Gluten Free Philadelphia Family Style

When Little Guy was just five months old, we went to Philadelphia for a long weekend. This was just a month after we FLEW to Florida to see my husband’s grandparents. The ironic thing is that this was both kids’ first flights – Bunky at age almost 4, Little Guy 4 months. 

My baby asleep on me en route to Florida.

LG asleep on me en route to Florida.

Looking back, I’m amazed at our bold travel plans with a picky and GF toddler (she was not yet four) and an infant, considering we didn’t leave our home for about a year after Bunky as born. Then again, let’s not forget about colic. Enough said.

Anyway, we had such a great time in Philadelphia that first time, we decided to go again over Bunky’s recent holiday break. One of the reasons we love Philly so much, besides the awesome Please Touch Me children’s museum, which now has a GF menu in their cafe, yay!

Hanging out with the birds by the clothesline.

Hanging out with the birds by the clothesline.

Playing some serious doctor.

Playing some serious doctor.

Little Guy, too. He really loves babies.

Little Guy really loves babies.

… and the Franklin Institute (I just love that giant beating heart), is because the city is literally crawling with gluten free dining options. There’s even a place to get a gluten free Philly Cheesesteak, because of course.

All that positive stuff said, let me be honest here – it’s HARD traveling away from home with a celiac kiddo and a GF family. Partly because we had to rely almost entirely on take-out – something we RARELY do at home. One thing I would do differently next time is find a hotel with a kitchenette. We had a fridge in our room, which helped a lot, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe because I didn’t bring enough food.

Sure, I packed cheese (2 types), a loaf of Udi’s bread, bags of pretzels (3 kinds), Pirate’s Booty (2 bags), apples, bananas, grapes, pouches of toddler food, nuts, dried cranberries, raisins (yogurt covered and plain), cereal (Honey Puffins and Koala Crisp), almond butter, and more stuff I can’t recall.

I packed about double this.

I packed at least double this. amount

I’m laughing as I type this because about ten seconds ago I genuinely believed that I didn’t bring enough, and yet – YET – clearly, there is NEVER enough. I forgot hummus and Temptee cream cheese (oh the horror! Bunky is not a fan of the city’s own brand), plus we ran out of fruit very fast. The fact is, when you have no way to cook anything, your packed stash disappears quickly. Maybe next time we’ll hit a grocery store mid way through, but that would’ve been a bit crazy considering we were only away for three days.

Thankfully there was a Starbucks in the lobby, and even though I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts girl at heart, I would have perished without my morning coffee, and they also sold fruit, yogurt, and travel size Rice Chex. Score!

I’d like to say my husband and I handled the food stress gracefully. That we laughed off Bunky’s refusal to eat eggs (eggs!?!? the only GF food on the hotel breakfast menu besides yogurt and fruit) and the fact that we were all starving by lunchtime and had to rush back to the hotel for LG’s nap while simultaneously trying to Google map the nearest GF pizza place. All this during a BLIZZARD. Plus arctic temperatures.

So, no, we didn’t handle it gracefully. Have I ever mentioned my husband’s genetic disposition to extreme grumpiness and borderline personality disorder when hungry?

angry face square

This is an understatement.

Have I ever mentioned mine?

Things took a grim turn the second night. Little Guy’s nap was extra late, and by the time he woke it was dark and the weather was a mess. After exhausting our research abilities and snapping at each other, my husband decided to order room service for us (which we tried to make GF, but I wouldn’t bet on it) and the kids ate scraps. Ha. Leftover pizza and our own food stash, but still, it was not ideal.

We survived though, and along the way found some new favorite GF places, plus revisited (several times) Franklin Fountain, an adorable and delicious old-fashioned ice cream shop. Yes, we ate ice cream in ten degree weather. Inside, though, which makes it okay.

Below is a list of the GF places that worked for us. There are about a bazillion more, which you can glimpse here.

[A quick disclaimer: Though I called ahead and checked the GF status of the following places, this is not a 100% guarantee that they will be safe for you, so you may want to do your own double checking.]

Giorgio On Pine … They have a gluten free menu and when my husband spoke to the chef during our first visit, she was well versed in gluten free safety and celiac disease. We felt very comfortable ordering from there. But not eating there, since it’s too nice and intimate of a place to bring two kids under five (in our opinion). Besides, one of our sweetest memories from our last trip was eating Giorgio on Pine’s pasta on the windowsill of our hotel room. So we did it again.

Window service. Freezing but fun.

Window service. Freezing but fun.

