My guide to New York Cities allergy friendly restaurants
There is no one-way to describe New York. It is a city like no other; it is a city of dreams – well my dreams.
I don’t know how to explain how I feel about the city, but it’s similar to when you see a flat or house you like, or when you fall in love and you just know. You don’t need answers to the questions, it works, and the negatives don’t annoy you…that’s how I feel about NYC.
NYC is my perfect place where I am so happy. There is an energy that the city gives me, a current of excitement that runs through me every minute I’m there.
This energy comes from the streets, the cafes, the restaurants, the bars, the arts, the sports, the patriotism, the diversity, the noise, the parks, the buildings, the rubbish, the dogs, the yellow cabs… it is in everything and it is fabulous.
Travelling is undoubtedly my favourite thing to do; I love exploring new places and the thrill of the unknown. Yet I will always go back to New York, there are many other places I have loved but I probably won’t go to again. Whereas NYC is a place I always crave and is a sort of therapy for me.
I have been coming to NYC since I was a little girl and some of my key life moments have happened there: learning to swim when I was 4-years old, and getting engaged there 20 years later. Now I live in San Francisco so visiting NYC is much more accessible. One day I would love to live here but for now it is still my great travel love affair.
So what are some of the things that make NYC an amazing place and what shouldn’t you miss out on:
1) Walking the streets, especially around Greenwich Village’s, Bleeker St. The area is packed with amazing shops, food places and buildings. Most of my favourite restaurants in NYC are here.
2) Central Park is fantastic and my favourite place in the city. Walk the entire park, don’t miss out on a single part of it, start at one end and weave your way to the other. You can have a pit stop at Le Pain Quotidian or the Boat House. The Boat House is wonderful for the views, and sitting by the window over-looking the lake can’t be beaten. You could also get food at nearby Whole Foods Market in Columbus Circle for a picnic in the park.
3) Museums and Galleries that are particularly fabulous are the Natural History Museum, Metropolitan Museum and MoMA. The Guggeheim is particularly wonderful for the building itself.
4) Other great walks: along the Brooklyn Bridge; the High Line (although this can get very overcrowded); a great path called River Side Park along the Hudson River side of Manhattan (west side), which is great for walking or cycling (you can hire bikes around here too).
5) Best view: Top of the Rock is way better than the Empire State view. Go before sunset and you can see the view in both light and dark.
So here are my food recommendations by area:
This restaurant was divine, buzzy, lively but also intimate. It was freezing in the city but walking into Perla was cosy with a beautiful warm lighting making it so inviting. The smell of food was totally mouthwatering; it smelt of Parmesan and bread. If you don’t eat meat or fish or gluten, then sadly the menu wont be that suitable. I don’t eat gluten, dairy or meat but I do eat fish and the salmon I had was seriously good, and carefully cooked free of dairy and gluten.
Going to a restaurant where the menu clearly identifies what foods are gluten free, dairy free, vegan (and here even onion and garlic free) was a complete joy, making ordering so easy and enjoyable, no stress of asking and explaining what you can’t eat. Discovering Ellarys Greens was a real treat. It has a lovely vibe, very relaxed and informal, but still special. The menu has a fabulous range of foods from vegetables and salads to proteins and grains. We had the salmon with fennel which was exceptional, I have never been asked how I would like my salmon cooked before and so at this moment I knew it was going to be delicious, and it was. As were the accompanying Swiss chard and sweet potato dishes. I went here with my mum and we both thought it our favourite place with all the right vibes, superb service, delicious food, and located in my favorite area of the city. They also had totally scrummy desserts.
What a great restaurant. We hadn’t booked, which I would advise as most good places in NYC are busy, but we were able to sit at the bar, which I loved, it’s intimate and personal. You can chat with the bar staff, who are super friendly and bring an extra level of service to your meal. The restaurant was full but the acoustics were great, with all the buzz but still able to hold your own conversations. The food was really good, the portions of some of the dishes were a little small, perhaps because you’re expected to order starters and mains. There is a lot of choice on the menu: good fish, meat, pastas and vegetables, and the restaurant is happy to make substitutions, so you can always find something you can eat.
New York is a city of my ‘food dreams’ and Hu Kitchen is up there with the absolute best. Finding a place where I can eat everything causes me a mini- decision breakdown, as I am not use to having choice. Normally there is one thing on the menu I may be able to get the kitchen to adapt so I can eat it, but when I walked into Hu a totally grain free, dairy free, soya free, low sugar place I know I am not going to have that problem. The only difficulty is deciding what to eat.
