Why New York?
New York, New Yorrrrrkkk!! Having changed my role at work this year, it was the first year that I have ever been able to take annual leave in December without any hassle, and as a result I immediately booked a four night trip to New York for all things Christmas! I love NYC and it is such a magical time to visit, see all the Christmas lights, and of course eat all the gluten free treats!
The Flight – Virgin Atlantic
We flew from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic after seeing they had return flights for £300. We used airmiles though to upgrade to premium economy. I ordered my meal online in advance and the chicken and sweet potato meal was pretty good with sides of salad, a roll, apple crisps and raspberry jelly. The afternoon tea that came around later had a substitute of fruit salad and cherry raisins which wasn’t quite so well received!
The Hotel – The Edison
Hotels in the US are expensive and rooms in NYC hotels are small, especially if you want to stay in Central Manhattan. However, visiting for only four nights meant we wanted to be able to walk around all the City easily so we decided to stay near Times Square. Prices were pretty similar for many hotels, so we stayed at The Edison which has Friedman’s Restaurant in the hotel. A decision that worked well for us as it meant late night gluten free chicken burgers on arrival, easy breakfasts in the morning and amazing pastrami sandwiches before heading to the airport home.
This was my fourth trip to New York having visited for the first time in my teens with my dad in February 2001 on a whirlwind two nights to visit all the sights at a time when I didn’t know what gluten was. We crammed in trips to the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, went on a horse and cart ride around Central Park, had my make up done in Macy’s and poignantly now went up the World Trade Center.
Paul and I visited New York for three days together in 2012 on our first trip together to America, when we also visited Niagara Falls and Toronto. This trip was in a similar vain to that with my dad of trying to see as many sights as possible in three days. This was shortly after Hurricane Sandy had hit the city and we were unable to get off at the Statue of Liberty and lots of the subway stations were closed still. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza at Times Square and having done no research for gluten free I struggled finding safe places to eat. Not that many places had gluten free menus at that time and if they did it didn’t mean they were clued up on cross contamination and eating out wasn’t as fun as it should have been. I had travelled less at that time and didn’t do the research that I do now, I was still going to restaurants as if I wasn’t coeliac, just turning up and hoping for the best and New York is not the easiest city in which to do this, especially in 2012.
Our third trip to New York was in 2016, meeting friends for two nights as an extension to a different holiday to America. We stayed at Doubletree by Hilton in The Financial District as this trip was to give us a chance to go up the Crown at the Statue of Liberty and have a chance to get off the boat which we couldn’t do on the previous trip. We also visited One World Observatory and the 9/11 memorial which is so incredibly moving so everything was based in Lower Manhattan. The hotel location was perfect for the two nights for what we wanted to see and do. I was also much more clued up on where to eat and ate at some amazing restaurants that I of course wanted to revisit on this trip!
New York as a huge city has so much to see and do, which is why we have been back a few times especially as we have never been for more than a few days. It was lovely to go this time without a checklist of tourist attractions to see but instead just spend some time being in the city and enjoying the festivities.
Locations: The Edison Hotel off Times Square (Theatre District), Chelsea (near The High Line), Columbia, Herald Square, Upper West Side and Herald Square.
On this trip we ate at Freidmans three mornings out of four as it was just so easy to do so and we enjoyed the food and the normality of being able to go downstairs for a hassle free breakfast! I celebrated my birthday here by sharing the fried chicken and cheddar waffles and the blueberry pancakes and we both loved both dishes, so delicious!! The pancakes did need more syrup though, not sure if it was that they were gluten free but they definitely easily soaked the syrup up so the small pot was not enough. Paul ordered the normal blueberry pancakes the next day as decided if the gluten free ones were good then the normal ones would be amazing – he was most disappointed to learn that there was no difference!
I also enjoyed the French toast with berries (but I think I would have preferred the blueberry topping from the pancakes) but still loved the toast, I just couldn’t allow myself to look at the normal version of this breakfast that had huge thick slices of toast!
The nova benny was also amazing, a dish of poached eggs and salmon on potato rosti, so yummy but incredibly filling. I always forget how large portion sizes are in America and as a result we really struggle to eat three meals a day when on holiday here.
