When people ask me where to eat that is celiac-safe, my mind lands on a few places that I know of that have separate fryers and little to no cross-contamination. This is a challenging feat for many restaurants, especially here in the South where we like everything fried and fluffy. But there are some celiac-safe restaurants in and around the Charleston area where you can find a good meal, without the worry of becoming sick afterwards.
What is Gluten?
So, what is gluten and why do some people need to avoid consuming it? Wikipedia states that “gluten is a structural protein naturally found in certain cereal grains.” The wheat proteins which are found in grains, are “capable of triggering Celiac Disease.” Gluten can also cause adverse reactions such as “inflammatory, immunological, and autoimmune reactions in some people.”
It may seem like no big deal to those who don’t understand this disease but for those who have this or are gluten intolerant, it is vital to avoid gluten in order to remain healthy. It can be challenging to find places to eat out where we feel safe and are not concerned if we will be sick with every bite. If you want to test the food before eating it yourself, there is a Nima tester that is designed to detect gluten in your meal. According to their website, “NIMA Partners technology uses antibody-based chemistry to rapidly detect proteins in foods.” It is not a cheap device, but if you get very sick it may be worth it to purchase this and feel safer when eating out.
Celiac-Safe Restaurants Around Charleston
Mount Pleasant has a ton of lovely food options and many restaurants that have gluten-free or gluten-friendly menus. One that takes gluten very seriously is Burton’s Grill & Bar. According to their website, “Each staff member goes through extensive allergy and safety training, and a manager personally inspects all incoming orders to ensure special requests are carefully prepared.” You can find their gluten-free menu on their website, where they have burgers, sandwiches, pasta, seafood, and more!
Downtown, there is a restaurant called Maya that is mostly gluten-free. When I asked about their safety protocols for those with celiac, they responded, “Our menus are predominantly gluten-free, we only have three menu items which contain gluten: our churros and soapapillas which are prepared out of house and have their own separate fryer here when we fry them. Our Crunchwrap is the third…which is prepared in a separate pan, and we always switch our gloves when cooking it. Other than that, the entire rest of our food menu is gluten-free.”
Bodega Todo is another gluten-friendly restaurant downtown. When asked specifically about how they cater to those with celiac, they responded, “Yes, our restaurant is almost completely gluten-free. We have fried chicken that is gluten-free by recipe. Our staff is trained to be aware of cross-contamination and our only two items that contain gluten are cooked on a separate flat top.”
If you are looking for fine dining, whether it’s for a celebration or anniversary, Hall’s Chophouse is very accommodating for those with food allergies. This was their response when asked about accommodating food allergies: “Yes, we do accommodate celiac and any other food allergies. When a guest is seated at our restaurant, our servers ask about any allergies to pass on to the chef. Our chefs then replace gloves, utensils, and cooking ware/dishes to further accommodate the allergy.”
In West Ashley, there are several great spots to try. Annie O’Love’s Café of Sweet Abundance is completely gluten-free, and vegan. They make their own granola, cookies (which are delicious), sandwiches, nachos, waffles, quesadillas, pancakes, and more. It is wonderful walking in this place knowing I do not have to concern myself with even asking about gluten or cross contamination as there is none present. And if you’re dairy free, you’re winning there as well.
I reached out to Slice Co, a pizza establishment in West Ashley, and I asked if they were celiac-safe. They responded: “Yes. We sell a lot of celiac (gluten-free) pizzas every week. One of the few places that make the crust in-house for a very unique pizza experience for our guests with celiac disease.” They also make their own vegan cheese if you need that, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is delicious!
Allergy-friendly Facebook Groups
There are groups for just about anything on Facebook, and these can truly be helpful when you need questions answered. There is a group called “Gluten Free Charleston” that is SO helpful when looking for safe places to eat around town. When I asked about celiac-safe restaurants, I received a lot more answers than I expected!
Some other celiac-safe places members of the group mentioned were: Blu Oyster Sushi and Seafood on John’s Island, El Pollo Guapo on James Island, Grace and Grit in Mount Pleasant, and Basil Thai in North Charleston.
Several places downtown were also mentioned such as Basic Kitchen, Taco Boy, Rancho Lewis, Lewis BBQ, and Republic Ice Cream. From personal experience, I know that Lewis BBQ knows exactly what is in all of their food items and can tell you which ones are safe and which ones are not. Check out the Facebook group page mentioned above, and ask around for places you may be interested in trying.
When Dining Out
As always, call and ask the restaurant if they can accommodate celiac allergies before dining. Be sure to ask about their safety protocols for a gluten allergy and if they use a separate fryer and meal prep area. Of course, when eating out, there is always a risk involved so asking questions about how the meal is prepared is important. Alert your server about your allergy, and do your own research before dining out. Many restaurants will simply not be able to accommodate those with celiac disease, but more and more restaurants are noticing the need for gluten-free options and safe cooking areas. For all of the restaurants looking for ways to help those with celiac or gluten allergies, we appreciate you!
If your restaurant was not mentioned in this article, reach out and let us know! We would love to share more safe restaurants with others.