19 Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants in Honolulu, Hawaii
We’ve rounded up the best spots to avoid gluten on Oahu.
Kale and quinoa salad with two poached eggs on top at Tucker and Bevvy Breakfast.
Photo: Steve Czerniak
No doubt you’ve noticed the number of gluten avoiders is growing. A world without malassadas? No pasta or beer? Say it ain’t so! But for those shunning gluten—you may be one of them—eating out in Honolulu often means a lonely retreat to bun-less burgers on greens, the ever-present salad and fries or, saddest of all, rice and pickles in a wheat- and soy-laden bento. (Surprise! A lot of soy is brewed with wheat. But for those not acutely sensitive, know that almost all of the gluten is broken down in naturally fermented shoyu such as Kikkoman.) But while we could find only one restaurant that claims a gluten-free kitchen safe for celiac-level intolerances, there are plenty of options.
In general, your best bets for gluten-free choices and gluten-savvy wait staffs are at chain restaurants, health-food counters, haute cuisine, some ethnic restaurants (especially Greek, Indian and Vietnamese), and the tourist meccas of Waikiki and health-oriented Haleiwa. Here’s our go-to list.
Side note: Why is everyone ganging up on gluten? And what is it, anyways?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye: It gives bread chewiness and noodles elasticity. About 1 percent of the population has celiac disease and must avoid gluten, while another 6 percent is diagnosed gluten intolerant. Those numbers, though, don’t justify the huge market for gluten-free products (estimated to be $15.6 billion by 2016), prompting everyone from the Girl Scouts to pasta-loving Mario Batali to start offering gluten-free options.
Gluten has become the ultimate scapegoat, blamed for everything from fat to fatigue, from arthritis to zits. According to a market study, 22 percent of the population thinks gluten is bad for you; gluten-free for a lot of people is just the latest diet trend. Which isn’t so terrible if you’re swapping out a cupcake for quinoa. But let’s be real: Just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
The ultimate winners, aside from marketers, are those who are actually gluten intolerant. They now have more options than ever, and pretty tasty ones at that.
Gluten-free friendly restaurants
12th Ave Grill
Most of the entrées at this farm-to-table dinner spot are gluten free, and the sides that aren’t can be easily swapped out—the smoked duck with veggies instead of pasta, for example.
1120 12th Ave., 732-9469, 12thavegrill.com
Items at this Hawaii Regional Cuisine flagship draw on local influences (read: soy and wheat), but call ahead of time and the kitchen will be ready with customized gluten-free choices.
1857 S. King St., 949-2526, alanwongs.com
The first tasting menu from Shaymus Alwin, who’s helmed the kitchen at Azure since fall 2013, is the most tantalizing assortment of gluten-free seafood courses on Oahu. This is no simple subtraction of wheat and soy elements. In the lobster course (Alwin grew up hauling pots on his dad’s lobster boat in Maine), the brioche nest on the regular menu gets swapped out for a deep, shellfishy bouillabaisse treatment; and the smoked duck ravioli of the main course is replaced with an even better smoked onaga with creamy corn and mushrooms in a sprightly sauce of chile oil, rice vinegar and tahini.
Tasting menu starts at $125. Royal Hawaiian Hotel, 2259 Kalakaua Ave., 923-7311, royal-hawaiian.com
Banzai Sushi Bar
The menu at this Haleiwa sushi bar denotes items that are vegan, vegetarian, kosher or gluten free. Our pick: The Maui Wowi roll, which packs fresh ahi, mango, avocado and shiso in soft yuba tofu skin atop an organic, gluten-free soy-vinegar dressing.
66-246 Kamehameha Highway, 736-4404, banzaisushibarhawaii.com
This surprise find shares a space with a ramen parlor; as we went to press, it was still searching for a name. Simmered meat stews (try awaze tibs, beef simmered in a tomato sauce), legumes (get the red lentils) and veggies are gluten free—and you can substitute rice for the traditional injera bread, which here is made with teff and wheat flours.
730 Kapahulu Ave., 925-7197
Greens & Vines
Raw, vegan and gluten-free dishes from a gluten-free kitchen, the only one on the island. Bread and crackers are made from things that include sunflower seeds, flax and onions. The living lasagna with zucchini noodles and mac-nut ricotta translates a hot-dish concept into a cool, creamy entrée.
909 Kapiolani Blvd., 536-9680, greensandvines.com
While there’s no gluten-free menu at this French-Latin bistro, there are plenty of wheat-free dishes, including steamed, grated yucca topped with cheese and honey and a succulent pork chop. The staff is trained to suggest options and the kitchen adept at modifying dishes. Ask about the deconstructed gluten-free duck confit crepes—they’re arguably better than the wheaty version.
62 N. Hotel St., 566-6768, grondinhi.com
A takeout counter with no noodles, katsu or soy-infused poke, Grylt has multiple gluten-free options for meat and fish, veggies and starches, including the mashed cauliflower and grilled baby romaine.
