Bar Bites Beyond: New York City

 Cobblestone streets of SoHo.  

Cobblestone streets of SoHo.  

One could say I’m a bit “in love,” with New York. And I wouldn’t disagree. I couldn’t! I love the tall buildings, the air, the people, the vibe, the food, the feel, the energy, all of it. No, I don’t live there any longer, but I get a twinge in the pit of my stomach every time I visit, thinking about the “what if’s” of past decisions and moves. That being said, I do believe everything happens for a reason and I am firmly planted with my current living situation. Thankfully, I live a short-ish drive away! Phew! 

Having been visiting the city since age six for family vacations, spending time studying at NYU (I performed with their jazz band!), and being a resident of Manhattan after college, I have racked up quite a list of my favorite places to eat, relax, and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

However, since being diagnosed with Celiac in 2013, my top spots to eat has been revised over the last several years. And while this guide is not by any means a comprehensive list of the vast gluten free options in NYC (oh so many!), it does include my top picks for great food, a swanky cocktail, and a couple classics I’ve been enjoying since childhood (that do have GF options). 

Beyond food, I have an ongoing list of my favorite activities if you’re ever heading to New York for a visit and need some suggestions - including hotel recommendations! Some options are touristy and others less-so, but I think what I love most about Manhattan is that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; do as you please. Plus, the shopping. Don’t even get me started! 

As usual, I recommend informing your server of any dietary needs/restrictions prior to ordering and read labels carefully when buying packaged food, especially in stores less familiar to you. For the restaurants I’ve included below I have never experienced a bad “result” after eating, but everyone’s symptoms of Celiac and gluten intolerance can vary greatly. Trust your gut! That’s the safest way to ensure a fun time out with food allergies and restrictions, in my opinion. 

Bar Bites Beyond: New York City is organized by Restaurants/Cafès, Bars, and More. As always, names of places are clickable and will bring you to that restaurant or hotel's website. 

Now, go get yourself to New York. I'll see you there! :)

Restaurants + Cafès

Balthazar

Location: SoHo

Eat: A restaurant that’s as packed, wild, and hectic as the city itself, Balthazar brings the fun of New York inside to its spacious, bustling French brasserie. I have been coming to this iconic spot for quite some time and still love coming in for reliably delicious steak, shrimp cocktail, and a glass of wine or champagne. The great news is that it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus brunch, so there’s always an opportunity to pop in for a treat. I love going during winter to warm up! 

I will say that reservations are recommended as it really fills up at night - bar seats are tough to grab as well! However, we came in for a late lunch on our honeymoon and got a great table with no wait at all (perhaps since it was an off-hour, and a weekday?). The menu has great variety, a strong number of gluten free options, and an atmosphere that feels very Manhattan (to me, at least). Plus, it’s smack in the middle of SoHo so you can design your meal time visit around the fabulous shopping that’s literally on every corner around you. Win!

Friedman’s

Location: Chelsea Market, and several others. 

Eat: Our first time to Friedman’s was during our honeymoon and we finally made it to the Chelsea Market location after a several-hours-long walk in August heat and humidity. To say we were excited to sit down and eat would be an understatement. I had read rave reviews of their fried chicken sandwich and how gluten free the menu was supposed to be. Those reviews did not lie! Not only is the menu filled with GF options, but I consumed possibly the best sandwich of my entire life! The gluten free fried chicken sandwich on GF bun, served with sweet potato fries, is without a doubt one of the best lunches ever. It is giant and filling, but also so yummy you’ll inhale it all before even worrying about the size. The menu has countless other GF choices and each dish served gluten free comes with a little “allergy pick” that says gluten free. I appreciate that!

The other times we have come to Friedman’s it has been for brunch and each time I have ordered the fried chicken and waffles (see a pattern?) or pancakes (some of the best GF ones I’ve ever had). Once again, it is all so yummy, flavorful, and cooked perfectly. For the chicken and waffles, the waffle has cheddar in it which is amazing and it’s served with jalapeño-honey syrup. Yum! The chicken is crispy and perfect. I can taste it as I type.

Friedman’s is filled with all of your favorite GF comfort foods served with care so the only worry you’ll have while there is whether or not you’re willing to share. ;)  

Of note: the fried chicken sandwich is a lunch/dinner item and is not available during brunch service on weekends. You’ve been warned! Go on a weekday or at night if your sandwich craving has to be met! 