I highly recommend visiting this restaurant with a great gluten free menu, clued up staff and food served with allergy sticks to help you feel reassured. There are several locations within New York (but not in Lower Manhattan which is why I didn’t make it there on my 2016 trip as on a trip with friends I didn’t want to be travelling to find breakfast!)
Locations: Several NYC locations, I visited the Manhattan/Midtown West location that wasn’t far from Times Square at 135 W 50th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue.
On the only day this time that I didn’t eat breakfast at Friedmans I visited Little Beet to meet Erin who runs the #glutenfreeglobetrotter website and Instagram account which has helped give me confidence over time to travel with coeliac without so much of the frustration that I encountered in 2012. Erin, from New York has so many suggestions for gluten free restaurants on her website including a list of 100% gluten free restaurants if you don’t feel safe eating anywhere with a shared kitchen and I definitely recommend her site as a resource if you want more recommendations than the places that I managed to visit!
Little Beet, a 100% gluten free casual restaurant that serves healthy build your own bowls style food for lunch and dinner wasn’t somewhere I’d considered for a breakfast until Erin suggested it for the meet up. I ate the spicy avo toast, which was nice but expensive for the size and a delicious cinnamon sugar donut by Sans Bakery, the reason that Erin had picked here and it was yummy!
Fresh and Co
Location: Many locations across NYC.
On my last trip when looking for a quick breakfast on the go with my friends ahead of our Statue of Liberty reservations we tried Fresh and Co. I was super nervous ordering pancakes from here as it wasn’t somewhere I’d come across on my research but gluten free was advertised in the window and the staff did their best to reassure me and from what I know cooked them separately to the other pancakes on a dedicated side of the grill. You will need to check yourself that they take cross contamination measures especially as this was a couple of years ago but the staff were good, knowledgeable and I wasn’t sick after my pancakes so potentially somewhere to try if you’re staying in Lower Manhattan or see one of these on your travels.
Location: 206 Sullivan Street. [We visited after visiting The Oculus near the 911 memorial museum, it was a couple of stops on subway line E to West 4 St-Washington Sq Station 0.3miles from Senza Gluten].
We headed to Senza Gluten for Sunday brunch as a 100% gluten free option before our flight home. As they don’t serve it until 12 we ended up going for more lunch type options with Paul opting for lasagne and I had the truffle eggs bread. The food was nice enough but we didn’t feel it was as amazing as the hype on social media. They also had some muffins and cakes laid out in the restaurant but we decided to visit the café instead down the street for a sweet treat.
Senza Gluten Café – 100% GF
The café, although small had a lovely vibe and amazing friendly staff – we really loved it here so after trying to decide for ages whether to have brunch at the restaurant or café I think we made the wrong decision opting for the restaurant. However it was nice to be able to try both.
I was struggling to decide what to have when a member of staff asked if I wanted a recommendation to help – um yes please! This turned out to be a great decision as his recommendation was an éclair which they didn’t actually have out on display so he went to get me one from out the back. It was totally incredible and I loved every bite.
Paul does not have anywhere near my sweet tooth and opted for the vegan apple and cranberry loaf. It had a lot to live up to seeing as though he’s neither gluten free nor vegan, and he really enjoyed it. He however was not that happy that they had run out of English breakfast tea as he was counting on it being somewhere to get a decent cup of tea!
Location: many across NYC including one branch opposite The Edison Hotel.
Baked by Melissa was a revisit for me after the mini cupcakes being so good from my last trip. With so many branches of this bakery across New York you should be able to easily pick some of these up – I brought them home with me as they come prepackaged to prevent cross contamination.
Locations: Several across the USA with three in NYC. Upper East Side (780 Lexington Avenue), Brookfield Place (225 Liberty Street) and Penn Station.
Where else can you get a gluten free red velvet cupcake out of a cupcake ATM?! I recommend this for the novelty factor alone!! I visited the Lexington Avenue branch and have safely eaten their cupcakes in a few of their branches. However, the red velvet is the only gluten free option.
Not an obvious choice but definitely go to Starbucks so that you have an excuse to pick up the epic Goodie Girl mint cookies and the marshmallow dream bar both of which I brought home with me.
