The inevitable happened.
The 21st century Black Plague, otherwise known as Gluten Intolerance, finally infected this self-confessed bread lover.
Perhaps my body started rejecting wheat once I began regularly pounding a baguette a day since moving to Spain—who’s to say. All I know is I’ve been having stomach problems all year long, and the doctors are quick to blame gluten. I don’t know if I’m fully on board with the diagnosis, but I’m definitely not on board with the pain in my gut every day, so I give up. I concede. I forfeit my beloved gluten, and console my feelings of forced separation on bowls of flavorless white rice instead.
All this happened while living in Barcelona. I thought all was lost in terms of dining out. Had I been back in San Francisco, where gluten free menu items are as common as Facebook employees, I may have had a fighting chance. But Spain? Spain is a country where breakfast equals toast; lunch is mopped up with baguettes; dinner is served on sliced bread (well, at least the pinchos are). I thought I’d have to kiss my social life goodbye.
But I’m happy to say, fellow gluten intolerants, that was not the case. While challenging at times, I was eventually able to discover some wonderful restaurants in Barcelona where it was easy to feast without wreaking gastrointestinal havoc. Here’s my round-up of some gluten free eats in the city center:
Conesa, Carrer de la Llibreteria 1
Conesa is known for their fantastic grilled sandwiches, so imagine the little jig I danced when I found out they had gluten free sandwich bread. The sandwiches are dirt cheap and the add-on for the G.F. roll is just .75 cents. Plus, they can make 95% of the sandwiches on the menu gluten free. They grill up the G.F. sandwiches on a separate panini press, so less danger of cross-contamination for the celiacs out there. I got the sandwich with grilled peppers, spicy sauce and white sausage (butifarra blanca)—heavenly.
En Ville, Carrer Doctor Dou, 14
This place has a certified gluten free menu, and I’d say about 95% of the menu items are gluten free. The cuisine is a bit of a mix between Spanish and French. It’s certainly more upscale dining—think duck and pork loin and such—and has a wonderful romantic ambiance for date nights, or when your parents come to visit. Not that you’re trying to be romantic with your parents. I’m just saying the place is nice, ok?
Copasetic, Carrer de la Diputació, 55
This restaurant and café has a very American/British feel to it, and is incredibly accommodating towards all sorts of food intolerances. They can make things lactose/dairy free, vegan, gluten free, and they tend towards using organic and natural products. The place itself has a nice aesthetic with painted brick walls and minimalist furniture. They have crepes, salads, burgers, sandwiches . . . and all can be made gluten free. I got a chicken burger on a gluten free bun, which came with a side of potato and salad. Plus, order a burger for lunch and it comes with a free drink! I know I’m prone to hyperbole but believe me when I say, it was one of the top 3 best chicken burgers I’ve ever had.
Arepamundi, Carrer de N’Agla, 6
I’ve gone on and on in this post about how much I love Arepamundi. Arepas are essentially corn English muffins which originated in Colombia and Venezuela. They’re made with corn flour and water, so no harmful gluten! Plus, at Arepamundi they stuff them with all the fixin’s from all over the world. Only problem is it’s almost hard to enjoy eating these, since you know that at some moment in time, it has to end.
Gelaaati di Marco, Carrer de la Llibreteria, 7. (Right next to the sandwich shop Conesa, so get this for dessert!)
Ok, so ice cream doesn’t have gluten (unless there are add-ins like cookies). But a) This place has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tried in general, B) they have non-dairy flavors made out of coconut or rice milk for the lactose/dairy stricken, and C) they have GLUTEN FREE CONES! How sick are you of always having to order a cup? This place feels your pain.
Spice Café, Carrer Margarit, 13
One of my favorite little cafes away from the touristy center, Spice, bakes up the most delectable assortment of homemade cakes every day, with British and American recipes. (None of these bullshit Spanish “cakes” that taste like carpet.) They offer a gluten free cake every day as well. Pictured below is the carrot cake (not G.F.), which they’re “famous” for (and deservedly so). I indulged in this before the horrifying diagnosis, and probably paid the price for it later on. But now I could go back and have their G.F. cake and do things besides clutch my stomach for the rest of the day!
Note: On my previous post, My Favorite Places to Eat in Barcelona, some of the places I mentioned are also very gluten free friendly. Mosquito has some dumplings made out of rice flour, and Bun Bo has a menu listing its gluten free offerings (much of Vietnamese cuisine is naturally gluten free).
One last beacon of hope: Spanish cuisine is actually very naturally conducive to a gluten free diet. Tortilla española (potato and egg omelette), paella, olives, fresh seafood and fish, patatas bravas (thick cut potatoes with spicy sauce), and most high-quality cured meats are safe to eat and common on typical Spanish menus.
Does anyone know of any other gluten free places in Barcelona I should have tried? Or just great places in general? Let us know in the comments!