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Dec 7, 2012 09:22 AM

City Center Non-Chain gluten free options?

I'm from out of town and I'll be in Philadelphia for a conference in April and I'm doing my homework to figure out where I can safely eat; I should note that I am an official diagnosed celiac disease sufferer so I really don't have flexibility when it comes to food safety.

There's a Chili's near my hotel and the usual fast food I can feel pretty safe eating, but I don't want that to be all I can eat. I tried googling for gluten free cheese steak options and apparently no classic options for that exist outside of the baseball stadium :(

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  1. Chili's? Yuck... Fortunately you are staying a block from Reading Terminal Market. It's open for breakfast and lunch and I am pretty sure they have some gluten free options. I do know that the Fair Food stand in the market carries gluten free baked goods and other things.

    Luckily there are websites like , and that list a number of places you can try in Philadelphia that are gluten free that are really good like Amada in Old City and Lolita and Kanella that are a few blocks from your hotel. Enjoy your visit!

    18 Replies
    1. re: bluehensfan

      I suggest a long walk or cab to quick fixx for gluten free pasta with great toppings you select. They also have awesome gf desserts from Sweet Freedom bakery (which is just down the street and worth a trip itself). GFphilly says Paesanos has gf bread, and they have incredible mindblowing sandwiches, also a cab ride. More walkable and good for lone diners would be philadelphia chutney company, continental midtown, el vez, garces trading co, good dog bar and hipcityveg (all on the gfphilly list). Thank you.

      1. re: Bride of the Juggler

        Thanks for the heads up on sweet freedom. I may make a visit to a Garces restaurant; I'm waiting to see what my per diem looks like.

      2. re: bluehensfan

        Thank you. I'll check out some of the links; in my local area I've tried to use urbanspoon before to little success but I'll check out the other two links.

        Have you been to Fette Sau before? I read an article that said I could have a lot of their offerings, although I'd probably have to take a cab or public transportation to get there.

        1. re: spinal77

          The good news is Fette Sau is a block off the subway on the Market/Frankford Line at the Girard Station. You could hop on at Market East (11th and Market) and head east for five stops. Admittedly, Fette Sau is not located in the nicest area ithe city but you should bw OK during the day. The problem I had with Fette Sau is that the food is extremely expensive and fatty as all get out. I took a picture of the brisket when we went there. The brisket looks more like road kill than something any human would eat. I would suggest calling up Percy Street BBQ and see if they have anything gluten free. It's a short (and safe) walk from your hotel and much better IMO. And here's what over $50 buys you at Fette Sau: (with two sodas and a bottled water)...

          1. re: bluehensfan

            Some other hounds have had better luck (with pictures) at Fette Sau. I haven't been there myself. The area is gritty but it's not unsafe, it's packed with young people and weekend nights are more than fine. That said a strategy of subway there and cab back may be the most comfortable for a visitor.

            Definitely check out Paesano's for sandwiches that are better than 99% of cheesesteaks anyway. The 9th St location is walkable and in the heart of the Italian Market. They definitely advertise the GF bread but there may be cross-contamination issues in the small kitchen so maybe call ahead first if you are sensitive to that.

            Phila Chutney Co is a great option for a quick meal too.

            Some sit-down options I know have GF are Modo Mio (Paesano's sister restaurant) and Giorgio's on Pine. The latter has a whole GF pasta and pizza menu, it is on their website ( and they do takeout, it's walkable from your hotel.

            If you like beer there are several bars that have more than a couple GF options like ciders (good craft ones) and GF beers. If you want recs let us know.

            1. re: barryg

              If you can suggest some of those bars I'd appreciate it. I saw Paesano's but i guess I always wanted to have an old school classic no matter how bad it was, but I'll settle for the classed up version.

              As a side note, since its popped up a I need to worry about personal safety after dark and alone? I'm used to wandering around DC and I did NYC alone as well...

              1. re: spinal77

                All the places mentioned are in safe, very walkable areas with the exception of Fette Sau which is too far to walk and is an "up an coming" neighborhood if you know what I mean. Not unsafe as I mentioned, unless you are really playing up the clueless tourist bit, but a different vibe than the Center City area and I could see someone not familiar with city not being comfortable waiting on the elevated train platform there.

