Note: this is a guest blog from Linda’s gluten-free, food-loving friend Sharman Hnatiuk.
When Linda asked if I could do a guest blog on a guide to gluten-free dining in Edmonton I was happy to oblige. After I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2010, I was crushed by the news. In fact, when my doctor gave me the diagnosis I was convinced she must be mistaken. I had grown up on a hearty diet of perogies, butter slathered homemade fresh buns, and gluten, gluten, gluten.
My initial response was “but I’m Ukrainian?”
My first taste of gluten-free commercially produced store-bought items horrified me. I was already a confident home cook and baker, so learned over time which items I could adapt to make at home.
Eating out was a whole other challenge. I was just learning what gluten was, and how it was hidden in items like soya sauce, salad dressings, and BBQ sauces; how could I expect people in restaurants to know what was and wasn’t safe for me?
In restaurants, I have learned over the years to ask questions, questions, and more questions.
One challenge is explaining to servers the seriousness of being Celiac, versus those eating gluten free because of a diet or a trend, and the importance of not ordering foods that may be contaminated with gluten. While chicken wings and potatoes might be gluten free, if they are made in a fryer that is also used to fry battered items, it is not safe. (I tried once after recently being diagnosed and paid the price with a week of illness).
Today, I find myself eating at far more locally owned and operated restaurants with trained chefs I can have conversations with, and begin to trust.
I also love hole-in-the wall spots, so I am always on the hunt for tasty ethnic eats. What I learned is that there are many, many places in Edmonton for me to safely eat.
Here is a hit list of some of my favourite/trustworthy gluten-free spots in Edmonton.
Please note: This is not an exhaustive list but certainly a comprehensive guide based on my preferences and experiences. The list may get additions as I discover more gluten-free options. If you have a gluten-free dish or dining spot you love that isn’t mentioned, feel free to leave a comment with your suggestions to help other gluten free diners!
Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Eating in Edmonton
My go-to spots in Edmonton for gluten-free baked goods are:
- Celebrate Gluten Free: Pick up their fresh baked breads (which don’t need to be toasted to make a sandwich edible), cinnamon buns, cheese buns, eclairs, cupcakes and squares.
- Totally Gluten Free: This is a bakery from Lacombe (worth stopping for between Edmonton and Calgary) that sells frozen GF bread at Bon Ton Bakery.
- Kinnikinnick Foods: My go-to source for baguettes and all-purpose flour blend. (Many of their items are egg/dairy free so I prefer the taste/texture of baked goods at Celebrate Gluten Free).
(My favourite meal of the day!)
- Cafe Linnea: A lovely restaurant specializing in traditional French and Scandinavian cuisine.
What I order: House gravlax, complete galette
- Canteen: Not your average breakfast joint – the brunch at Canteen always looks beautiful on the plate.
What I order: Huevos Canteenos
- Chartier: The poutine is worth the drive to this Beaumont gem.
What I order: breakfast poutine, eggs Donovan on GF bread.
- Culina at the Muttart: Open daily for weekday lunch and weekend brunch.
What I order: Huevos Rancheros, ask about the special of the day
- OEB Breakfast Co. New to the Edmonton dining scene, I first tried OEB in Calgary. I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the second location on 124 St., as the breakfast poutine can be served GF in countless options. The potatoes for the GF vs. contaminated look different, which helps reassure us celiacs we are getting the right order.
What I order: Poutine! (My faves are The Soul in a Bowl and Hog & Scallop), omelettes, extra sides of bacon and sausages
- Fairmont Hotel MacDonald – Empire Ballroom Sunday Brunch: The $59 Sunday brunch at the Fairmont is a splurge well worth it, especially for the Bottomless Mimosas and loads of GF options. (I was brought GF eggs Benedict to my table – just ask a server).
- Vintage Fork: Located in the historic Rutherford House on Saskatchewan Drive, I recently enjoyed the Vintage Fork’s four-course brunch for $30 available on Saturday and Sunday. I gave the restaurant a heads up and they had no issues accommodating my gluten free restrictions.
