Philadelphia’s Great Gluten-Free Initiative

When you’re deciding where to go out for dinner — whether in your hometown or while traveling — what helps you choose a restaurant? There are a few terrific resources for the gluten intolerant, such as the international restaurant listings offered by Celiac Handbook and the American listings from the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program. There’s also Gluten-Free Maps, a site I discovered recently via Twitter. You might read blogs that are devoted to dealing with celiac disease. But there normally aren’t many mainstream sources that can help the gluten-averse.

That’s why I was so excited to hear about Philadelphia’s amazing initiative. Recently 28 restaurants in and around the city worked with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness to complete its Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training (GREAT) program. This NFCA program trains restaurants in everything they need to know about preparing celiac-safe food, including issues such as avoiding cross-contamination and answering diners’ questions and concerns.

The list of participating Philadelphia restaurants is impressive. None of them is entirely gluten free, but a few can boast that a majority of menu items are safe for celiacs (at Distrito, a Mexican hotspot, 90% of the choices are gluten-free). The restaurants are a diverse bunch: there’s Italian (Vetri), Indian (Bindi), tapas (Bar Ferdinand), French (Cochon), and seafood (Little Fish), to name a few. The list includes high-end spots (such as The Palm, an elegant steakhouse), and affordable ones (like the Ugly American). When dining at one of the participating restaurants, it’s still a good idea to let the staff know in advance that you are gluten-intolerant, but once you’re at your table you should be able to relax and enjoy. Not many of the restaurants mention their gluten-free offerings on their own websites; hopefully they’ll update this soon (the Ugly American already has its gluten-free menu online; a few others, such as Cochon, mention that they can accommodate gluten-free diets).

It’s exciting that so many Philadelphia eateries would participate in the GREAT program. I’m also impressed with the fact that the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation is playing an important role in promoting this initiative. The tourism office is showcasing the city’s gluten-free offerings on its website; visitors can read about the restaurants, map their locations, and check out what attractions are nearby. It’s a smart and savvy move, and I wonder how long it will take other cities to catch up.

For more information about gluten-free dining in Philly, visit

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I mentioned above that I’d found a new resource via Twitter. I joined a couple of weeks ago, and I’m finding it valuable. If you’re on Twitter, I hope you’ll follow me there at or @hilarydavidson.

5 thoughts on “Philadelphia’s Great Gluten-Free Initiative

  1. They never get listed because they are off the beaten path and don’t seem to get involved in the frills and whistles but Sazon Restaurant on 10th & Spring Garden has the best gluten free food in Philly(of course, IMHO). Venezualan cuisine, tell them you are celiac and they will make sure your food is safely prepared. The high end spots are probably lovely, but Sazon gets my business everytime…

  2. I work at Davio’s and we offer gluten free lunch and dinner menus as well as a gluten free dessert. We have done extensive training with our staff and created menus that offer a wide variety of choice; including our signature pasta dishes. We do not feel that our guests should be limited when dining with us. We have also created completely gluten free private dinners. Our menus are posted on our website @

  3. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Help for Hungry Travelers Who Can’t Handle Gluten

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