                For bars, I'm not sure about ones super close to your hotel, finding cider wouldnt be hard but some might have good selections I don't know about. But the best selection I have seen recently was at a newish place called the Bainbridge Street Barrel House. They have 5 or 6 fruit/cider libations listed as GF when I was there a few weeks ago, but they aren't showing on their web menu -- just an oversight I think but worth calling. Food needed work when I was there but they were brand new. Another good spot is Devil's Den, they three ciders (including our locally brewed one, Revolution) and two GF beers in bottle - Neither are a crazy far or unsafe walk from your hotel but a cab/bus might be easier. You will also be able to find GF beer at a takeout bottle shop called The Foodery at 10th & Pine, which could be nice if you got to one of the BYOB restaurants like Modo Mio or Giorgio's. If I think of bars closer I will let you know.

                1. re: barryg

                  Also I forgot -- if you go to Tinto, one of the Garces places (not sure if they are on the GF list or not) they have four aged European apple ciders available you should be able to enjoy. Amada may have similar stuff, haven't checked. Tria, a wine/cheese/beer bar with two locations close to your hotel, also has a Basque cider.

                2. re: spinal77

                  if you're in center city, you don't need to worry any more than you would in DC or NY. Basically, if you don't go north of Race St or south of Bainbridge, you're fine. The vast majority of ways to go north or south of there are also fine, but things get more complicated (weird underpasses, random sketchy blocks surrounded by otherwise nice blocks). Same with going west of 40th street, though I doubt you'll wind up going any where near that far west.
                  It's still a city - I assume you carry your money in your wallet, and your wallet in your pocket or pocketbook, rather than taped to your forehead. Downtown is urban, often crowded, and generally safe; some of the spots mentioned are more than a long walk away, and there's lots to get through, better and worse ways to go, etc.

                  1. re: Bob Loblaw

                    Yeah, I know how to handle myself, I just wanted to get an idea of the level of attention I needed to pay to things. Thanks!

                    1. re: Bob Loblaw

                      Not safe south of Bainbridge? You've managed to exclude Passyunk East, Bella Vista,Queen Village and more from the bounds of safe travel. That's nonsense.
                      One can safely walk south from 11th and Market all the way to the POPE at 11th and Tasker without worry - that's about a mile beyond your boundary.

                      1. re: caganer

                        Sure, you could down 11th St to the stadiums and it would be a fine walk. But I think Bob's point was that while that is true, a tourist wouldn't want to walk the same distance down 6th or 5th Sts.

                        1. re: caganer

                          What I wrote: "if you don't go north of Race St or south of Bainbridge, you're fine. The vast majority of ways to go north or south of there are also fine,"
                          Seemed to me the easiest way to keep the post brief. It doesn't contradict what you're saying about taking 11th street.

                  2. re: bluehensfan

                    Thats disappointing; however I wouldn't be disappointed by the existence of fat; heritage pork is supposed to have a lot more because it hasn't been turned into chicken's first cousin by breeding it all out. I may still keep it on my list if personal safety isn't an issue. Thanks for the advice!

                    1. re: spinal77

                      Some people really like Fette Sau. I think you can request meats lean perhaps, but everything is sold by the pound so you can try lot of things if you wish.

                      1. re: spinal77

                        I haven't been to Fette Sau, but have had several people I trust rave about the place. Bluehensfan's is the only negative report I've seen, and I believe that visit was within the first week or two of opening, so hopefully it was an anomaly. It was just put on Eater's hot in Philly list and many people seem to be enjoying it.

                        The glutenfreephilly blog is really a great resource. Have a great trip.

                        1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                          Yeah, I went on opening weekend. On Yelp most people seem to like it but a few found it fatty and a others found it pricey. I must've struck out because nothing I had was all that hot.

                3. My SO is GF (by choice) as of Oct. 1 and we recently had two wonderful meals at Zahav, one of Philly's finest and most unique restaurants. They are very GF aware so that might be a good destination to consider. Not sure where you are staying but likely to be a short taxi ride.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cook262

                    I just found out that Zavino can do GF pizzas.

                  2. I think Rex1516 on South St has a separate GF menu. The food is tasty.