Eating Gluten Free at Co Ba: Delicious Vietnamese Street Food

IF you are looking to eating gluten free in NYC, Co Ba is a GREAT spot to escape the crowds of Chelsea Market and the Highline Park AND enjoy excellent Vietnamese food. Co Ba is definitely a local restaurant off the beaten tourist path. It’s also easy to miss. Keep your eyes peeled for a small restaurant with a red awning across the street from some dreary apartment buildings on 9th avenue.

For those of us with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, Vietnamese cuisine is always a good selection because it uses a lot of rice noodles or rice as its chosen starch. The main trick to eating gluten free at Vietnamese restaurants is to ask a lot of questions about sauces.

My favorite gluten free dish at Co Ba is Bun Cha Ca Hanoi.

I am a HUGE fan of Bun Cha Ca. I have not yet been to Vietnam but from my husband’s telling, there are street vendors in some cities that line the streets selling their own version of Cha Ca.

Bun Cha Ca every day? That’s for me!

Bun Cha Ca is a turmeric marinated white fish traditionally served with dill, rice noodles and peanuts.

In other words: Gluten free without any modifications. PLUS, It’s delicious! I have tried Cha Ca at three different restaurants in NYC so far – THIS IS THE BEST. It’s fresh but filling at the same time.

Ordering a Bun, which is a noodle dish, is the easiest route to something gluten free and delicious. There are many other choices on Co Ba’s menu. Buns have rice noodles (gluten free), chicken, lettuce, carrots and mint mixed together. It’s hard to explain how delicious they are!

This place is great for small plates. BUT. Watch the sauces. This is where you can get in to gluten free trouble. Ordering Tom Cuon, rice paper wrapped shrimp, which I did the last time, can lead to problems unless the waiter knows what is in the sauce. ASK!!!

I asked for an alternative sauce after this dish arrived because it when I see a brown sauce I start asking questions to make sure its gluten free.

Usually waiters don’t know about soy sauce having gluten. Let them know when you order. They swapped out the sauce with the same mixture they serve with the Buns – a vinegar sauce – and it was great!

Co Ba means “Miss Number Three” which translates loosely to “Auntie Number Three.” This is what the purveyors of tiny restaurants in Vietnam are called because they cook for those that live right next door to them. Auntie Number Three is usually a housewife that expands her offerings to the locals and she becomes like a family member.

And that is the feeling you get in Co Ba. You suspect that someone’s mom is cooking in the back… but she is cooking up stuff that no mom I have met has mastered. Not surprisingly, this is what chef Steven Duong had in mind: A restaurant offering foods typically found on the streets of Vietnam. It’s a great place to go for small plates, clay pots and of course Bun Cha Ca. (Additional Posts on Co Ba)

Neighborhood: Chelsea


Address: 110 9TH AVENUE (BTW 17TH &18TH ST)

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The Quest for a Gluten Free Sandwich in NYC: Friedman’s Deli

A Ruben. New York City.

These two thing are connected in most American minds. But when your gluten free, finding a fix for a New York City style sandwich can be daunting as well as disappointing. Sandwiches are often too weak with almost not fillings or sloppy because the bread selected has turned to mush. This spring and summer I am on a quest to try all of the available gluten free sandwiches in NYC…..first up Friedman’s Lunch.

Friedman's Sandwich Gluten Free

Friedman’s is located inside Chelsea Market a food lovers delight. This building used to house National Biscuit Company making everything from Oreo’s to saltines. Today its full of bakeries, an Italian Market, Cheese Shops, Gelateria, and many other tempting food eateries. None of the bakeries serve gluten free options though so don’t head here to pick up a gluten free cookie.

About halfway down the indoor fairway you will run into Friedman’s Lunch. Its a small place with a lot of options on the menu. The original owner married “gluten free” resulting in a good portion of the menu being converted. It appears, after about 6 months of ownership change, that the gluten free tradition will remain. Exciting!

I found Friedmans for the sole reason of wanting a Ruben gluten free. I had lived in NYC but never had tasted a NYC Ruben. Originally, you could order it lean which means they cut off a lot of the fat. No longer. So one has to make do with the original interpretation of the sandwich which is still pretty delicious, but can be heavy. You may not be able to eat the whole sandwich.

I recommend ordering the chips as well, they are home made and delicious. Sandwiches come with a traditional sour pickle.

Everything I have ever eaten at this restaurant has been good including lasagne, many different sandwiches, gluten free bagels and more. If you are not a fan of pastrami I suggest going with the chicken salad sandwich or one of the other choices. The chicken salad at this restaurant is excellent – not too sweet and its a perfect mixture in terms of the mayo/yogurt that is used to hold it all together!

This is a great stop if you are near the Highline and want a to-go lunch. Warning: Sandwiches are NOT served during brunch on Saturday or Sunday which lasts until 4pm (a very late menu change).


Address: Chelsea Market

Neighborhood: Chelsea



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