It’s no secret that Charleston is a foodie’s paradise, as top-notch dining options in the city are in abundance. There is no need to sacrifice flavor and ambiance of the area with Celiac or Gluten Intolerance; you just have to know where to go! Here is a complete guide to getting the most of the holy city’s cuisine scene while staying gluten-free, with help from Taylynne Duvall from Gluten-Free Near Me.
Quick Lunch: Brown Dog Deli
Almost everything on their menu can be made gluten-free. Every staff member who I talked to is super informed and walks me through what is safe and what isn’t. They even take precautions in the back to prevent cross-contamination (but still make sure to remind them to do so!).
My absolute favorite is the “Apple Butter Jeans”: Melted brie, sliced Granny Smith apples, local apple butter, fresh arugula, mesquite smoked turkey, honey ham, and applewood-smoked bacon. Oh yes. P.S. They have vegan options too!!
Burgers: Bay Street Biergarten
Alcohol confession: I think it’s safe to say that my favorite drink I’ve found in Charleston so far is here, The Mexican Grizzly. Tequila, Aperol, and grapefruit juice. If you don’t like it tart, sit that one out.
I’m also in love with their Turkey Reuben, which can be made on a gluten-free bun. Since the frier is shared, I normally just get grilled veggies to the side. Delish.
Without a doubt, Minero belongs in the top of ALL gluten-free restaurants in downtown Charleston (and even the greater area). Not only do they have a gluten-free menu, they also have a CELIAC menu – all the items that do not come into contact with gluten-y ingredients. This includes celiac friendly corn chips. A real winner.
Everything I have ever eaten here is perfection, so try it all!
Thai: Basil Thai Restaurant
I mentioned Basil Thai’s happy hour in my Charleston Date Night post. And I’m going to mention it again because it’s one of my favs. Their gluten-free Pad Thai is to die for. And I love their Blushing Buddha gin drink. There are not A TON of gluten-free menu items, but what they have is truly tasty.
And it’s not that easy to find restaurants celebrating global cuisines in Charleston. So win/win.
O-Ku is one of my favorite restaurants on King Street. First of all, the ambiance is great. It’s fun to sit at the large sushi bar or to try to snag the tables by the windows to people-watch (definitely call early to make the reservation – like DAYS in advance). Most of the sushi rolls can be modified for the gluten-free eater.They also provide gluten-free soy sauce!
One of the fun things about living in or visiting Charleston is the mix of neighborhoods. The area truly is a conglomeration of many different neighborhoods with their own feel, their own style, their own perks. You have the hip Park Circle in North Charleston, the beach bum Folly Beach, the historic French Quarter, and the list goes on and on.
Avondale is one of those unique neighborhoods. West of downtown Charleston, you can find trendy restaurants and bars perfect for a night out on the town (or a fun afternoon). And you have SO MANY gluten-free options!
Here is a rundown of the gluten-free Avondale scene:
Avondale Wine and Cheese
This spot is hands down one of my favorites in the whole Charleston greater area. I already mentioned it in the date night post. Everybody should visit, locals and tourists alike. Not only do you have lots of wine options (great for the weekend AND, my personal favorite, Wine Not Wednesday). Then you can build your own charcuterie board. They offer GF bread and the staff can superbly list any cheeses or tapas to avoid.
Without a doubt, Mellow Mushroom is one of the safest choices for gluten-free pizza in Charleston. I wrote all about it on my Charleston Pizza Guide. The GF crust is tasty, and they keep all the ingredients separate. The only downside it’s a bit overpriced. But you are getting what you pay for: tasty, contamination-free GF pizza.
Here’s another Avondale gluten-free winner. Verde actually showed up in my list of top gluten-free fast food places in Charleston. This salad bar is top notch – full of delicious, fresh produce. All signature creations and individual ingredients are clearly marked, so you will have no problem figuring out your gluten-free options. It’s perfect for a quick lunch or a light dinner – perhaps before Avondale Wine and Cheese!
East Bay Deli
Sandwich shops can be hard for gluten-freers. But East Bay Deli actually takes steps to prevent cross-contamination (but still make sure to announce it as an allergy). Your sandwich can be made on Udi’s bread. And they have a convenient list of all the GF choices for your sandwich. I have eaten here many times and had no problem at all. In fact, I think it is one of the best gluten-free friendly delis I’ve been to – crisp deli pickle included!
Mex 1 Coastal Cantina
I also mentioned Mex 1 in my Sullivan’s Island gluten-free list. I love this little cantina. My favorite choice is one of their bowls. But I have heard the corn chips are safe for gluten-freers. Let me know if you try them out!
