Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Times Square, NYC

New York City… It’s a city that never sleeps, bustling with yellow cabs and people on sidewalks. It’s full of bright lights, high-rise buildings and souvenir shops on every corner.

It was night when we arrived in the Big Apple – our hotel in the heart of Times Square. Walking around in awe… lights blazing, sirens blaring and horns honking… we looked at each other and smiled. We were finally here! Although our stomachs weren’t as happy and demanded food! Not knowing where everything was situated, we walked around and hoped for the best, finally deciding on a traditional American diner, TGI Fridays. Our waiter was lovely, telling us places to go and shows to watch. So I decided to take a stab in the dark and ask the big question… “Do you know if anything on the menu is gluten free?” Instead of the blank look I was expecting he replied, “Sure, let me get you the allergy menu.” I instantly fell in love with New York!

A whole rack of ribs at TGI Fridays... and yes I ate them all!

We kept ourselves busy and jam-packed our 10 days with loads of outings! Unfortunately it rained 8 out of the 10 days we were there. Yes we got caught in the rain multiple times. Yes we bought dodgy umbrellas on the side of the street that broke by the time you got to the next corner. Yes we still had an amazing time! We went to China Town, Little Italy and Soho. We braved the Subway and got on the wrong train many times. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Statue of Liberty, and watched a Broadway show. We climbed the 'Top Of The Rock', took a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, and spent some wonderful time catching up with family. And in between all of this we shopped up a storm!

Central Park, NYC

NYC is full of places to eat… There’s street food, diners, pizzerias, fast food chains, takeaway stores and 1000’s of restaurants to choose from! So where does one begin on their search for the best gluten free food?

Well, first of all let’s start with breakfast. Most hotels offered daily Continental breakfast. Unfortunately the choice was limited and you end up with fruit and yoghurt (if you’re lucky). My advice is to buy a box of cereal and take it with you to breakfast and use the hotels milk and fruit. I discovered a gluten free variety called Chex, which I bought from the local supermarket. I had the Rice Chex but it also comes in Corn, Honey Nut, Chocolate and Cinnamon (yum!).

Yummy GF cereal found in a local supermarket.

Lunch options were a little bit easier. After yet another rainy day, we stumbled across a great soup place, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Hale and Hearty offers soups and salads, and pretty much all their soups are gluten free – just ask for no add ons like pasta or couscous. They have a great variety of soups including Vegetarian, Low Fat and Dairy Free options. It’s not the famous Soup Nazi from Seinfield, but it’s a great quick eat for lunch!

Japanese is also usually a pretty safe bet for lunch or dinner. There are loads around NYC. One in particular that we tried was Tenzan. The waiters were very helpful with gluten free options, and I was even told that some customers bring their own GF soy sauce for the chefs to cook with.

In the West Village you will find Taïm Falafel & Smoothie Bar. Taïm means ‘tasty’ in Hebrew. All their falafels are gluten free and – true to their name – delicious! I admit this was my first falafel experience, but I loved every minute of dipping those cute little flavoursome bites into homemade hummus… What a treat!

During the 'Sex and the City' tour we visited Buddakan restaurant, where Carrie and Big had their rehearsal dinner in the first movie. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to go back for dinner as we ran out of time, but I spoke with the Maitre d and she assured me that they can cater for gluten free needs. Buddakan is modern Asian cuisine, and if you’re looking for somewhere special this is a great place to be! 

For more Asian delights, Lilli and Loo on Lexington Avenue is a great Chinese restaurant with a gluten free menu!

If you have a craving for gelato, head to GROM. This gelato originated from Italy so you know it’s going to be good! GROM collaborates with the Italian Celiac Association and all of their gelato is gluten free except for a few which are marked up on their menu. I couldn’t go past my favourite gelato flavour, Coconut. It was creamy and delicious!

For all you sugar lovers, Babycakes is the place to be! It is dessert heaven!

While we are enticing our sweet tooth I need to tell you about my very exciting trip to M&Ms World! For all my Australian readers, you will know that M&Ms are a no go as they contain wheat starch. Well for some reason the Americans have changed the recipe to make them gluten free. Yes you heard me. M&Ms are gluten free in the USA!!! So make sure you stock up!

Look at all the different flavours of GF M&Ms!!!

Here is a list of a few more places that I didn’t get a chance to get to while I was in NYC.

  • Mozarellis – gluten free pizza, pasta and desserts.
  • Pappardella – gluten free appetizers, pizza and pasta.
  • Risotteria – this place sounds amazing and I am so disappointed I missed out! Not only is it a restaurant, but they also have a bakery and frozen food selection to take home. The menu is clearly labeled as gluten free. Starting with GF breadsticks for starters, they offer a range of GF appetizers (including meatballs!), salads, risotto, pasta, panini, pizza, cupcakes, desserts and even beer. So if you’re in the Greenwhich Village, be sure to check it out and let me know what it was like!
  • La Bottega – offers a huge variety of panini and many can now be made on gluten free panini! There are quite a few locations and each have a slightly different menu, however all menus are marked clearly which items are gluten free.
  • PinkBerry – Frozen Yoghurt. All Pinkberry frozen yoghurt flavours and the Pinkberry Fruit Parfait are gluten free.
  • Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – Natural, vegan and dairy free ice cream with lots of gluten free options. Rumours are they even have gluten free ice cream cones!
  • Popbar is a frozen eatery serving high quality gelato, sorbetto, and frozen yogurt on a stick! You can create your own ‘Pop’ combinations with toppings and ‘poppings’. All popbars are Kosher, gluten and preservative free! However add on ‘Poppings’ such as granola and brownies contain traces of gluten. So be wise about your choice and speak to a ‘Popologist’ in store.

5 Avenue, NYC

I hope this helps anyone thinking of going to NYC or has enticed you to travel overseas. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask, that’s what we are here for!

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  1. Thank you , nice little read

  2. Thanks very much for this very interesting blog. We will be in New York in a week or so with our 15 year old gluten free daughter. I have researched and know of plenty of places to go but you mentioned some I didn't know about. I know she would love those ribs you got at TGI's. We will be staying midtown (Lexington and 49th). Do you know of any other places where you can have a quick gluten free bite to eat on the run? Thanks!

  3. Oh and thanks for mentioning M&M world. My daughter will definately be wanting to go there. We are from Australia where the M&M's are not GF as you said. Speaking of another unhealthy but sometimes convenient snack - can you please clarify whether the fries at McDonalds are gluten free there? Sometimes one must resort to McDonalds fries and shakes to calm down a hungry teenager when there is nothing else around.

  4. Hi Grace,
    So glad you enjoyed reading the blog and that you got some good tips!
    Unfortunately I can't confirm if McDonald's fries are GF. Although when you're there do check out Johnny Rockets! Their fries and patties are GF http://www.johnnyrockets.com/
    Also if you are in Little Italy you will easily find GF pasta at almost any restaurant (see post here - http://two-silly-sisters.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/little-italy-nyc.html)
    I hope that helps! Have a fantastic time on your trip and we would love to hear of any new places that you discover! xx