Ah, eating gluten free. It seems so simple-we’ve all seen the aisle in the grocery store, the friendly sign in the window of your local vegan joint, ‘Gluten Free Food Available Here!’ More and more people are discovering an intolerance for the wheat-y stuff, and more and more places are trying (bless them) to work around it. But unfortunately, for the truly allergic, it’s not as simple as buying some gluten-free pasta and mixing in your regular sauce.

Threat of cross-contamination means that to be truly gluten free, a kitchen must ensure that all surfaces, utensils, and pots are 100% safe. As well, so many misconceptions exist surrounding what is truly gluten free (spelt, for the record, is free of wheat but NOT gluten. Update your menus, restaurants everywhere.) that it becomes almost impossible to ensure the gluten free label is being used properly. Some hints? Check on packaging that the food was produced in a gluten-free factory. In coffee shops, all gluten-free treats should be wrapped individually in saran wrap. And restaurants? You could call ahead, or you could keep reading. We’ve tried all the restaurants on most of the Toronto gluten-free lists, and guess what? Many of them actually aren’t safe for the truly allergic. (Hint: many of your favourite, wonderful Toronto vegan restaurants just don’t measure up when it comes to getting flourless.) Here’s where you can take your Celiac friends and family in Toronto and be sure they won’t, as we say, get “glutened.” These have all been test-driven (by my delightful and virtually unfeedable extremely allergic little sister) and we give them the She Does The City seal of Gluten Free approval.

Hibiscus (238 Augusta Ave.)
As mentioned, my younger sister has celiac, and to make it even more entertaining, she’s also allergic to dairy and soy. So you can imagine the look of impish joy that spread across her face upon discovering that this cozy Kensington Market spot offers gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free vegan and vegetarian desserts of all kinds. We started off with delicious buckwheat crepes. “I don’t think this place even has any wheat flour!” My sister said, reading the menu with delight. The crepes, the perfect texture, were piled high with delicious veggies and an amazing pesto sauce (we went savoury, but they have a ton of sweet offerings that will make your mouth water.) The coffee was excellent, the tea selection formidable, and of course, those desserts: cookies and peanut butter bars and more! My sister has never been happier, and never felt safer, eating at a new restaurant. These ladies know their stuff when it comes to delicious breakfast delights AND whipping them up, allergy friendly style. The best part? Seriously affordable food, in a fantastic, comfy and bright atmosphere.

Il Fornello
Rumor has it the owner’s wife has celiac disease, and that’s why this kitchen is incredibly good at accommodating those with the allergy. All of their mouth-watering pastas and pizzas can be made with a delicious, gluten-free substitute, and if you sign up for the Il Fornello Gluten Free Card,/a> rumor has it they’ll waive that extra fee. They are also incredibly helpful when it comes to ensuring other allergens are avoided, to the best of their ability.

Riz (1677 Bayview Ave.)
Often, it seems comfort food isn’t available to celiacs. But Riz makes the kind of Pan-Asian you spend all day craving, and they make it gluten-free. They take their mandate seriously, offering separate labeled plates that are only for gluten-free use. They also offer gluten-free specials in addition to a very comprehensive gluten-free menu. Springrolls? Pad Thai? YES YOU CAN!

While not all their foods are gluten-free, and they don’t offer a gluten-free menu, their Rostis, which are a delicious potato-y delight, are actually gluten free. Double check with the on-site chef that she or he is keeping their utensils separate, but since they’re standing right there, this is a pretty easy task.

New York Fries
Don’t fear the food court! If you’re out with friends and your blood sugar starts to plummet, a large container of plain and delicious New York Fries is a fast food option that is gluten-friendly.

~Haley Cullingham