Locations: Four in the New York area including Upper West Side (2442 Broadway) and Upper East Side (1236 Lexington Avenue).
Often gluten free bakeries aren’t that centrally located and I know as much as I love them it isn’t Pauls idea of fun to visit them all! Therefore I was very grateful for Erin’s tip that cakes from By The Way Bakery are sold in the fridges at Wholefoods as I was easily able to pick up two cakes. Both gluten free and dairy free I chose a raspberry iced vanilla sponge and a carrot cake. Both cakes were lovely and moist, but I preferred the carrot cake out of the two. If you don’t have a chance to visit the bakery this is a good way to sample some of their products and especially good if you need dairy free as well as gluten free. However, I also wish I had made it to their actual bakery as their posts on Instagram are drool-worthy.
Locations: six across Manhattan.
Having seen on Instagram including from Laura’s blog (#myglutenfreeguide) thag the Melt Shop offered gluten free options I was excited to try them. However, there was no indication in the restaurant or on the menu that gluten free was offered. I was very surprised when they actually did have gluten free bread. It took some effort asking about cross contamination as the staff didn’t seem to understand my accent, even when I just asked for a bottle of water they didn’t understand me the first time to give you an idea of how difficult the conversation was! If I hadn’t been told from a few reliable coeliac resources that they were coeliac friendly I wouldn’t have attempted to eat here. I’m glad I perservered though as the maple bacon grilled cheese sandwich was so good and gooey but I was gutted that they said that they couldn’t do the tater tots gluten free as Laura had managed to get some according to her blog post!
One of my favourite choices from Friedmans was recommended to me by Sian (#Glutenfreemrsd) – the Rueben. This was a pastrami, gruyere cheese and sauerkraut sandwich, something that I have been dreaming about since watching my friends eat them at Katz and I enjoyed every bite of this sandwich that we ordered at the hotel before getting a taxi to the airport.
Location: East Village (197 1st Avenue)
This was the place that I loved the most on my last visit that I was gutted not to revisit. The gluten free mac n cheese there is incredible and I recommend this as one of my favourite places to eat in NYC. I ordered a small bowl which was big enough for lunch for me, eating there after a trip to Katz for my friends to eat so that they didn’t miss out on this famous deli from the film When Harry Met Sally. I loved the experience of visiting Katz with them but I didn’t feel safe eating there hence the trip to S’Mac afterwards. I think all of their mac n cheese could be made gluten free and they advertise vegan options online.
Location: 309 W 50th St (not far from The Edison Hotel)
This was our favourite restaurant on this trip, the pizza was absolutely amazing and we really loved the feel of the restaurant. Paul loves pizza anyway as one of his favourite foods so he was very happy with this choice. However, the pizza does contain gluten free wheat starch so if you have a wheat allergy and not coeliac/as well as coeliac it is unfortunately not for you. Located near Times Square it was a great choice for us for a fairly quick meal before heading to see the Broadway show Frozen.
Location: 200 W 57th St (we went after ice skating in Central Park).
Highly recommended on social media I was excited to order Chinese at Lili’s 57. However, perhaps controversially we didn’t really like the food here. We found it so bland and tasteless that we wouldn’t return. It may have been our food choices, or our tolerance of spice compared to what is served in America but it definitely was not for us. We ordered the prawn dumplings which was the best dish we ordered and the salt and pepper squid for starters. The squid were dry and in desperate need for some sauce. My main of kung po chicken turned up looking bright, colourful and delicious making it even more of a surprise that it was so tasteless. Paul’s beef noodle soup he also said was bland and very disappointing.
Locations: Many across the USA, with four in New York. 1st Avenue, By The Lincoln Center, Union Square and Tribeca (Lower Manhattan).
I love Rosa’s Mexicano, a chain I first discovered in Miami. Having eaten there on my last trip to New York as well, this is where I went for my birthday meal. I love their guacamole that they make up fresh as you order and the enchiladas are gluten free and lush. This was the fourth time that I have eaten safely here and can recommend it, especially with a margarita or two.