Hell’s Kitchen

Location:  Hell’s Kitchen, on 9th Avenue

Eat: A fast-paced, energetic Mexican fusion restaurant with great food, buzzy atmosphere, and lines out the door, I came here for the first time with my family as a teen during one of our family vacations. The food was awesome and we visited multiple times over the years. Remembering how much I loved it back then, I knew it was a must during our honeymoon so I could experience it again, as an adult (with a food allergy) with my new husband!

As usual, we ventured over without reservations (mistake) and had to wait quite a while for bar seats, but with (very) spicy margaritas in hand the wait could’ve been worse. The place gets packed! And for good reason. Once we landed seats, the bartender was extremely helpful in identifying all of the gluten free options, which there were several. Hooray! All of the tacos we tried were delicious and if you’re wondering, they have a guacamole bar! Case closed. Highly recommend this upbeat, lively restaurant for a fun night out with friends, or a vibrant date night at the bar with lots of tacos, nachos, ceviche, fajitas, tequila, and more. 

The Mark Restaurant by Jean-Georges

Location: Upper East Side in The Mark Hotel

Eat: This was quite a treat of a restaurant - beautiful food, decor, and service - and I am eager to go back. Located within super-stylish The Mark, this restaurant features incredible food in a subtle, elegant setting. While we stayed at the hotel, we went a couple times for dinner to escape the NYC summer heat and each time was just excellent. And while the menu and dining room is formal, the food is approachable and not fussy, which I really enjoyed. I was happy to be informed that the pizzas could be made on gluten free crust and the pasta could be made GF as well. Knowledgeable service regarding food allergies was expected, but still a nice surprise and I can, to this day, recall how yummy the lobster pizza was on both (!) occasions I enjoyed it.

Leading into the restaurant is The Mark Bar which is also a snazzy place to stop for a drink before your meal. Bold decor and a great, friendly bartender, we learned quickly that the cocktails are strong and if you order a second it’s even stronger! Hello!

The Mark Restaurant is a wonderful place for a celebration meal or a special evening out, but I could definitely see stopping in for breakfast or lunch as a fun indulgence during vacation. It is open for all meals of the day and serves brunch on weekends. Even better!

NoGlu

Location: Upper East Side

Eat: My current NYC favorite for 100% gluten free sweet treats, this charming bakery-cafè offers a wide variety of savory and sweet options including delicious sandwiches and yummy desserts! I was so excited to finally visit when we learned it was right near our hotel during our honeymoon. We went multiple times during that trip and tried the sandwiches, bread, and sweets, and devoured them all. Plus, we got sandwiches to take home which barely made it thirty minutes out of Manhattan (I get so hungry in traffic!).

So many options for to-go lunches, snacks, and treats, plus they make cakes and can do catering! An immense number of options, all gluten free, coming out of this adorably chic bakery on the Upper East Side. The original location is in Paris and opened in 2012. And that is definitely on my list for Paris - whenever the time may come!

Risotteria Melotti

Location: Lower East Side

Eat: A true gem in the Lower East Side and it’s entirely, 100% gluten free! Seriously! We found Risotteria Melotti during our honeymoon when another risotto spot we had wanted to go to had since closed and we found this lovely option instead. Advertising itself as a family-run business that specializes in risotto and other Italian specialties, I love the cozy atmosphere and warm and friendly welcome each time we visit. You feel like family! And while reservations might be encouraged for larger groups since it’s a very small space, we’ve never had a problem stopping in and getting a table.

Since Risotteria is entirely gluten free, I can let my guard down as soon as we walk in and enjoy every single bite on the table. From the bread baskets, to the fritto misto and arancini, as well as all main courses and desserts, there isn’t a single item I cannot order when we come in for dinner. And that’s extremely special, in my opinion! And somewhat dangerous. ;)

I love to try a new risotto every time we visit as they are all terrific, and we always get the same appetizers I listed above because who can resist calamari and arancini? Seth and I end up trying each other’s meals to compare and share and love every single dish. I must admit, we even came here for dinner twice in one NYC visit because it’s so good and so easy due to it being entirely gluten free. A great Italian restaurant that’s family-run, all gluten free, and serves fresh, scrumptious food? I’m there!

