How to survive college with celiac disease

Celiacs at College

Restaurants

Prague


Švejk Restaurant U Karla - This is the first of two really good restaurants I ate out at in Prague. It’s located really close to Old Town, but not in the main tourist district. While I only ate some bread and a basic dish of chicken, potatoes, and veggies since I was still recovering from my gluten dose in Geneva, the gluten-free menu was really extensive. There was a lot of traditional Czech food on the menu like goulash, pork schnitzel, and gluten-free potato dumplings and my friend (whose not celiac) absolutely adored the roasted duck. The atmosphere of the place is really nice and local-feeling and the staff doesn’t blink an eye at gluten free orders, which come out with flags labeled gluten-free. A really nice place overall for people who want to try out authentic Czech cuisine in a comfy atmosphere. 


Restaurace Na Zlaté křižovatce - This was an amazing and unexpected find in Prague. One subway stop from the center of Prague, this restaurant is so hidden on a run-down street that I thought I’d gotten the wrong address until I saw the crossed out wheat sign decorating the outside wall. The wheat sign is to show that the entire restaurant is 100% Gluten-Free! Inside, the restaurant looks like a classy french restaurant, except for the wall by the entrance which is covered with Schär products. When I was served bread, I almost asked for a separate butter dish than my non-celiac friend, before I realized that she was eating gluten-free bread too! The food was amazing- I had the Spaghetti Carbonara, which came out in a beautiful clouded glass plate, and I think it was the best thing I ate during my 8 weeks abroad. I also shared an apple strudel with my friend for dessert. Surprisingly, I think my entire meal, including two soft drinks, ended up being the equivalent of $15 USD. The menu also included items like fried chicken schnitzel, home made gnocchi, and spaghetti aglio. The one possible downside of this restaurant is that I didn’t see anyone local eating there. It was very touristy and I actually met a fellow person from Toronto at the table beside me. So, if you’re looking for a really local experience, this may not be the place for you. Still, there’s something about hearing (multiple times),: “Are you sure that everything on the menu is gluten-free?” and then the patient response from the waitress “Yes, I’m sure.”


London


Wagamama - I ate at Wagamama a few times during my stay in London. The good thing about this chain is that they’re everywhere, so it’s easy to use it as a back-up. I personally enjoy the Chinese-cafeteria style decor of the Wagamama restaurants, but I can’t say I’m super fond of eating there. While they will accommodate gluten-free eaters, they give you the regular menu and then bring over a packet which explains how they would need to alter most menu items to become gluten-free. This seems kind of exciting until you realize that ordering something gluten-free may mean it now has no seasoning, no chicken, no broth, and no soy sauce. It took me forever to order the first time since I needed to evaluate how each menu item would end up at the table once I ordered it. Still, the ramen and tofu (no chicken) stir fry I ate at different visits were pretty good, and if you ask for tamari sauce, they should have a bottle in stock. Make sure you ask multiple people since I often found one waiter would give me a weird look, and then another would completely understand where it was. 


La Tasca - Another chain that offers gluten-free options is the Spanish-style restaurant La Tasca. I first ate there when I was wandering around Picadilly Circus with friends trying to find someplace I could eat, and I remembered reading about this restaurant online. Inside, the atmosphere is really nice, and the restaurant was good at accommodating big groups (we had about 12). The food comes in tapas form, meaning that you want to order 2 or 3 dishes to fill you up. About a third of the menu is gluten-free, and during my two visits, I ate the Spanish omelette, the vegetable paella, and a salad. Overall, I find the food ok, but I’m not a huge fan of Spanish cuisine anyway. Still, it’s a good, safe option if you’re out with friends. 