Al Di La
Al Di La has been a local’s favorite for a long time. I love the fact they have outdoor seating, so you can enjoy an evening breeze while people watching. They have plenty of GF options including gluten-free pasta, salads, and entrees. They don’t have gluten-free bread, but I cannot find any Italian restaurant in the Charleston area with gluten-free bread.
Shem Creek is in the Mount Pleasant, only a few minutes from downtown Charleston. Honestly, it’s one of my absolute favorite spots in the entire area. Beautiful marsh, beautiful water, and beautiful boats. I have spotted dolphins while out enjoying a drink. And the Shem Creek gluten-free options are surprisingly plentiful.
If you are visiting the Charleston area, I highly recommend making Shem Creek one of your stops. You should feel comfortable eating at any of the restaurants listed.
Red’s Ice House
Red’s has a separate gluten-free menu (rare for the Charleston area). You can find multiple seafood options, salads, and many dips can be made gluten-free. I recently split the crab legs, and shrimp with Kyle. Both were tasty.
But the highlight of Red’s (for me) is their rooftop bar. It’s a fun place to grab a drink and watch the boats.
Once again, we have a gluten-free menu. Make sure to specify gluten allergy for as little contamination as possible.
Tavern & Table
Tavern & Table has a few items that can be made gluten-free, and they are all marked on the menu (which makes life so much easier for the gluten-freer and the staff!)
Shem Creek Bar and Grill
Here’s the deal, I haven’t eaten at Shem Creed Bar and Grill, but I did call. The employee told me there were “tons of gluten free options” – including fish, shrimp, veggies, salad, etc. I was impressed with her knowledge and lack of annoyance when I asked. Anyone been there? Let me know in the comments.
Sullivan’s Island is a lovely little beach town south of Mt. Pleasant/east of Downtown Charleston. It’s one of my favorite spots to go soak up the sun, jump in the waves, and take some beachside yoga classes! There’s a fun sandbar, plenty of sand, and free (though not plentiful) parking.
If you are looking for Sullivan’s Island gluten-free options – read on! While there are not a ton of restaurants on the island, you should be happy to learn there’s plenty of GF goodness.
I love everything about this place. I love that you can get healthy, delicious, fresh food right by the beach. I love that you can clearly see which ingredients have gluten and which do not. I love that they accommodate meat-eaters and vegans. I LOVE that they offer gluten-free bread to the side.
And they even have breakfast bowls and smoothies too?
Mex 1 Coastal Cantina
(P.S. Same as the Avondale location!)
Mex 1 is delish. My favorite thing on the menu is their Baja Bowl – think a Chipotle/Moe’s/Qdoba bowl, but 10x as tasty. According to the staff, the corn tortillas are not fried in a shared fryer. So they should be good to go. I must mention, though, I haven’t tried them!
It’s a beachy, second story restaurant. I like sitting at the outside bar.
Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ
(P.S. There are multiple locations of this tasty grub, including Avondale (West Ashley) and downtown Charleston)
Fiery Ron’s Home Team is really really well done barbecue. GF eaters can basically have anything other than the bread and the Mac-n-cheese. I have eaten there multiple times with zero problem. Every staff member I’ve encountered was knowledgeable about gluten and helpful, which makes the ordering process a breeze.
Meat-Eaters unite! The lowcountry is known for its barbecue, and there’s plenty of great gluten-free options.
Fun fact: I actually eat vegan a few times a week. So when I do eat meat, I want it to be TASTY. As much as I love (and I truly mean love) fine dining and quirky hipster restaurants, I also love good down-home, casual barbecue joints.
All 5 of these gluten-free barbecue spots in Charleston are delicious and safe!
Lewis Barbecue is one of the most gluten-conscious spots in all of Charleston – and it’s one of my favorite restaurants in general. The outdoor section is fabulous, especially when it’s nighttime and the tree lights pop on.
If you tell the staff that you cannot eat gluten, they will offer to get a clean carving board from the back that has not touched any bread. All their meats can be carved on that clean space. Then they will tell you which sides are good to go. All their BBQ sauces are gluten-free, so have a blast!
Fiery Ron’s Home Team
All Home Team locations are super fun and laid-back. AND all of the meats and sauces are gluten-free. Most of the sides are fine (obvious ones like mac and cheese are a no-go) – their collards are delish, by the way. Just be sure to mention your gluten allergy, so they don’t put a piece of bread on your platter.
Helpful hint: They also cater, so this could be a great gluten-free catering option in Charleston!