I ordered the fried chicken burger that comes with chips. The burger was epic but I found that the bottom of the burger bun had gone a bit soggy but that may have been from the takeaway dish that I had it in as I ordered it for the room. Bear in mind this was about 10pm on arrival to NYC and I was so grateful to be able to easily order something that was safe, let alone a fried chicken burger!
Location: 1501 Broadway
I ate here as one of the restaurants that would serve me in 2012 with some cross contamination awareness and I have since eaten at the branch in London. It didn’t have the most extensive menu for gluten free which hopefully will have improved since then but I did get a safe meal and loved the concept of the restaurant. If you liked the Forest Gump movie and want somewhere fun to eat this could be an option for you to try.
Locations: Many across New York, I visited 250, 7th Avenue after a trip Eataly and the Flat Iron.
So many gluten free and dairy free options Wholefoods is a must for By The Way Bakery cakes, and lots of gluten free goods to take home in your suitcase! I recommend Glutino fudge covered pretzels and Tate’s cookies.
Location: A few around Manhattan, I visited 675 6th Avenue.
The line to pay at Trader Joes was crazy but I’m still glad we went here as it meant I could pick up gluten free cookies, candy cane oreos, pumpkin pancake mix and everything but the bagel sesame seasoning.
This list is all the other places that I was recommended and desperately wanted to visit, but I just didn’t have enough time:
Location: 350 Lexington Avenue.
Edit – August 2020 – permanently closed.
Frequently recommended on social media I was going to try here, until I became used to eating at the hotel so easily!
Location: 1266 Maddison Avenue.
Having tried the No Glu bakery in Paris I really wanted to go to No Glu in New York, a 100% gluten free bakery. They apparently have a stand at Grand Central station but I couldn’t find it so I didn’t get to try any of their treats as I didn’t manage to make it to their main bakery. However, judging by the breakfast that Alexis (#alexisgfadventures) has just posted from here on instagram not going was a mistake!
Locations: LA, Disney Springs and NYC (248 Broome St).
A gluten free and vegan bakery that I love from visits to their branch in Orlando.
Location: 338 E 11th St.
Edit – August 2020 – permanently closed.
Location: 309 E 5th Street.
A 100% gluten free restaurant that I ate at in Rome with amazing food. They have a rice based menu with risottos as their main courses but also with the best bread and also profiteroles on offer for dessert.
Location: 57C Pearl Street, Brooklyn.
Recommended by Rebecca (#gluteninterrupted) who said she had the best gluten free pizza here so a recommendation that I ran out of time to go to Brooklyn to give it a try. If you follow Rebecca on Instagram you’ll know she eats strictly gluten free, and enjoys lots of mouthwatering looking food in her epic photos so I would be confident at looking to give this restaurant a try for amazing sounding pizza.
Location: Several branches in New York including one at The Rockefeller Center.
A vegan fast food chain that I have eaten at in London and that Rebecca managed to eat safely at in New York. Think gluten free and vegan guac burgers, fries and mac n cheese.
Locations: 145 E 50th St and 415 3rd Av.
The restaurant recommended to me by Erin for my birthday so bound to be incredible. However, we ended up going back to Rosa’s Mexicano knowing that we were also having Italian food the next day at Senza Gluten.
Location: 630, 9th Avenue.
Italian restaurants seem to be the main cuisine offered for gluten free recommendations including Nizza that we didn’t make it to.
Edit – this restaurant as of August 2020 is no longer 100% GF
A more formal sit down restaurant for The Little Beet chain that I visited.
Location: 1650 Broadway.
Singing waitresses seem to be the gimmick here bringing in huge queues for the restaurant so we didn’t try it but have seen it recommended for this reason. However, gluten free reviews seem pretty mixed so may be one for a drink to not miss out if you don’t feel safe eating here.
Location: 281 3rd Avenue.
Recommended as somewhere for a drink due to it being amazing for Christmas decorations, we underestimated the popularity and we didn’t have enough time to queue when we went. Not sure of gluten free options but it looked amazing as a place to see the decorations and feel festive.
Blog posts/websites on New York I recommend:
Sightseeing in New York
Where to start with a city such as New York?! There are all the musts – Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, One World Observatory, 9/11 memorial, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Flat Iron, Chrysler building, Times Square, The High Line and many more!
