are now found throughout the Valley, but some of our favorites include Pho Thanh, Da Vang, and Pho Binh Minh — all unassuming strip mall joints in central Phoenix with next-level food.

Mexican


Local Mexican chain Manuel's Mexican Restaurants marks dishes on its menu as gluten-free, making your ordering process all the less difficult. Gluten-free house specialties include fajitas, the carne machaca dinner, and carne picado. You can also go for the Baja fish tacos or seafood enchiladas if you ask for corn tortillas instead of flour.

Other Mexican eateries with multiple locations and easy-to-spot gluten-free options on the menu include Los Sombreros, Macayo’s Mexican Food, and Joyride Taco House. Single-location spots with gluten-free Mexican fare range from Centrico in downtown Phoenix (those flautas de papa look good) to Aunt Chilada's near Dreamy Draw (gluten-free chips on request), and SumoMaya in Scottsdale (sushi, too).

click to enlarge Spooky’s Swirls has gluten-free and super-silly treats in Chandler. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Spooky’s Swirls has gluten-free and super-silly treats in Chandler.
Lauren Cusimano

Sweets

Most of the cakes from the online bakery Bear and the Honey Specialty Bakery — which can also be found operating out of Driftwood Coffee in Peoria — can be made gluten-free, paleo, and/or vegan.

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.

click to enlarge Scottsdale’s Blue Clover Distillery has gluten-free vodka. - BLUE CLOVER DISTILLERY
Scottsdale’s Blue Clover Distillery has gluten-free vodka.
Blue Clover Distillery

Drinks

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 Scottsdale distillery.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on April 19, 2019. It was updated on January 13, 2021.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano