Anyone with a gluten allergy knows how tricky it can be to find a safe place to eat while traveling.
If you’re someone who has Celiac disease or a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, dining out can be like stepping on to a minefield. A wrong step, one cross-contaminated meal, and the vacation you looked forward to all year is blown to pieces.
Depending on the sensitivity, finding a spot to eat can become a literal pain. My mother and sister both have Celiac disease, and my doctor has ordered me off the maligned protein. My mom — who is excruciatingly sensitive to gluten — has a term for when a restaurant serves her something that was supposed to be safe for her to eat, but instead keeps her in bed for the next few days: slimed.
You want to enjoy the great dining experiences Las Vegas offers, but so often, you’ve gone to a restaurant, only to find the best you can negotiate from the kitchen is a basic salad, or if you’re lucky, steamed veggies and a baked chicken breast.
Restaurant servers have to practice patience as gluten-free diners ask a litany of questions about what, exactly, is in a dish. Something as simple as french fries can act as a poison when eaten by someone with Celiac’s or a gluten sensitivity. But french fries are just potatoes fried in oil, right? How could someone get sick from that? Simple. If the oil is also used to fry onion rings, or anything with wheat flour, some of that gluten remains behind in the oil. The fries then dipped in the same oil have now been cross-contaminated.
For many, that’s all that it takes to get “slimed.”
Many Las Vegas restaurants are getting hip to gluten-free dining, though not all gluten-free menus are created equal. Some restaurants take great measures to ensure no cross-contamination happens in the kitchen. Others throw a disclaimer on their menu that basically says, dine at your risk.
The following are spots I and other non-gluten eaters have tried on the Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Please feel free to add your favorite in the comments area or email me and Ill add it to the list.
Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas offers a full gluten-free menu, and as a French bistro, even offers warm gluten-free bread with your order. Mon Ami Gabi is a favorite brunch spot on the Las Vegas Strip. For you dessert lovers, there are — count them — four gluten-free items, including the mouth-watering flourless chocolate cake.
Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Flamingo Las Vegas has a well-rounded gluten-free menu. The head chef told Vegas.com that all gluten-free dishes are prepared separately, and the cooks handling the ingredients wear gloves to further prevent cross-contamination. The delicious gluten-free buns are baked on-site, so if you’re looking for a cheeseburger in paradise, this is your place.
Lombardi’s Romagna Mia at Planet Hollywood offers a fairly lengthy gluten-free menu of northern Italian fare. The restaurant is a regular stop of mine when I’m at Planet Hollywood to catch a show. I love bread, miss it immensely, and the focaccia offered on the gluten-free menu hits the spot.
35 Steaks + Martinis at Hard Rock Hotel: When I dined here with my sister, they were extremely accommodating to her. Not only must she avoid gluten, but she’s also a vegetarian (I know, I know). Everything coming out of the kitchen was delicious, and she left there happy and stuffed. Hard Rock Hotel also offers a gluten-free menu at Pink Taco.
Nine Fine Irishmen at New York-New York has a dedicated gluten-free menu, including a traditional Irish shepherd’s pie. Wash it all down with a pint of hard cider.
Rice & Company at Luxor is a great spot for sushi, and offers a gluten-free menu. Ask the chef to make a Fantasy sushi roll sans the gluten — it’s delish!
Wild at the Ogden in downtown Las Vegas is a hip spot off the beaten path. Down some gluten-free beer and share a pizza with your date. The pizza crust is among the best I’ve come across in my hunt for a decent gluten-free slice of pie.
P.F. Chang’s at Planet Hollywood offers a gluten-free menu with such favorites as coconut-curry vegetables, Mongolian beef, Singapore street noodles, spicy chicken and egg drop soup. For a refreshing drink, give the gluten free Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale a try.
Tips on keeping your trip gluten free:
If you are ultra-sensitive to gluten and just don’t want to risk it, you could always rent a small fridge for your room (fees vary depending on resort, but budget about $25 per night) and head over to the Whole Foods located south of the Las Vegas Strip to stock up.
Carry a food allergy restaurant card that explains your intolerance to gluten.
If you have a smartphone, download the free Find Me Gluten Free app to find restaurants on the Strip and elsewhere.