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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Gluten Free Lobster Roll in NYC: 5 Napkin Burger

Gluten Free Lobster Roll? Really?

The last time I had a lobster roll was in 1999 on Block Island. In between moped rides and taking in the awesome views of the island I stopped by someplace and woofed down a lobster roll.

In hindsight, I totally took it for granted.

Living in New York City limits the possibilites of casually picking up a lobster roll. Its not like being in Maine where lobster rolls are on a lot of menus because, well, they have a lot of lobster there.

Here not so much. And a gluten free lobster roll? That is almost beyond hope…

So I was thrilled to find a gluten free lobster roll available at 5 Napkin Burger.

Waiter TIP: When I ordered this gluten free I had to convince the waiter that I was FINE with only having one sandwich. He kept saying “I can’t serve you three of them — you understand right?”

The lobster roll is served on tiny buns normally so the waiter was overly concerned that I expected 3 large buns (they only have large buns). Meanwhile I was thrilled to get any bun! but he had trouble understanding that.

I eat the fries at 5 Napkin Burger and do not get sick BUT check with them if you have a very severe allergy because they may be cross frying. (Read other reviews about 5 Napkin Burger)

Neighborhood: Union Square, Upper West Side


Address: 150 E. 14th Street


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Eating Gluten Free at Dorado in NYC

dorado gluten freeUnion Square has become a taco haven over the last two years and I am loving it!

Dorado Taco is about 2 blocks from my house. What makes this restaurant so different from the other taco places I have written about is the menu at Dorado Taco is clearly labeled with Gluten Free symbols.

How easy! For a glimpse of what they offer check out their online menu (also with gluten free markings) here.

I eat a lot of tacos and Dorado shines in one area: fish tacos. Specifically grilled fish tacos. Usually fish tacos are breaded in NYC – its rare to get a grilled fish taco like you can on the west coast. For this, I heart Dorado Taco! Its one of the only Baja style gluten free taco’s I have run into.

The corn chips are thick here – obviously cut from the hand made corn tortillas. I prefer a thinner chip but if you like these they are good here!

Neighborhood: Union Square


Address: 28 East 12th Street (near University)

The Blessing Way: The most unique and powerful shower gift

My friends did something really amazing for me during my pregnancy: they gave me a Blessing Way. If you want to support a future mother this is the way to do it.

A Blessing Way focuses on the mother. It is a gathering of women, but can include men close to her as well. Mine did.

Everyone that attends comes with offers of love and support. This can take whatever form you desire! For those of you that have trouble with the subtle, this is not the party that you invite anyone that the mom to be finds stressful or annoying or whatever other negative emotion you can think of. If you are going to do this for a close friend, view yourself as a curator, inviting only people that are interested in fully supporting the mom in her coming role.

The heart of a Blessing Way is just that – heart. The goal is to create a way to remind the mom that she is supported. When I read about a Blessing Way online many people have set up all these rules for them like don’t give the mom baby gifts. THROW OUT THE RULES leaving only one: focus on the mom. My friends did and it was a joyful day.

What did they do? Thanks for asking….

First they created a Blessing Way necklace. Each person that attended brought beads that were meaningful to them and they were all strung together to create a necklace.

The end result was magnificent! The remarkable thing about putting together one of these necklaces is how beautiful they look in the end. It feels like a bundle of joy and support when you wear it.Unique baby Shower

It has become one of my prized possessions. I took it into the delivery room with me and its now hanging in my baby’s room. I look at it often when the baby is really fussy and I need a source of strength when no one is around. The necklace makes me feel like my friends are watching over me and the baby at times. Its a true comfort to me.

protective mexican frog bead

The other joy of this necklace is the history behind each bead. The stories. It reminds me that for centuries women have been passing myths and objects down through their families to celebrate life.

My necklace has some of these ideals threaded through it. There are mexican frogs that are meant to protect newborns, coral that has been passed down from generation to generation upon the birth of a child, and well worn bodhi prayer beads. Many people brought different kinds of hearts for the necklace from swarovski crystals to rose quartz. An Iranian friend brought an evil eye bead to ward away darkness.

I could go on and on because there is such a richness here – and that is the point. This necklace weaves together everyone’s stories and traditions and offers them all together. Its powerful.

Second, everyone offered a written blessing for my daughter and me. These talked of love, safety, and the grace of my coming birth. It was so powerful to have them with me at the hospital. I could have threaded these together and hung them up while at the hospital, but I knew I would be moving around to different floor after the baby arrived so I kept them with me in an envelope.

Finally, someone made bracelets with a simple bead for everyone that was part of the event. By wearing these during my last months of pregnancy everyone was reminded of what was unfolding for me. This was really powerful, to have someone say “I still have my bracelet on and am thinking of you.” One person’s bracelet fell off the morning of the day the baby was born!

We say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a village to raise a mother.

Skip the standard shower. Dive into deep compassion. Offer the future mom real support.