Mildreds - Mildreds is a vegetarian restaurant near Picadilly Circus that I ate at after traveling to the bakery next door. The bakery, Mrs. Marengo’s, serves some gluten-free options that I wanted to try, but I never had the time to visit again during my time in London. That one day I was super hungry, and thought it was a great idea to eat next door since I knew they served gluten-free options. The restaurant is a really nice vegetarian place, and bit more up-scale so be prepared to open up the pocket book. It’s also super popular and I was lucky to get in right away by sitting solo near the front. A lot of the menu items are gluten-free, and I ended up picking a teriyaki stir fry (without the sauce), which actually used to be my favorite food (with the sauce). They forgot about editing out the teriyaki the first round, and I told the waiter that my food smelled way too good for it to be gluten-free. I think it was an honest mistake and they immediately returned it to the kitchen and made me one teriyaki-free, with gluten-free soy sauce on the side. For dessert, I had a slice of chocolate raspberry cake which was good but a bit too rich for me. Overall, the meal was good, but I think true vegetarians appreciate the menu more, since I just wanted some chicken, instead of tofu, in my stir fry. 


Carluccio’s - This italian restaurant chain features a gluten-free menu with plenty of options. The first time I ate at the Carluccio’s in South Kensington, I had the pasta with pesto sauce, and the second time I had spaghetti carbonara. They were ok for gluten-free pasta dishes, but the real treat at Carluccio’s is the dessert. The baked chocolate pudding tastes just as good as it sounds. When the dish came out I had to call over the waitress to make sure it was really gluten-free. It tastes exactly like normal chocolate cake, but with a creamy chocolate center and vanilla ice cream on the side. Amazing, but don’t get your own. It’s deceptively small but very filling, and my friend and I should have shared. Carluccio’s is another example of a chain restaurant that’s good to have in your repertoire and I saw several of them throughout London during my stay.


Cotto Restaurant - Probably my favorite restaurant in London, Cotto can be found a five-minute walk south from Westminster Bridge. It’s a family owned italian restaurant, and almost the entire menu is offered gluten-free. The second time I went, I was with family, and we ordered the beginning bread and butter. Definitely make sure to do so because the bread is awesome, one of the best I’ve ever had. The two main dishes I had there during my two trips were the meat lasagna and the hawaiian pizza. Both were really good, although I leaned more towards the lasagna because it’s so rare I get to order it at a restaurant. For dessert, I picked a spanish flan, out of a number of gluten-free options. Overall, this place is really warm and friendly. The owner, whose a celiac himself, will come and introduce himself, and explain some of the process which goes into the mixing of gluten-free flours. It’s a very comfortable atmosphere for celiacs since the staff obviously know what they’re doing, and about half the customers seemed to be eating gluten-free while I was there. One thing- don’t think you’ve got the wrong street. It’s on Westminster Bridge Road, but just a bit off the beaten track. But, the food and company is definitely worth the slightly confusing walk to get there!


Cambridge


Rainbow Cafe - During my stay in London, I took a day trip down to Cambridge and dined at a cute vegetarian restaurant called Rainbow Cafe, located right across from King’s College. It’s a very local-seeming place, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the main street, and the atmosphere kinda screamed hippy to me. On the menu it said to ask the waitress if they had any gluten-free lasagna left, and there was still some spinach lasagna that I could order. Now, I know I said in the Cotto Restaurant section that I don’t often get to eat lasagna out, but this was a crazy week. Anyway, the food ended up being good, and I felt very healthy after the meal. I’m still a meat lover, so a vegetarian might have raver reviews, but I was just happy to find a filling meal practically in the very center of town. 


Llanberis, Wales- Bed and Breakfast


We stayed at the Lake View Hotel in Wales, about 1/2 hour from Portmeirion, home of The Prisoner series (way before my time but your parents may remember the TV series). The owners of the hotel and restaurant are celiacs, a common theme for gluten free bed breakfasts in the United Kingdom. As such, the owners are used to cooking gluten free and taking all the necessary precautions to avoid cross contamination in the kitchen. It’s not fancy but the food was great, really filling, and the selection was fantastic. On line menus are available and the cost of accommodation (& dinner) is much cheaper than most UK fare. Lots of authentic welsh fare adjusted to gluten free preparation.