Temple Court

Location: Financial District

Eat: Nestled off the lobby of the beautiful Beekman Hotel, this restaurant offers meals at all times of day. However, we decided on it for breakfast two days in a row during our most recent visit as it was very close to our hotel. So many great gluten free options and a knowledgeable staff that took my dietary restrictions seriously, checking with the kitchen to make sure my selections would be safe. Yay! I had a delicious omelette, avocado, and greens during our first morning, and an incredible baked eggs dish the second that was served with gluten free bread! 

I loved the almost library-esque vibe of the space with dark wood and moody lighting, not to mention the large stained glass windows that brought in some lovely morning light! While I cannot speak to the lunch or dinner menus, I highly recommend Temple Court for an easy breakfast downtown where the food is scrumptious and served in a quiet setting - perfect for before your busy day in the city begins.  

Untitled at the Whitney

Location: Off the main lobby of the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District.

Eat: On our recent trip to the city, I made it a point to make sure we got to Untitled, if not for the sole purpose of acquiring - and eating - one of the famous triple chocolate chunk gluten free cookies that’s served warm with a glass of milk. Since our visit was well timed around brunch, we decided for a full meal, pre-cookies, and sat outside in the lovely patio area which is right outside the museum entrance.

The food is wonderful! I was truly impressed with our choices and the well-informed staff that were able to easily identify the gluten free options and let me know that certain dishes could be made gluten free. Excellent! I enjoyed the grilled shrimp with polenta as well as the roasted cauliflower. My husband loved the fried fish lettuce wraps that I recommended to him as I had heard they were awesome (he now agrees!). The presentation of the food is really well done and every dish is presented like edible artwork, which was fitting as we were at the Whitney Museum!

We ate light since I knew the cookies were the signature piece of the (my) meal. We joked with our server about how many to order since I knew I wouldn’t want to share mine (!). As she mentioned eating one for breakfast, they are that good, I decided we would get three. One for each of us and one for later on the drive home. HA! Those cookies didn’t stand a chance. Not only did we inhale them, but we barely made it two minutes after gobbling them up that I decided it was better to eat the third right then and there instead of torturing ourselves while holding it all the way home. We split it at the table and enjoyed every last crumb of that third cookie.

Filled beyond words with one of the best cookies ever, we took the long walk back to our hotel and headed back to Boston. How’s this for a surprise? Untitled sells the cookies in cute three-packs in the Whitney gift shop! We grabbed two and hit the road! ;)

I look forward to going back to Untitled for another beautiful meal and another set of those truly fantastic gluten free cookies. Get some!

Note:  NYC has a growing number of entirely gluten free restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. The ones I share here are those I have been to personally and can vouch for how much I enjoyed them. If you would like to know about additional fully gluten free options, please let me know! 

Bars 

Bemelman’s Bar

Location: Upper East Side in The Carlyle

Eat: What can I say about this classic, timeless New York institution? It’s a dark, dimly-lit piano bar featuring live jazz, great cocktails, and a feeling of “long ago,” which is exactly why it was such a fun place to duck into for a martini and delectable bar snacks (not all are GF). We went during the early evening before the crowds filled in, and easily got seats, but I imagine the good spots get taken quickly once the evening’s music begins. It is located uptown right near The Mark hotel and Vera Wang, which always has an eye-catching window display.

Part of why I enjoy going to the classic, well-known Manhattan bars is because of the history within them (if those walls could talk!) and all of the new memories that can me made sitting at those same tables. I’m a nostalgic person by nature (I love going down Memory Lane) so going to these famous spots always makes me feel a bit closer to the city, if that makes sense. I would recommend heading to Bemelman’s for a fun evening with waiters in tuxedos, classic cocktails, live jazzz, and a scene that’s truly New York.

King Cole Bar

Location: Inside The St. Regis New York, Midtown East.

Eat: Once again, I admit I’ve only been here for drinks, but it was delightful and a special spot to try as it’s a famous bar in midtown. We dropped in late in the day before the evening rush and enjoyed two seats at the bar looking at the famous painting of King Cole which is actually quite whimsical!

The bar is located within the St. Regis, a beautiful hotel, and was filled with hotel guests, a wedding party, and possibly a few locals to the area. I really enjoyed reading about their wide variety of custom cocktails as well as the signature Bloody Mary list! For simplicity’s sake, I opted for a classic, slightly-dirty vodka martini and it was perfect for the setting. Seth had another classic choice (a Manhattan) and he even tried the bar snacks (not GF) as we relaxed for a bit before planning where to go for dinner. There was a small bar menu we could have ordered from, but the timing didn’t work out quite right. I am sure some of the options could have been made to be gluten free. I’ll have to go back and scout that out for you. ;)

Overall, I would recommend stopping by the King Cole Bar for a classic NYC cocktail and to enjoy the scene. I’m sure it gets filled with all sorts of great people watching later in the evening which is exactly why I look forward to returning! 