The pasta we ordered was Schar, and you can’t go wrong with that, but Bunky was not a big fan of the pizza, made with Still Riding brand dough. It was fine, but nothing compared to the pizza from…

Slice (oh my god, seriously delicious) … This might have been some of the BEST gluten free pizza I’ve ever had. No joke. I would totally be their best customer if they opened up a shop in Brooklyn. (Please, please!) It also passed Bunky’s very strict approval process. Phew!

Franklin Fountain … We went here twice in arctic temperatures to eat ice cream. Do I need to say more?

Thumbs up to vanilla shakes with lots of vanilla bean bits.

Thumbs up to vanilla shakes and ice cream with lots of vanilla bean bits.

This is what LG looked like waking from his nap.

This is LG wondering, where is my take-out chocolate shake?

Oh yeah, the chocolate shake was a big hit.

Now, that’s the way to wake up from a nap.

Well, yes, I do. They also opened a brand new vanilla for Bunky AND disinfected their ice cream scoop BEFORE making hers. Awesome. Plus, the employees wear these cute old-fashioned caps and aprons. Plus, they sell lots of old-fashioned candy.

Xochitl … This adorable little Mexican restaurant in Old City, Society Hill has great ambiance and delicious food. Oh, and fantastic margaritas. Thank goodness we went at 5:30 and were the first table, because Little Guy was climbing all over me and using his outside voice. But our waitress was SO nice and helpful, not only about the GF menu (pretty much everything was GF!) but also with my kids. I really can’t say enough how much I appreciate when wait staff is genuinely loving towards children.

Soy Cafe … This place seriously SAVED our lives on our way out of Philly. We were all hungry and cranky (shocking) plus a little bit sad to be leaving the city of brotherly love. Our food stash was seriously compromised. As in gone. We told a not very pleased Bunky we were getting eggs at a cool sounding place called, Green Eggs Cafe, but when we arrived there was a line out the door. Crap, we had forgotten it was Sunday. As parents of a celiac kid we had completely forgotten about the existence of brunch (so sad). Doh. My husband pulled the car over and I happened to glance out the window and saw this:

soy cafe

I just had a feeling we were golden. Soy practically means gluten free, right? Well, in this case it did! They have a hugely extensive menu filled with fresh juices, smoothies, salads, veggies, hummus, eggs, wraps, soups (including GF miso, yum!), plus gluten free muffins (banana chip, I mean, really how did they know?!) and hot chocolate, which I had promised the kids. I HIGHLY recommend dropping by if you ever find yourself in the area. The online reviews are all raves, too, so it wasn’t just a case of dire desperation. Soy Cafe truly rocks!

Now, you can’t hit everything, especially not in only three days. We didn’t get to Taffet’s this time (formerly Totes Bakery) which has a FANTASTIC stash of breads, baked goods and specialty GF foods, or to Pasanos’s, which sells delicious sounding Italian sandwiches on GF rolls (purchased from their neighbor, Taffet’s). Or the vegan bakery, Sweet Freedom, or about a dozen other places that sounded great.

Fortunately, there’s always next year.

Have you been to Philly recently? What are your favorite GF places there? 

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8 thoughts on “Gluten Free Philadelphia Family Style

  1. I was recently flipping through the Find Me Gluten-Free listings for Philly, just out of curiosity because a few people have been telling me how good of a weekend trip it is from New York. I also have family to visit there…so maybe sometime soon. We used to go more often when we lived closer (in Delaware till I was seven), and my siblings and I loooooved the Please Touch Museum! How great that they have GF options. I was chuckling about the amount of food you brought along, but snacks only go so far to satisfy, especially after long days of sightseeing. I always walk around loaded down with way more food than I need, even here in the city. That’s the celiac life!

    • Yeah, Philly is pretty great for GF stuff. Plus, it’s a fun city, with lots of history and charm. So cool that you used to go to the Please Touch Me Museum! It’s awesome, and kind of puts the Bklyn Children’s Museum to shame. No offense Bklyn.

      Makes sense that snack food is well, just snack food. In the end, without a kitchen, you really can only do so much. And with two picky and often hungry kids, plus the same kind of husband, makes me think I need to invest in a portable fridge/chef/kitchen!

  2. Dana I know the feeling when you travel although mine is only intolerant all I can say is thank god for GOOGLE where would we be…….Some yummy places there I wish they were close by although we have many gluten free options in our nearest town slowly slowly the world changes..thanks for sharing yours.

  3. I had no idea Philadelphia was such a gluten-free mecca :). I have never been before but now I definitely would love to visit and try some of the restaurants that you reviewed! Also, so cool that the cafe in the children’s museum has a gf menu!! When children’s museums start caring gluten-free menus, you know just how far the gluten-free movement has come :D. Great post!

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