- Workshop Eatery – Chef Paul Shufelt may act like a grump on social media, calling out people who ask for substitutions, but if you are a celiac, you are in safe hands. After spending two weeks in Japan, where I had the hardest time finding gluten free food and lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks, brunch at Workshop Eatery was the first place I went after getting picked up at the airport. I normally order classic breakfast dishes, but I can’t say no to the workshop burger done on a GF bun for brunch.
What I order: The Woodshed Burger (GF bun), Just Ducky Omelette (request GF toast), Lox BLT Benedict (request GF toast)
Lunch & Dinners
- Cafe Linnea: Chef Kelsey has loads of gluten free options on her brunch and dinner menu. My favourite part about dinner is that when they offer their fresh bread to their dinner guests, they always have a house-made gluten free cracker or item available for Celiacs. And their desserts are awesome.
What I order: Beef tartar, cod en paillote, macaron & sorbet. I’m not a chocolate fan, but if you are go for the Chocolate & fennel
- The Common: Chef Jesse Morrison has long been a friend to Celiacs on his menu at The Common. Follow their social media to stay up to date on special events like Swine and Dines and Hip Hop brunch; I’ve always been accommodated.
What I Order: Crème brûlée (changes seasonally but always GF), buttermilk Jackson steak salad, soup of yesterday, piri piri steak sandwich (on GF bread), truffle popcorn, roasted broccoli.
- Fairmont Hotel Macdonald Harvest Room: Fairmont Hotels around the world are known for being able to accommodate dietary restrictions, and the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is among the easiest places for me to eat in Edmonton. Chef Mridul brings a wealth of experience to his newer post in Edmonton, and is happy to accommodate Celiacs in the Harvest Room for their special dining events. Their patio is also one of the best places to have a bite and enjoy the river valley view.
What I order: GF items clearly identified on their changing seasonal menu, but I recommend the beast board ($120 for 2 people) The Fairmont Mac is proudly celebrating farmers and local sustainable food, through menu tasting all on one board. Their chefs will create a grand platter of three local meats or Ocean Wise seafood from our seasonal menu completed by chef’s choice of seasonal vegetables and sauces (which can be made entirely gluten free!)
- Jack’s Burger Shack: I was never a huge burger girl, but now that I can rarely have them, I want them. Jack’s Burger Shack in St. Albert is a great spot for a GF burger and a shake. The staff are great with allergies so ask at the counter and they can confirm what you can and cannot order.
What I order: Shroom burger, fries (without the malt aioli), creamsicle shake.
- London Local: Chef Lindsay Porter is happy to accommodate GF diners at her British inspired gastropub in south Edmonton.
What I order: Char Grilled Bangers & Mash, Eton Mess, Roasted Tomato and Cheddar Soup (no croutons)
- The Marc: I’ve enjoyed meals by Chef Spencer Thompson at a few restaurants in Edmonton, and I was happy to hear he stepped in as the new executive chef at The Marc. Spencer has family members who are Celiac so I trust him in the kitchen.
What I order: I work across the street from The Marc and without fail, every time I dine there I get the lunch special, usually the fish of the day. The menu is small but a few dishes can be made GF – ask the server to clarify.
- Northern Chicken: While Chefs Andrew Cowan and Matt Phillips don’t have GF fried chicken on the menu, they have more than enough options for Celiacs that I will never go hungry there. Also grumpy with modifications like their friend Chef Paul Shufelt, but Andrew has a shellfish allergy and takes real allergies very seriously.
What I order: The confit chicken legs paired with bacon cream corn puts me in a comfort food happy place.
- Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse: Most people go to Pampa for the all –you can eat rodizo meat experience; I go for the unlimted supple of pao de quijo, or cheese buns. I was introduced to these chewy buns in Brazil – they are made with tapioca flour and 100% gluten free.
What I order: items on the salad bar are clearly labeled GF, eat all the GF cheese buns, and enjoy most of the meats (avoid the sausage as the last time I asked it was not GF).
- RGE RD: Chef Blair Lebsack and his team source ingredients from farms and small-scale producers across western Canada and they aim to use every part of every ingredient.