Salon De Ning

Location: Rooftop of The Peninsula Hotel in Midtown East

Eat: OK, I will admit that we didn’t actually eat anything here, but we did enjoy an incredible view, a rooftop terrace, and great martinis. Having come here long ago with my parents when it was under a different name (a very long time ago), I was eager to go again, with my husband this time around, and see how the space felt as a true “adult.” What a scene! We happen to go right when it opened at 5pm but it’s a good thing we did. Not only were we able to get prime outdoor seating on a comfy couch, but the entire outdoor seating area filled within a half hour of opening. The indoor bar filled shortly thereafter so we considered ourselves lucky to have dropped in at opening time. We ordered martinis, took in the view, and enjoyed every second.  

There is a small menu available and I’m sure a couple items could be gluten free, but I’d recommend coming for drinks before dinner at a nearby restaurant or even the ones inside The Peninsula Hotel which I’ve heard are fabulous. It is definitely a buzzy place, especially during the warmer months, and I can see why: a spacious rooftop bar to escape to high above the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue. Grab a drink, some friends, and relax the evening away. 

Of note: the outdoor rooftop area is smoke friendly and there is a cigar menu available. Having not known this ahead of time, we were very surprised and not entirely thrilled with the cigarette and cigar smoke around us, but we chalked it up to the experience and know for next time. If you’d like to avoid the smoke entirely, grab seats inside - there’s still a great view! 

More 

Hotel Recommendations:

The Mark (Upper East Side)

Four Seasons New York Downtown (Financial District)

The Peninsula (Midtown East)

Gansevoort Park Avenue (NOMAD District)

The Westin New York at Times Square (Times Square)

 

Explore New York:

- Visit Rockefeller Center and see the grand Christmas tree during the holiday season. A spectacular sight! 

- Stroll down Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue to see all of the great window displays (holiday time especially) and pop into some seriously chic shops. 

- Walk The High Line from start to finish - it’s a raised railroad system that has been turned into a walking path! 

- Meander through Central Park, seeing something new every time. 

- Walk around Bryant Park - there is a fabulous holiday market there. And an ice rink!

- Self-guided tour of NYU and Washington Square Park. Feeling studious? Pop in the NYU bookstore or find your way to Bobst Library. 

- Wander through the West Village with so many great shops and restaurants. A very kid-friendly neighborhood. 

- Listen to great live jazz at The Blue Note ( I performed here!) 

- Listen to live music or see some incredible performing arts at Lincoln Center. There are always a litany of exciting events and performances.

- See a Broadway musical or play. I saw my first at age six and loved every second of it. Live theater is the best. 

- Tour the Upper West Side Or Upper East Side and notice the charming differences. I enjoy them both!

- Visit a museum! From the Met to the Guggenheim, to MoMA to the Whitney, there are so many choices for whatever your artsy side feels like viewing.  

- Take in the New York Public Library; it’s so grand! 

- Go see the Oculus downtown right near the new Freedom Tower. It is a beautiful sculpture that also functions as a metro station and luxury shopping center. It’s quite a sight and I’ve personally never seen a structure so vast and bustling, but also peaceful, all in one. 

- Wander through Grand Central Market; it’s packed with great food and gifts! 

- Eataly NYC is always fun to peruse around; have some gelato! 

- Shop till you drop and tour the B’s: Bergdorf's, Barneys, Bendels, and Bloomingdale’s.  

- Take a stroll through the flagship Macy’s store in Herald Square. It's an entire city block!

- Visit the famous Plaza Hotel and enjoy the amazing Plaza Food Hall, or the equally famous Palm Court for a dignified, fancy tea time.

- Take a walk through the city with no specific destination in mind. One of my personal favorite, free activities every time we go. You never know where you’ll wind up or the adventures that might be had.  

I ❤️ NY. 

This list will be updated regularly after each time we visit the city! 

 Fried chicken and waffles at Friedman’s.  

Fried chicken and waffles at Friedman’s.