Swig and Swine
I’m gonna be honest with you for a second. Swig and Swine is not MY favorite gluten-free barbecue in Charleston. But I seem to be in the minority… especially considering it has won Best West Ashley Restaurant, Best Ribs, and Best Summerville Restaurant for this year’s Charleston City Paper “Best of Charleston 2017”!
If you want to try out the local’s beloved BBQ spot, you are safe to do so. Most of their food is gluten-free and your waitstaff can help you figure out the menu.
Rodney Scott is known for the slow-smoked “whole hog” BBQ. The entire Rodney Scott BBQ menu is gluten-free with four simple (and quite obvious) exceptions: mac and cheese, hushpuppies, cornbread, and breaded catfish. Everything else is good to go.
Settled right in the heart of downtown Charleston (which means it’s a super convenient spot for gluten-free tourists in Charleston), Poogan’s Smokehouse has a quirky industrial vibe that I quite enjoy. All of their meats and sauces are gluten-free. Most sides are gluten-free, as are their salads.
Brunch is my favorite meal of the week. Breakfast foods + acceptable day drinking. Win/win. But I think Charleston has a far way to go in providing plenty of breakfast/brunch options for the gluten-free community. Let’s see more gluten-free pancakes and toast. What about GF cinnamon rolls (Atlanta, GA has THE BEST)?!
That being said, there are still some tasty spots for gluten-free breakfast in Charleston (and surrounding areas).
Read on, so you can get some good gluten-free breakfast in Charleston this weekend!
High Cotton is one of my favorite brunches around! This high-end restaurant has a lovely dining room where you can eat your brunch with live music on Saturdays and Sundays. Plus, they actually have a printed gluten-free menu (a rarity in Charleston). We went this weekend. I had the corned beef hash and Kyle had the omelet with grits.
Plan to pay around $15 a person before mimosas/coffee.
P.S. This post’s photo is from that brunch at High Cotton!
Five Loaves Café
Five Loaves Cafe is one of my favorite places to eat in Charleston. It’s fast, it’s inexpensive, it’s delicious. On Sundays, this little cafe chain opens early for brunch. Just let the kitchen know that there is a gluten allergy, and they will prevent cross contamination.
I would be lying if I told you there were an abundance of options, but what they have is yummy!
Three Little Birds Cafe
First of all, I love the name. After living in Costa Rica for a year, I’ve developed a love for all things Bob Marley. I suggest that you choose to eat your brunch on the cute little outdoor patio area. There are umbrellas for shade, so I find it to be perfectly comfortable. Three Little Birds has gluten-free bread, and I love their omelets.
MAP IT (DOWNTOWN CHARLESTON)
Fun fact: this was the first place I ate brunch in Charleston. It’s a goodie. You order up at the counter, and then you can sit in their dining area or outside (again, I totally recommend outside.) My favorite thing is their GF egg sandwich. Absolutely delightful. Make sure to remind them if you have an allergy, so they can be super cautious about contamination!
Breizh pan Crepes
Breizh pan Crepes is a little french creperie with breakfast, savory, and sweet options. Their savory crepe is naturally gluten-free. So you can have any of the breakfast/savory crepes as is, and then you can ask for the gluten free-crepe if you would rather go sweet. They seem to be very aware of allergies.
I think the portions are fairly small. Don’t envision massively large stuffed crepes! We will either eat here if we aren’t too hungry, or we will share three of them between the two of us.
Ok, I need to be honest about this little vegan cafe. On one hand, it’s just about the cutest little cafe I have ever eaten in. On the other hand, it disappoints me a bit. I have been to two other vegan cafes (one in Vermont, one in Las Vegas) who have essentially made their entire menus gluten-free. I was hoping for the same. There are only 3 gluten-free breakfast options at Gnome (and one is only yogurt).
What they do have is tasty (and their coffee is good!), but I feel like a little extra effort could make more of the menu GF. If that were the case, I would recommend ecstatically it to just about everyone. It would probably be my favorite spot in town.
The popular downtown Hominy Grill is a lovely place for brunch. While you are waiting, you can stop by their drinks window to order a curbside coffee, mimosa, or bloody mary. But is Hominy Grill gluten-free friendly?
There is a Hominy Grill gluten-free menu, but staff always mention how they cannot completely prevent cross-contamination. I ate there and left feeling slightly off.
Then I talked to another staff member and she informed me that the potatoes are grilled on the same exact stovetop as gluten items, even though they are listed on the gluten-free menu. So I went back, ordered an omelet, subbed fruit for the potatoes (apparently, you can have the grits too) — and I was perfectly fine.
Get more from Taylynne and Gluten-Free Near Me’s tips here!