What I order: Beef tartare, tartiflette (they subbed the béchamel for an onion cream sauce), Nature’s Green Acres pig roast. The kitchen board and questionable bits change daily – ask to see if they are GF that day.
- SABOR: If you love seafood, and/or Portugese/Spanish inspired food, Sabor is your spot. Chef Lino is a local chef who can’t have gluten, so he is happy to accommodate Celiacs. The lunch menu feature always includes a GF pureed vegetable soup as well as a main course.
What I order: seafood risotto, grilled piri piri prawns, piri piri chicken, bacalhau, and ask about the catch of the day – if it is sea bream or any other fresh fish– get it!
- Workshop Eatery: In addition to brunch, chef Paul Shufelt has loads of GF dishes on his lunch and dinner menu.
What I order: Duck liver pate, devilled eggs (I am happy with these two dishes on repeat), sub for GF sides on the duck, lamb, or steak, and finish with crème caramel (or the crème brûlée when on the menu). Pescatarians can have salmon or the albacore tuna. Vegetarians can order the carrots (but sub barley risotto for potatoes)
- Under the High Wheel: Chef Doreen Prei, who trained in a Michelin star restaurant in Germany, can accommodate any dietary restriction you throw at her. I could not be happier that she has moved to Under the High Wheel so I can enjoy her food more often. Her recent Taste AB dinner was amazing.
What I order: Doreen is currently updating the dinner menu, but assured me there will be many vegetarian, meat, and sweet GF dishes to order.
- Bodega: There are three Bodega wine bar locations in Edmonton (the little sister restaurants to Sabor) serving up loads of gluten-free tapas.
What I order: Patatas bravas, bacon-wrapped dates (so addictive), braised boar cheeks, black seafood paella
- Bundok: Chef Ryan Hotchkiss once made me a chickpea pasta tortellini stuffed with chicken liver pate for a special Taste Alberta dinner. Gluten-free fresh pasta dishes are hard to come by and this dish almost made me cry with joy. The dish isn’t available on their regular menu, but I share the story to emphasize how Chef Ryan is willing to accommodate Celiacs.
What I order: Sea Bream Crudo, parmigiano soup (without the breadcrumbs), citrus posset (this is hands down my favourite dessert in Edmonton)
- Biera: I find that many restaurants that offer small/share plates have limited gluten-free options to a couple of dishes however, chef Christine Sanford has loads of GF dishes to choose from, you may just have to substitute out the accompanying bread.
What I order: Broek Acres Berkshire pork shoulder, grass-fed beef tartare, Meuwlys country ham
- Otto: Chef Steve has always been good to me, and his gluten-free sausages are top notch. For his last Swine and Dine he made the dessert for everyone entirely GF.
What I order: Italian fennel sausage (comes with sauerkraut & pickles) and Crème brûlée. (Chocolate brownie is also GF)
- Salz: I’ve had the pleasure of doing not one, but two Swine and Dine dinners at Salz, and the food was awesome.
What I order: Curb your German sausage fix with a brat and marinated tomato salad.
- Tzin: Chef Corey McGuire makes magic happen in his tiny kitchen at Tzin. His braised bacon continues to be one of the best dishes in Edmonton for a reason. While they don’t have gluten-free bread available, it doesn’t matter—that bacon is amazing! I always feel confident eating at Tzin, Chef McGuire is sure to take care of celiacs. Just follow his instagram – you’ll be drooling.
What I order: Patatas Bravas, Bacon (without the toast), seafood paella
I’m glad I had the chance to travel extensively across Asia before I was diagnosed with Celiac disease because I ate everything in sight. Today, Asian food is one of the cuisines I crave the most, but it is the most likely to include hidden sources of gluten. Luckily I’ve found a handful of places in Edmonton that I frequent:
- King Noodle House: Linda loves to tell people that the pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) at her parent’s restaurant King Noodle House is gluten-free and she confidently uses me as evidence. Note: this restaurant is cash only.
What I order: I stick to the traditional broth with steak, flank or brisket. Just ask for those as your toppings. Stay clear of the meatballs and processed meat in some of the soups as I can’t confirm they are gluten free.
