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Mar 6, 2013 12:26 PM

San Sebastian - gluten free mid-range lunch/dinner (...& pintxos?)

Hello all! I hope I'm not asking questions that have been covered in too much depth in the past. I searched and couldn't find much, so any suggestions would be helpful.

I know it's early, but my boyfriend and I are doing a 6 night, 7 day trip in mid-July to San Sebastian, where our whole focus is on the food. I've already made a reservation for lunch at Akelarre and I'm waiting on confirmation for a dinner Zuberoa reservation. We're also planning on dinners at Bodegon Alejandro and Elkano.

First part of my question: I have celiac disease (i.e., I cannot eat gluten). All of the above restaurants have been recommended as accommodating, though I know tasting menus may or may not be available to me. Because of this, we're mostly doing lunch and dinners at actual restaurants. Does anyone have recs for good places that aren't insanely pricey (30-50E/person avg)? Some ideas I've found are:

- Narru
- Ibai
- Casa Urbano
- Restaurant Astelena
- Bokado
- Ni Neu
- Zelai Txiki

Which of these are worth it? Or other suggestions? We prefer a mix of modern/innovative and simple/traditional food, and obviously places that don't rely heavily on bread/breads/batters and/or are happy to make accommodations (without losing the essence of the meal).

But then the SECOND part of my question is that my very patient and non-celiac boyfriend is still interested in doing at least one pintxos crawl (and I agree it's an essential experience!) But is there anything I can eat in any bar? I know I can probably get jamon or olives-and-anchovies, but I'm concerned that cross contamination would be high and that all the bread pintxos would be pure torture. I've heard whisperings that Bar La Vida offers non-bread based pintxos, but can't get confirmation. Anyone have any experience with GF pintxos (or lack thereof)?

Thank you in advance!

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  1. Not all pintxos are mounted on bread, although most of the ones you would grab from a bar are indeed on top of a piece of bread. Many places will have breadless items and those which offer plated pintxos will have lots of gluten-free options.

    1. I like Narru, Ibai (not accomodating, I wouldn't think), Astelena and Zelai Txiki of the restaurants you've listed. My friends here that are gluten free rarely go out to eat, just because it is SO difficult.
      At bars pintxo hopping I would stick to racions, like you mention, of anchovies, ham, cheese, patatas bravas...I feel like nearly every pintxo has something bread-y about it, whether it's a sauce, coating, or the slice underneath.
      Bar La Vida recently changed owners/menu so I don't know how reliable your info is.

      2 Replies
      1. re: batbihiru

        Wow, would you say the other reply is misinformed about there being plenty of pintxos that are gluten free from the kitchen? I'm also surprised to hear that eating out is so difficult for your friends - everyone I've spoken to has said that Spain and Basque country is among the most accommodating in the world...and the restaurants I've been in contact with didn't seem thrown by my requests and questions at all. Would you say it's a pervasive issue? Or are the higher-end places probably my best bet?

        Now I'm nervous!

        1. re: annadc_maam

          Let's see...accomodating at the moment of trying to help and speak English etc, yes, they are quite nice. And I think asking ahead makes a big difference.
          But when it's pintxos....I suppose it depends on the level of your gluten intolerance. I have one friend who is severely intolerant and he rarely goes out for pintxos because even a bit of flour will cause him to have a reaction. I'm trying to think...there are grilled brochetas that are often served alone, but they may be grilled on the same grill they toast bread on. See what I mean? So it just depends on you, I think. Hope that helps! If I were you I'd try and I would learn how to say 'severe allergy to gluten'. Although I bet there are some waiters who won't know exactly what that means...beware of breadings and fried things!

      2. I know it has been 2 years since you posted this thread, but I just came across it when searching for GF options in San Sebastian... I am visiting next month, and I also have celiac. Would you mind sharing your experience? Were there any restaurants you found particularly accommodating (or any that I should stay away from?) Thanks in advance!!