What made this place so totally awesome is the Mash Bar for breakfast where you can order a cup and fill it with whatever delicious things you crave – there are choices of chia seed pudding, taro pudding, oats, fruits, nuts, seeds, chocolate, nut butters and many more amazing things. This was a delicious start to the day; I also had a scrummy banana walnut muffin and a coconut crack bar, which I am definitely going to recreate a recipe for. There was such a wide range and it looks great for lunch as well. It isn’t a sit-in-for-hours sort of place, it’s mainly for takeaways but there are seats, and with food like that, I did sit there for ages eating and feeling giddy by the choices.
After taking the red eye from SF we needed a breakfast place that was open early. Jack Wife’s Frieda opened at 9am so our first call after arriving in NYC. The restaurant was sleek and cosy inside with the comfiest seats, exactly what we were craving. The food is not marketed as gluten free or dairy free, but if you can eat eggs there are lots of options.
If you want a perfect date, go to Perla or Charlie Bird then to Grom for gelato. Even if you are here in winter, it is warm inside Grom so it is always wonderful. They have this amazing chocolate sorbet (it is made with egg) that was truly the best chocolate sorbet I have ever had. It was so creamy and chocolaty, I was ecstatic.
Endless ones to wander around in the streets north of West Houston St, particularly between 6th and Hudson, where most bars do a good happy hour 5-7pm. For a spacious place with a lively and fun atmosphere try Houston Hall, it is a beer hall but also has wine. Fat Cat a great bar to have drink, jazz, play pool or ping-pong. It is perfect if you feel like a more lively and interactive time but still want a drink and to chill.
Other places I saw that looked good but didn’t have time to try:
Moustache – a Middle Eastern restaurant.
16 handles – soya and yoghurt soft serve.
Mulberry and Vine – a healthy breakfast and lunch spot serving GF and V items.
Sacred Chow – a healthy restaurant serving GF and V items.
This is an ideal great spot to have dinner if you are around the Meatpacking area and want a place with a good atmosphere and good food. Spice Market is very well designed, creating a lovely warm atmosphere. The food is also very good, the menu doesn’t highlight explicitly GF, V items but with some adaptions you should be able to find something you can eat.
The Standard Biergarten is a great place to grab a drink in the summer to soak up the Meatpacking vibes. Sitting outside under the High Line, drinking and even playing ping-pong is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon in NYC.
Little Italy, NOLITA, SOHO areas
You will spot this place from the yellow awning and door. The café is vibrant and fees like a deli/old butchers shop, but it is a warm and healthy vegetarian place.
It is a better venue for 2 people as there are not many seats for larger groups. There is a varied menu for all, including vegan and gluten free options. I had the chia parfait and raw cacao hot chocolate, which on a bitterly cold NYC day was perfection.
We had only intended on stopping here for coffee and tea as our breakfast was just 2 hours before, but the menu was so good we couldn’t resist a second breakfast – it was holiday after all. I chose the acai bowl, which was the best acai bowl I have had. It was so creamy but thick and substantial with delicious toppings. I highly recommend Two Hands with its great juices and teas as well.
Look no further than this bakery as you will not find better baked goods anywhere. NYC does actually have a few gluten-free and vegan cafe options but many still suffer from the either or problem – gluten or dairy free, not both, and most are dry and crumbly. Erin has managed to crack the gluten-free vegan baking, creating the best baked goods I have had, even comparing to gluten and dairy-filled options. You will be in heaven when you walk into this café, small with few seats, but a huge range of delectable heavenly treats. There are donuts, yes donuts that are lighter than air, sweet and just beyond delicious; cookies that are crisp and perfectly chocolaty; and a divine range of cakes and cupcakes. I was like a child in that bakery, just didn’t know what to choose and hopping on the spot with excitement. So yes, I did have 2 donuts, a cookie and the chocolate crumble cake to myself, and yes I did go back there every other day I was in the city. The donuts are my favourite, especially the Samoa ones. It’s a must-go-to place if you’re in NYC or LA (where Erin has another cafe).
A place that has a VW parked in the middle making tacos, with fairy lights and a great buzz, what’s not to love? We had a special evening here, having drinks, and checking out the variety of vegetable and fruit juices. It is refreshing to go somewhere that has delicious healthy non-alcoholic drinks called ‘mocktails’, and at not crazy prices too. I had a seriously perfect carrot, ginger refresher. You can eat here as well – gluten-free items but not corn free.
Other places I saw that looked good but didn’t have a change to try:
Little Cupcake Bakeshop – one or two gluten-free and vegan items.
Taim – gluten-free falafels and some dairy-free and vegan items.
Egg shop – this place looked great, nice inside area and menu (that is if you can eat eggs).
Angelica kitchen is a vegan plant-based restaurant that also has listed gluten- free items. The menu is interesting with a lot of Asian influences; we had one of the pantry plates so we could try the different dishes and two of their delicious salads. It was a scrummy meal and topped off with an amazing chocolate chip cookie. This cookie is a must-have as it has the perfect level of chocolateyness and a great crunch and chewiness. Angelica Kitchen is cozy, casual and relaxing, and for me an ideal place for lunch, rather than dinner.
