A gluten-free diet doesn’t mean all your meals need to be eaten at home.
Let me show you where and how to eat gluten-free in Calgary!
For those of you who have worked with me in the past, it’s likely we’ve talked about a diet that is free from wheat and gluten. While that bias remains, one of the more challenging aspects of adopting a gluten-free diet is eating out. More specifically, how to go out for a nice meal with friends or family and not have to worry about paying for it later.
So, in order to make eating out less of a chore and more of a joy, Ali and I have compiled a list of the best gluten-free options available in the Calgary area. We’ve personally been to all of the restaurants listed. And they only made it onto the list if they didn’t hurt our guts.
Full disclosure: neither Ali nor myself have the refined palates needed to be restaurant critics. Our reviews are more focused on the lack of digestive distress after eating. That’s a big win for us!
Gluten Aware, Gluten Conscious, and Gluten Free – The Differences
Before we jump into the list, I would like to make a clarification between two terms you will often see at a restaurant:
- Gluten aware or gluten conscious
Gluten aware or gluten conscious restaurants
Gluten aware or gluten conscious restaurants are what you’ll run into should you visit a restaurant that also serves wheat or gluten-containing products.
These restaurants will often do everything they can to ensure your food does not come into contact with wheat. However, this cannot be guaranteed. As a patron, you are taking a risk.
If you have celiac disease or a very strong gluten sensitivity, I would recommend avoiding these restaurants.
The risk of cross-contamination is very real. Remember, it takes 20ppm of gluten to trigger a reaction. To give you some context on how small that is, imagine cutting a piece of bread into one million pieces. Those would be incredibly small pieces! To trigger a gluten-induced reaction would require only 20 of those pieces. That’s it!
For a food to legally be classified as gluten-free in Canada, it has to have less than 20ppm of gluten. (1) I’m skeptical that gluten-aware or gluten conscious restaurants are consistently able to keep gluten levels that low across all their dishes all of the time.
If you are ordering any food that is deep-fried, please ask if the restaurant has a dedicated gluten-free deep fryer. This is a common area where cross-contamination can occur.
For a restaurant to be classified as a gluten-free restaurant it must be entirely free from wheat and gluten. Meaning, that they do not process gluten-containing products at their location. This is the safest option for those with celiac disease or strong sensitivities.
These types of restaurants are very hard to come by. The vast majority of restaurants in the Calgary area are gluten-aware, not gluten-free.
To help you make safer decisions when eating out, look for the newly introduced gluten-free food program (GFFP). The gluten-free food program is available in both the United States and Canada. This organization will train restaurant owners in the proper methods/techniques to ensure their establishments are as gluten-free as possible.
As this is a new organization, there aren’t too many restaurants that have gone through the certification process. Keep your eyes on this page, it will be updated with all the restaurants that have been certified. For those of you with celiac disease, I recommend you only eat at these types of restaurants.
Mark & Ali’s Top Pick’s For Gluten-Free Restaurants in Calgary
This is an easy choice. At the time of this writing, Calgary only has one certified gluten-free restaurant. Cochrane has one restaurant that is very close to being certified gluten-free, they have one menu item that contains gluten. So while I can’t give them the GF certification, they’re a very close second.
Ali and I were absolutely overjoyed to discover a restaurant that was 100% gluten-free. There’s not a lick of gluten anywhere in the restaurant. For those of you concerned about eating out, go to heaven. You will not experience any gluten exposure. And at the time of this writing, I believe it to be the only gluten-free restaurant in the Calgary area.
Heaven is a delightful taste of Venezuelan cuisine. The staff are incredibly friendly and they even have vegetarian/vegan options. Heaven is not the best place for a romantic date night. Instead, it’s casual dining done well. The food arrives quickly and is delicious.
Needless to say, Heaven is our top choice for gluten-free restaurants in Calgary.
Thai Onzon is located in Cochrane. While it’s not 100% gluten-free – they have one appetizer that contains wheat/gluten (breaded calamari). Every other item on their menu is gluten-free. And the owners are incredibly diligent about minding cross-contamination. So diligent that we had to put this restaurant under gluten-free; even though it’s technically gluten-aware. But Thai Onzon is far more gluten-aware than any other restaurant we’ve visited.
Worth noting – this is a vegetarian restaurant. Carnivores, you may not be satisfied here. While Ali often rejoices about eating here, I’m always left wanting more.
Overall, Thai Onzon is delicious vegetarian Thai cooking with some of the best gluten-free desserts we’ve found! But it’s certainly not a keto friendly restaurant!
I know, The Cave is not in the Calgary area at all – it’s in Edmonton. But I couldn’t leave it off this list. It’s the first Paleo restaurant I’ve seen in Alberta. So, it’s certainly worth a mention.
