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Jan 4, 2011 08:04 AM

visiting san francisco- gluten and lactose intolerant


We will be visiting San Francisco staying in the Fisherman's Wharf area. we are a 30-something couple with a five year old.

We love trying new cuisines and all eat fish but other than that prefer predominantly vegetarian fare. I have recently become lactose and gluten intolerant making eating out more difficult but not impossible.

I was thinking of Saha as one option but was hoping the SF chowers could recommend some great options as well. Our five year old is well behaved and has an adventurous palate. We will have a car.


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  1. Right up my alley! I have these same issues too. In general, restaurants in SF are very accommodating of allergy requests, but here are my picks:

    Saha is great and highly recommended if you think your son/daughter will like that style of food.
    Gracias Madre, in the Mission, is excellent vegan (so no dairy) Mexican food, and the menu is 90% gluten free.
    Dosa is a great Indian place with two locations (Fillmore and Valencia), pretty inexpensive, and again very GF-friendly.
    Plant Cafe on Embarcadero is also great, mostly vegetarian with some fish, and menu items are labeled for dairy-free/gluten-free.

    Good luck!

    Saha Arabic Fusion Restaurant
    1075 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

    Dosa on Fillmore
    1700 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

    Plant Cafe
    Pier 3, San Francisco, CA

    Gracias Madre
    2211 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

    1. I'm lactose intolerant too. Fraiche on Fillmore makes a soy frozen yogurt that I love, though I am not sure of its GF status. I tend towards eating Asian food out as it is generally lactose free, but I realize that can be problematic for GF, so I will defer to those wiser than I.

      If you're not from a major metropolitan area, you may also have fun in Whole Foods (or Rainbow) - no kidding. There's a whole aisle of dairy free frozen desserts that I never seem to find anywhere else. Also, check out Green Valley Organics in Andronico's dairy aisle (WF sadly stopped carrying it) - lactose free real milk kefir and yogurt.

      3 Replies
      1. re: artemis

        The soy yogurt is GF. Fraiche has an allergy sheet on their website.

        However, you can eat well in San Francisco. Do you need completely dairy free or just low lactose? If the latter you are even better off.

        I can't say I love it, but my Celiac son loves it - Amici's has gluten free pizza and dairy free cheese.

        In the Ferry Building you can get gluten free bread at Mariposa. I like their quick breads the most and some are dairy free. I am too picky about gluten free breads.

        For treats, XXX truffles has gluten free dairy free almond truffles which are very good, and Scream sorbet is a must for gluten-free indulgent sorbets. Available at the Thursday Ferry Building market I believe and at their store front in Oakland.

        South Indian is a natural match - I near the south bay where South Indian is wonderful so I haven't eaten at Dosa, but would recommend the general genre.

        Poc Chuc would work well too for some great Mexican food. Their black beans are gluten free, and you can easily skip the small amounts of cotija cheese. At the Ferry Building on Saturday Primavera would also work - I have had many dishes sans dairy.

        Really, you should just search the board for food choices wihtout the gluten/dairy restriction. If you post back with your choices we can chime in on whether it is gluten/lactose intolerant friendly. Most are - I certainly don't limit myself. Exceptions are Chinese food at most places, and certain other Asian cuisines that use soy sauce ubiquitously. For Vietnamese-ish, I have had slanted door which has some fish or veggie dishes which can be ADAPTED to be gluten-free. Also, there is a Vietnamese place in the Castro that has a gluten-free menu, although it is mostly fried.

        Fish is easy too. Tadich Grill or other simple seafood places are wonderful.

        Tadich Grill
        240 California St, San Francisco, CA 94111

        Poc Chuc
        2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        1. re: jsaimd

          SD is very nice about accommodating. They made a few special dishes for a friend a few years ago who is fish-allergic (no fish sauce). Unlike smaller, less tourist oriented places where you might or might not make yourself understood in english.

          1. re: bbulkow

            For the OP - SD is Slanted Door. Yes almost everything on their menu has gluten, but they are very good with accomodating where they can and i had plenty to choose from. They are reportedly good with avoiding cross-contamination, but you sometimes miss a bit of the dish in the adaptation when restaurants have to do that.

            Recently dined at French Laundry and while they have come light years since the last time I dined there in terms of accommodating gluten free diets, they still leave components out of dishes instead of serving a different dish. I don't really blame them - it isn't easy to deal with food allergy issues, but in some cases you could tell that there was a piece missing.

            In most cases I choose dishes that are inherently gluten free. I always ask my servers here in the Bay Area to let me know if there are substantial changes that must be made, so I can just order something else if the change is substantial enough

            Slanted Door
            Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

            The French Laundry
            6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

      2. If you have any plans to get to Berkeley, Gather is a great spot for you. Really great food, at least half of it is vegetarian, and the menu tells you anything that is gluten free. Not far from the Downtown Berkeley BART station and there's parking nearby (though, as in SF, parking in Berkeley can be challenging sometimes, but there's a pay lot not far).

        2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

        1. Asian cuisines are generally good for gluten-free items, alhtough not necessarily meat free.

          When my celiac friend visited a while back though, we went to Pagolac, which she really enjoyed, and they have quite a few good fish dishes.

          655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

          1 Reply
          1. re: vulber

            Personally, I find Asian restaurants (particularly Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) challenging because soy sauce has wheat in it, and I have a hard time finding vegetarian dishes without soy sauce that still taste good. Thai can be easier, though.

          2. If you are coming to the East Bay, Mariposa Bakery might be worth a stop.