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