I love to see the iconic sights of a city as my first stop, to really feel like you’re in that city. As we had already been to the Statue of Liberty and didn’t feel the need to pay to do it again, we took the free Staten Island Ferry to still be able to see it in a different way and without the cost. I personally would advise to pay for a tourist boat if its your first trip to New York to get much closer, but on a returning visit or if you’re on a tight budget the free ferry trip is ideal.
Friend’s Apartment Building
Yes we did seek this out on our last trip to NYC!!
Christmas Tree at Rockefeller
Saks Fifth Avenue
Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows
An iconic department store where you can meet Father Christmas! We went to Macys but didn’t go for this, I would advise booking ahead if the queues were anything to go by.
Not the cheapest activity especially at weekends but lots of fun in an iconic setting.
As we had already been ice skating and prefer the wooden chalet style Christmas Markets in Europe, we didn’t battle the crowds for very long. If you are on a trip in December I would advise careful planning over what you do on the Saturday as the crowds were crazy. It took us ages to get around and we wished we had used the time that day to head over to Brooklyn.
My friends bought me tickets for my birthday. They wanted to get me tickets for a show not currently running in London. As Mean Girls had sold out, they bought us tickets for Frozen which we loved especially all the stage effects. Be warned though drinks are ridiculously expensive here and the seats in the theatre are narrow and uncomfortable!
I didn’t book tickets to The Rockettes as I didn’t know when we would want to go. However, we went to the Saturday 11am show. Heading there about 10am there was a queue for tickets so I tried to book online whilst in the queue as I wasn’t sure if they would still have availability by the time we would reach the front and two tickets online at Ticketmaster with booking fees were coming out at $250 for the two of us so we decided to chance it and when we got inside tickets came to $200. However, when we went to pay the cashier saw that I had a Rockettes leaflet in my hand that I had picked up outside from someone handing the fliers out on the street and they said it would give us a discount. We were amazed that this reduced the price to $100 for the two of us. Therefore we were glad we hadn’t booked online and that I had picked up one of these leaflets!
Radio City Hall was huge and much more comfortable than the theatre we had watched Frozen.
Not something I’d heard of but something that I randomly found on the internet The Holiday Train show at the Botanical Gardens was absolutely unreal. It’s not convenient to get to, about an hour in the end by subway from Times Square so we almost didn’t go but we are so glad we did. Something totally different and unique that’s a bit difficult to explain as it was a miniture train set running around a miniture version of New York all built out of natural materials.
It was amazing though and we went to an evening booking that meant they had stalls set up selling Christmas cocktails and food. I managed to find a twisted potato stick, which I had just with salt as although they could tell me that it was gluten free they didn’t know if the toppings were.
Some final top tips for NYC
- Wear comfy shoes, we walked a lot!
- If you’re going in winter pack lots of warm clothes! I managed with thermal base layer under my jeans and jumper this year with a thick winter coat, but it was unnaturally warm I think this time for a trip in December. Be prepared especially when out on the boat to see The Statue of Liberty and at The Top of The Rock it can be FREEZING!!
- Plan your time carefully, things like The Statue of Liberty and 9/11 memorial take a few hours each.
- We bought a seven day card for the subway but we didn’t actually use it as much as we thought we would and would have been cheaper just to pay for the fares we used. I’m used to London’s underground system and still find the New York subway a bit confusing as some trains don’t stop at all stops and quite a few stations close at weekends. Leave a bit of time if you need to get somewhere for a certain time (especially the airport!) and are using the subway.
- Go out early and take photos, most of mine were taken at 7am on the Sunday to beat the Rockefeller Center crowds! It really is worth it, even if we got soaked as it typically started to rain that day once we were out!
- Make sure that wherever you read about recommendations for gluten free, whether here, other blogs, apps make sure you still ask the appropriate questions and decide for yourself that somewhere is safe to eat. Staff, menus and restaurants do change and not everyone eats as strictly gluten free as another so make sure its right for you.
There is always so much to see and do in New York -whatever time of year and however long your trip, I hope that this guide helps you find some safe food and that you have an amazing time in NYC.