Next time you head up to Edmonton, eat here. The Cave is 100% gluten, soy, and sugar-free. Celiacs rejoice, you can eat here without issue!
Mark & Ali’s Top Pick’s For Gluten Aware Restaurants in Calgary
The below restaurants are in no particular order. They’re an eclectic list of spots we’ve been to and enjoyed. Most importantly, they didn’t hurt our guts. Celiacs, be warned, this list of restaurants still has gluten prepared in their kitchens.
Clive burger is an awesome burger joint. They use a dedicated gluten-free deep fryer to ensure your fries are actually free from gluten. When we expressed that we had a gluten allergy, they did an amazing job of cleaning the prep counter, utensils, and notifying all staff that an allergy was present.
While they’re not certified gluten-free, if you’re craving a burger, Cliver Burger is hard to beat. Worth mentioning, the gluten-free burger buns are stellar – no gross textures here!
Thanh Thy is our go-to restaurant when we’re short on time. Their menu clearly lists every item that can be made gluten-free. They have a dedicated gluten-free deep fryer. And their gluten-free spring rolls are absolutely incredible. I’d argue it’s worth going here for the spring rolls alone.
Pho soup and vermicelli bowls can both be made gluten-free. Please note, Thanh Thy currently uses MSG in their soups.
Una Pizza uses care bakery (more on them below) for their pizza crusts. They are delicious! A wide variety of toppings make for many unique pizza options. If the pizza craving strikes, Una pizza is the place to go.
Worth noting is another pizzeria called Without Papers. Ali and I have not been but we’ve received many rave reviews from friends. All of their pizzas can be made gluten-free.
If you know me, you know about his love for soup – specifically pho and ramen. Goro & Gun is the only place we have found that makes a GF ramen. If you’re craving a warm bowl of soup, make a trip here.
They also do an incredible plate of sushi. If you’re sticking with a keto diet, skip the ramen and opt for the sushi at Goro & Gun – it’s stellar!
When you’re craving chicken wings, finding a gluten-free variety at a restaurant is tricky. Nearly every place we’ve inquired at shares a deep fryer with breaded pub foods. Not gluten friendly at all.
But the Brewhouse has a dedicated gluten-free deep fryer. The few times Ali and I have had wings here we left with zero stomach discomfort. So, when the craving for chicken wings hits, opt for the Brewhouse!
I love Mexican cuisine. Perhaps my love for Mexican food comes from the use of corn over wheat products. Anejo does an incredible job with all things Mexican.
Nearly everything on their menu can be made gluten-free. And their tacos…Amazing. Gluten-free as well. When you’re craving guacamole, head to Anejo!
Gluten-free bakeries in Calgary
Ok, now you know some of our favorite gluten-free restaurants in the Calgary area. Now, let’s dig into the best gluten-free baking the Calgary area has to offer!
Much like restaurants, there are dedicated gluten-free bakeries (100% free from gluten). And there are gluten-aware bakeries – bakeries that work with both gluten and gluten-free products.
I’m an advocate for being extra cautious. So far as I’m concerned, stomach pain is not worth any baked good. Opt for the dedicated gluten-free bakeries whenever possible. The chance of cross-contamination is far too great at the other bakeries. I’ve only listed gluten-free bakeries below.
This is our favorite bakery in Calgary! Specifically, because they cater to our low-carb and keto-friendly diet. But they’re also gluten-free and sugar-free.
Lots of gluten-free baking is filled with excess sugars. This is usually done to make up for the poor flavor profile of gluten-free foods. But this doesn’t happen at the Just Sweet Enough Bakery.
The flavors are incredible! And incredibly low in sugar. It’s a keto dieter’s favorite hangout.
Absolutely everything on this bakery’s menu is free from gluten! Celiacs, rest easy. You can eat here without issue.
If you’ve been craving doughnuts and/or brownies, Nourish has got you covered.
And there’s just about every variety of bread available at this bakery. From sourdough to banana (and everything in between). And there’s even Paleo bread! Yum!
Care Bakery helps you to enjoy all the foods typically excluded on a gluten-free diet. Foods like hamburger/hotdog buns, pizza crusts, and dinner rolls. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call these foods healthy, they’re most certainly gluten-free.
When you just want to eat like you used to eat (before removing gluten) the Care Bakery can help. Their products are more than palatable. They’re actually quite good.
Ok, that’s our current best of the best list of gluten-free restaurants and bakeries we’ve found in the Calgary area.
Now, I want to hear from you.
What is your favorite gluten-free restaurant in Calgary? Leave your answers in the comments section below!
Also published on Medium.