Like most of Portland, I have wondered over the past two years whether I might be gluten-intolerant. At one point I went to a naturopath, who told me to eat nothing but amaranth, mung beans and kale and to rub castor oil on my belly.
I learned a few things in my gluten-free phase. First, I have no known food allergies. My mysterious symptoms disappeared, and I now gleefully eat wheatberry whole-wheat lasagna with extra whole-wheat bread crumbs. Second, being a difficult diner in Portland isn’t really so difficult, but it still helps know a few things. Here’s a gluten-free cheat sheet.
A few choices are obvious: Vegetarian restaurants such as Natural Selection, Blossoming Lotus, Portobello and Prasad are all friendly to those medically or mentally allergic to gluten. But a few places in town don’t let that dreaded protein composite anywhere near their kitchens, including Harlow. That sister restaurant to Prasad, which just opened in July, serves rice and quinoa bowls, raw veggie burgers and stir-fries that are entirely gluten-free and mostly vegan.
Aside from the occasional dessert special, Mexican restaurant Verde Cocina is entirely gluten-free: Try chilaquiles for breakfast or tofu mole at lunch or dinner.
Peruvian cuisine doesn’t use a whole lot of wheat to begin with—it’s much heavier on tubers, corn and rice—and Andina has a separate gluten-free menu that’s just a hair shorter than the regular menu. It’s got tapas, entrees and even desserts (quinoa flour brownie, anyone?).
You’ll have to ask for it, but all of Andy Ricker’s joints—Pok Pok, Pok Pok Noi, Sen Yai—have what Restaurant Guide co-editor Martin Cizmar fondly refers to as “the leper menu,” which clearly marks the items that contain gluten, shellfish or dairy ingredients.
Gluten-free Polish food? Your babcia’s rolling in her grave, but Bar Dobre has you covered, with stuffed cabbage rolls, potato pancakes and hunter’s stew.
Most Ethiopian restaurants add barley—which has gluten—to their injera bread, which doubles as a utensil, but not South Tabor standby Bete-Lukas.
Nob Hill institution Besaw's Cafe, one of Portland’s oldest restaurants, has gluten-free French toast and pancakes, which are reportedly quite light and fluffy.
After a night of heavy, uh, cider-guzzling, gluten-free folks also need pizza at 3 am. Sizzle Pie is here to help: Want that Napalm Breath pie (garlic, pepperoni, onions and jalapeños) on gluten-free crust? This pizzeria slings a pretty decent one.
Portland has tons of gluten-free bakeries, but they’re not all created equal. Head to New Cascadia for multigrain bread and to Tula for chocolate truffle muffins. And even glutenheads love Gem’s fantastically good gluten-free goodies—chocolate-chip cookies, lemon shortbread and pumpkin bars—from New Seasons, Whole Foods and many cafes in town. In the West End, stop into Petunia's Pies and Pastries for a vegan, gluten-free thin-mint brownie, bumbleberry peach pie or especially a decadent slice of coconut dulce de leche cake.
Many restaurants don’t designate gluten-free items, but have servers who are quick to point diners in the right direction. Naturopath Samantha Brody recommends Biwa (her waiter snatched the menu from her to circle safe items), Laurelhurst Market, Nuestra Cocina, Ox and Park Kitchen for picky eaters. “The lion’s share of restaurants in Portland will accommodate you,” Brody says. “Waiters are pretty prepped at restaurants to know what has gluten in it.”