Upper East Side
A wonderful Greek restaurant that felt authentic and with very large Greek men eating here. This is a great spot for dinner, lively but still personal.
There is not a special menu for dietary requirements but if you eat fish or meat you will have plenty of choice as dishes I ordered were made gluten and dairy free. If you only eat vegetables then you will find lots of yummy starters. The atmosphere, food and service made this place very special.
There are two different names for this brand of vegan restaurants and two different locations in UES as well, which can cause confusion. We went to Candle 79. Each of the venues has a different vibe, and some different menus so check out in advance. If you want dinner, I highly recommend Candle 79, as it is a more upscale dining experience. I went with my husband, mother and a family friend who has lived in NYC for over 40 years, and they were very impressed. Candle 79 is an elegant restaurant with stylish presentation of food and different from previous vegan and gluten-free restaurants we’d been to that are cafe/lunch or hippy vibe. To start we had the Middle Eastern platter, which was a little disappointing, but we saw the guacamole starter on the table next to us, which looked seriously good. We went on the chickpea cakes, the portobello burger and some salads, which were delicious. The only sadness for me was the dessert, with soya as their dairy substitute so I couldn’t eat any of them.
This newly opened restaurant is a breath of fresh air in the Upper East Side. The UES is full of fancy, white table-clothed restaurants, and I can never relax and fully enjoy them, so it was a welcome find this fun, lively and chilled place. It is a popular spot with families so if you go as we did for an early dinner it will feel a bit like you’ve at a kid’s birthday party. But by 7:30pm the atmosphere had totally changed and became a dimly lit cozy intimate setting. The food was delicious, offering gluten free pizzas and yummy salads.
Upper West Side
Vegan food has become seriously good, and this is a restaurant to go to even if you’re not vegan. I went with friends who were skeptical, especially when they looked at the menu and saw many ingredients they hadn’t heard of, but were won over after eating. The food was particularly good quality, delicious flavours, well-presented, good portions and a yummy range of food. I would particularly recommend the eggplant stack and kale salad, which were both seriously good. On the table we also had the tacos, lasagna and sweet potato fries, which everyone raved about.
There are also 2 other restaurant locations in Chelsea and West Village.
I was very excited to go to Spring Natural Kitchen as I saw they had a good range of vegan and gluten-free items and what caught my eye were the pancakes. I love pancakes, but unfortunately I found out their pancakes were made with soya milk, rotten luck. I quickly got over my disappointment and ordered the Green Shakshuka, which was really delicious and probably much better for me anyway. It is a popular place, especially for weekend brunch; and no reservations unless you’re a large group, but we were seated relatively quickly. It has a very American busy buzzy feel, a perfect spot for brunch.
Other gluten-free, vegan, raw places I saw that looked good but didn’t have time to try:
Community food and juice
I love a place where you can draw on the tablemat; it creates a lovely atmosphere all round. You have families with kids drawing, you have couples playing naughts and crosses, friends doodling, every body engaged by the crayons you simply can’t resist.
Egg has a lovely clean white minimalist feel with a warm and friendly feeling. The food is also delicious; it is a fab brunch spot. If you eat eggs there are many options, including gluten-free, dairy-free and soya free.
Other gluten free, vegan, raw places I saw that looked good but didn’t have time to try:
Little Choco Apothecary
A gluten-free and vegan creperie, which sadly, I was too late to try, but I’ll be there when I’m next in NYC.
Various Locations Around the City:
The few chains below are so perfect for breakfast and lunch. They are all super aware of allergies, have good labeling and vegan and gluten-free options. Wherever you are in the city you will have one of these nearby.
This is a great place for a quick healthy and filling breakfast, snack or lunch on a day’s outing around NYC. They have acai bowl and some scrummy smoothies, and also baked goods and other salad lunch items.
Now serving chia seed puddings and other gluten-free and dairy free breakfasts.
A very food-intolerant aware place, which has labels that show what is in each food and a real focus on healthy fresh food. It is a great spot for a quick lunch when you have a busy day of sightseeing planned.
My favourite of all these chains is Juice Generation, I love their Green Acai Bowl, it is really yummy and the perfect breakfast or snack. Starting the day with one of these bowls sets me up perfectly and provides all the nourishment and energy I need. There are also baked good and takeaway lunches.
This is a very insane supermarket as it has such a choice and is so pretty, and everything is calling to you from the shelves. It is pricey, but then again, for lunch and snacks when you’re on holiday it is good value. There is a great range of takeaway foods and lots of vegan, gluten-free items. The store at Columbus Circle on the corner of Central Park is by far their best store for the range of food there and the ease of walking around in.
I hope you enjoy New York Cities allergy friendly restaurants as much as I have.