- Prairie Noodle Shop: I get my gluten-free ramen fix at Prairie Noodle Shop. Chef Eric Hansen cannot have gluten, so his menu has several options, including fried items, which can be done gluten free.
What I order: charcoal salted edamame, Japanese fried chicken, spicy garlic miso pork ramen (GF sweet potato noodle), the saucy mushroom GF sweet potato noodle dish.
- Japonais Bistro: I love the Asian fusion flavours here and they have a dedicated gluten free menu!
What I order: new style roll, new style sashimi, cherry blossom, $2 Tuesday shucked oysters. Note – miso soup is not gluten-free.
- Ichiban: Most often, my sushi options are limited to sashimi or basic maki. I love Ichiban for their all-female kitchen of sushi chefs, quick service, good prices, and gluten-free roll options.
What I order: salmon sashimi, sunshine maki, negi toro. Fuji maki, maki maki. Note – miso soup is not gluten-free.
- Masalaz: I recently visited this South Indian restaurant and was amazed by the number of gluten free options. This strip mall restaurant is affordable and delicious.
What I order: masala dosa, lamb olathiyatheu curry, or go for the buffet.
- Boualouang Laos & Thai: For Thai food, this is my absolute favourite restaurant in Edmonton.
What I order: tom yum ga tee soup, pad thai, matsamun curry, gaeng-kiew-vahn (green curry).
Latin food restaurants almost always have gluten-free options because of the abundance of corn in their dishes. Be sure to ask what items might go in a contaminated fryer!
- Avila Arepa: When I find myself on whyte ave and hungry, Avila Arepa is a safe and satisfying bet. Be sure to notify the staff when ordering as the arepas are cooked separately.
What I order: Asado Negro arepa (blackened beef and cane sugar sauce), Pernil arepa (pork), patacones. * some fillings are made with items that may be fried in a contaminated fryer. Be sure to ask which are cooked safely GF.
- El Fogon: I love that at this family owned restaurant, located in a strip mall on 118th ave, I can pick up a lottery ticket while I am waiting for my order or arepas. My boy toy works with a Venezuelan who says that both El Fogon and Avila Arepa serve good food, but El Fogon is their top choice.
What I order: Reina pepiada (chicken salad) arepa, pork and cheese arepa, mixed pupusa. Note some fillings are made with items that may be fried in a contaminated fryer. Be sure to ask which are cooked safely gluten-free.
- La Patrona: my friend Michelle introduced me to this Sherwood Park strip mall restaurant. Be sure to make reservations as this place is busy for a reason.
What I order: Queso Fundido (sub corn tortillas), al pastor and cochinita tacos!
- Mamenche’s: this family run hole-in-the-wall serves up pupusas that taste authentic.
What to order: Pupusas and tamales
- Tres Carnales – the hippest taco spot in town can accommodate gluten free requests. Avoid anything from the fryer.
What to order: conchinita pibil, al pastor, carne asada and hongos tacos.
There are loads of places in Edmonton that can accommodate gluten-free diners, so my list just represents places I dine at. Other places that offer just one or two dishes didn’t make my list as I like having more gluten-free variety when I’m eating out.
I’d like to suggest avoiding chain restaurants with gluten-free or gluten aware menus because what it is really telling you is to be aware—your dish is likely to be contaminated with gluten, or modified so much (i.e. burger with no bun or sauce) its not worth ordering.
There are a number of places in town, some locally-owned, that claim to have gluten-free items like pizzas or pitas for example, but they are cooking these items in the same fryer or cooking source as gluten.
I think I could be called the angry celiac because places like this should label their menu items as – may contain gluten, and not gluten free. A restaurant would never throw a nut in the fryer and call the fries cooked in them nut free, but somehow restaurants think it is ok to fry gluten in the same fryer and not disclose it to diners. Nut free requests are taken seriously – gluten free requests are often not.
Be sure to ask questions each and every time you dine.
Restaurants can change their ingredients or cooking practices so be sure to always educate your server about your dietary restrictions.
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