Don't Let Your Restrictions Restrict You

Anyone who has been diagnosed with a food allergy or has dietary restrictions knows how hard it can be to find a restaurant that meets your specific needs. I was diagnosed with celiac about seven years ago, and finding out bread and beer were off the table was awful. Brunch, was also my absolute favourite meal, and let’s face it, breakfast food is known to be wheat heavy. Back then, being gluten free (GF) wasn’t as trendy as it is now and I struggled to find restaurants that actually understood what gluten was (no, potatoes don’t have gluten mister waiter and yes, I’m sure) and that had food I wanted to eat. It seemed that every gluten free option was also vegan or vegetarian, and after having to give up wheat, I didn’t want to sacrifice bacon too.

Luckily, in the last few years, Toronto has gotten a ton of great gluten free menu options and restaurants, so I’ve put together a list of my favourites, from brunch all the way to after dinner drinks!

First stop, Harvest Kitchen! Harbord Street is home to a ton of gluten free gems but Harvest Kitchen is one of my favourites, especially for brunch. Giving up eggs benny wasn’t something I was willing to do and they have a fantastic English muffin alternative that’s delicious, with no resemblance of cardboard. My go-to is their Pingue’s natural Peameal Bacon Benny.

Other great GF brunch options include Lola’s Kitchen, Fresh, Hello 1,2,3, Lady Marmalade, and Insomnia, just to name a few.

Next up, lunch! When I was first struggling to find restaurant options,  a friend of mine suggested I check Kensington Market for GF options and after wandering around I stumbled on Hibiscus Cafe. This adorable little spot had something I’d been craving since I had to cut out wheat – crepes! With both savory and sweet options, it was hard to choose, but my tried and true pick is the Vegan Mozzarella Tomato Basil Spinach Mushroom Crepe. And yes, it’s as good as it looks!    

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Other go-to lunch spots are: Impact Kitchen, Aroma, Kumpfert & Kim and Hero Burger.

Now, especially with how nice it’s been, everyone needs a mid-afternoon snack. I mentioned before that I love brunch more than dinner, but I love ice cream over everything, especially a good ice cream sandwich. Insert Bang-Bang. This cult favourite not only has some of the best flavours in the city, but it also has gluten free cookies to fulfil all your gluten free ice cream sandwich dreams. The only downside? The line. But it’s worth the wait.

Brett’s Ice Cream, which has at least two or three different gluten-free cones and Summer’s, the Yorkville favourite, which has been around over 20 years and, more importantly, has gluten free waffle cones are also delicious options.

In terms of dinner, I will say the city has come a very long way in the last five years and there are countless options, for almost every type of cuisine, but none got me as excited as Pizza Libretto, announcing a certified celiac kitchen! A good GF pizza is hard to come by, in fact, my favourite was a four hour car ride away; needless to say delivery wasn’t an option. Luckily, Libretto came through with their Nduja Sausage pie, which is a total game changer; to the point I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how often I eat there. It’s hard to find a restaurant that understands celiac and goes the extra mile to ensure there’s no cross contamination, not to mention taking the time to perfect their recipe, which they have. Next girls night, date night, or any night, make them your first stop.

Other great dinner options include Terroni, Piano Piano, Tabule, RIz, Planta, Off the Hook, Playa Cabana. The Beet, and the list goes on!

To finish off the day, who doesn’t want a good cocktail or glass of wine? Now, don’t get me wrong, 90% of cocktails and beverages are gluten free but these were too pretty not to share! Fresh has been a long-time favourite of mine for every meal but they recently launched their cocktail menu and it’s upped the ante on their already amazing menu. My cocktail of choice is usually a Manhattan or a Moscow Mule, so a friend and I tried both and couldn’t get over how refreshing they each were. Cocktails made with natural ingredients make them almost healthy right?

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I could go on-and-on about great GF places around the city but let me know if you have any favourite spots!