Locations in Manoa, Ala Moana Center and Kahala Mall, grylt.com
Highway Inn Kakaako
What’s gluten-free-friendly besides poi, lau lau, lomi salmon and haupia? An on-site pastry chef who bakes silky custards with kiawe-flour crusts. They’re incredible enough that they outsell the bread puddings, pineapple upside-down cakes and other wheat-flour desserts.
680 Ala Moana Blvd., 954-4955, myhighwayinn.com
Koko Head Cafe’s gluten-free congee.
Koko Head Cafe
Lee Anne Wong’s menu of scones, cornflake French toast and “Dumplings All Day Wong” may seem daunting from a gluten-free perspective, but the staff can navigate you to gluten-free options, including a killer breakfast congee.
1145c 12th Ave., 732-8920, kokoheadcafe.com
Neiman Marcus’ third-floor restaurant designates lots of items as gluten-free. Of note: the quinoa noodles in the lunch-only Andean Dream, possibly the best al dente gluten-free spaghetti in town.
Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., 951-3420
The beachfront restaurant at the Outrigger Reef Hotel prides itself on a menu that’s mostly gluten-free, including the buttery seafood lau lau and the chef’s signature weekly snapper specials.
The Halekūlani’s haute cuisine menu designates 12 of 22 dishes at lunch and 14 of 23 at dinner as gluten-free. The olive oil-poached salmon with pistachios is indulgent, and the steamed onaga a classic.
2199 Kalia Road, 288-8022, halekulani.com
When you want a creative, entrée-size salad, Pavilion has one of the best selections on the island. Many raise vegetables to the level of indulgence, like the warm goat cheese and berry salad and the white beans on arugula and radicchio.
Honolulu Museum of Art, 900 S. Beretania St., 532-8734, honolulumuseum.org
The Farmers’ Pho at The Pig and the Lady.
The Pig and the Lady
Going gluten-free doesn’t mean forsaking noodles, thanks to rice noodles, used in pho and other Vietnamese noodle soups. Because of its Vietnamese roots, nearly all the noodle soups, salads and most dishes that rotate through the menu are gluten free, such as the herb-flecked, puffed rice-topped sashimi. When not busy, the kitchen is adept at modifying other dishes.
83 N. King St., 585-8255, thepigandthelady.com
While none of Roy’s three Oahu restaurants has a gluten-free menu, “If a dish has gluten, we try to replicate it or make something similar by removing the gluten and substituting non-gluten ingredients,” says corporate chef Jackie Lau. The molten flourless chocolate soufflé, thankfully, is gluten free.
Locations in Hawaii Kai, Waikiki and Ko Olina, royshawaii.com
Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar
D.K. Kodama’s gluten-free menu includes sushi rolls—including the mango blue crab hand roll—and the gluten-free Omission Lager.
2552 Kalakaua Ave., 931-6286, sanseihawaii.com
The mushroom rosti at Tucker and Bevvy.
Tucker and Bevvy
The theme at these Aussie-style eateries—one a sit-down breakfast spot and the other a takeout counter—is healthy food. Naturally, then, that means lots of options for gluten avoiders. Almost all the breakfast items, from omelets to the mushrooms on rosti, a potato pancake, are gluten free, and there’s even a gluten-free toast option. At the takeout location, grab a quinoa tabbouleh, white bean and sage hummus, and gluten-free crackers for a picnic.
Tucker and Bevvy Breakfast at Hee Hing Plaza, 449 Kapahulu Ave., Suite 203, 732-0050; Tucker and Bevvy Picnic Food at 2586 Kalākaua Ave., 922-0099, tuckerandbevvy.com
Waialua Bakery & Juice Bar
There’s an option of gluten-free bread for your sandwich, and, unless it runs out, gluten-free peanut butter cookies, too. The turkey pesto is gratifying and gluten- and dairy-free.
66-200 Kamehameha Highway, 341-2838
Best of Gluten-free Honolulu
Standouts in places you wouldn’t expect.
Deconstructed shawarma sandwich from Shaloha Pita
Normally, Shaloha’s grilled chicken shawarma, hummus, tahini and plethora of salads go into a pita pocket. Subtract the pita and the wheaty tabbouleh, and you have a crunchy, fresh take on plate lunch.
3133 Waialae Ave., 744-4222, shalohapita.com
Gluten-free pizza from Zpizza
Rice flour gives this chain’s gluten-free pizza a crust that’s light, crispy and gratifying. Even the gluten tolerant have been known to order this over the wheat version.
Multiple locations, zpizza.com
Kula strawberry “cheesecake” from MW Restaurant
Most of the savory dishes on the menu contain soy sauce or wheat, but dessert is easy to navigate. In Michelle Karr-Ueoka’s cheesecake, kiawe-flour crumbles add a gluten-free crunch to the strawberry sorbet and strawberries filled with li hing ume.
1538 Kapiolani Blvd., 955-6505, mwrestaurant.com