Being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2009 after struggling through some serious health issues was a tough hit.
While getting the diagnosis saved me from a future filled with the pain and agony I'd already been through, it inadvertently destroyed most of my personal life. Meals with friends and family were previously quite common, but my diagnosis brought that to an immediate halt. With the added fear of getting sick — and after actually getting sick a few times — I began avoiding eating at their homes, including on holidays. I felt lost, with no guidance for how to be "gluten free."
Today, celiac disease, a genetically inherited condition, affects about 1 percent of Americans, or 3 million people. It's estimated that up to 80 percent of people who have celiac disease, which can present itself through a wide range of symptoms or none at all, are undiagnosed.
When I was diagnosed in 2009, "gluten free" wasn't a common term in restaurants or grocery stores. After struggling to find dining experiences I was used to, and trying to understand exactly what gluten was, I began researching and educating myself.
Almost a decade later, in 2017, I launched the Spokane Gluten Free Eats food blog (on Instagram @spokaneglutenfreeeats) after noticing a frequent question on social media: How can one eat gluten free in Spokane? I had found many supportive places to eat, and figured I could further help local gluten-free foodies find a safe place to eat, too; especially those struggling like I once was.
The Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area now has some of the best restaurants whose owners and staff truly understand the needs of people living with celiac disease, including the crucially important need to avoid cross-contamination on cooking surfaces and utensils. Their continued support has helped make it possible for those of us with the disease or gluten intolerance to enjoy eating out again.
In recognition of May as Celiac Awareness Month, I've compiled a list of some favorite local eateries I've safely eaten at in the Inland Northwest. Remember, there's always a chance for cross-contamination if a kitchen is not dedicated to being completely gluten free, so eat at your own risk. I always try to speak to chefs, owners or general managers ahead of any new visit to understand my risks better. Also remember to always let your server know of your allergies or of any concerns before ordering so they can make sure to give you the best experience possible.
Now, get out there and eat, explore and enjoy!
Tucked in the center of downtown and adorned with a colorful south-of-the-border vibe, Cochinito offers some of the best tacos in Northwest. Their handmade corn tortillas, savory twists on traditional recipes and vibrant fresca margaritas make Cochinito a solid choice for gluten-free diners. For dedicated GF fried tortilla chips, call the kitchen ahead of your visit to order as they take longer to fry up. Favorite: 20-hour carne asada taco, $4.50 each
Whether it's on the sunny patio in North Spokane or with an urban view in River Park Square, Twigs has one of the largest gluten-free menus in Spokane. From delicious flatbreads to colorful salads and even a gourmet crab mac 'n' cheese, you're sure to be satisfied with all that Twigs offers gluten-free folks. Favorite: Moroccan beef appetizer, $16
Veraci has perfected its gluten-free take on traditional, handmade Italian pizza crust. The crispy crunch of the wood-fired crust nestled below a wide variety of savory, salty and sweet topping combos makes Veraci a favorite amongst local gluten-free diners. Favorite: Prosciutto arugula pizza, $21
Wiley's Downtown Bistro
Wiley's popped up in Spokane's food scene in 2017 with a new name (formerly Herbal Essence Cafe), newly renovated interior and an array of flavorful dishes. With an intimate environment supporting local artists and a menu that is mostly gluten-free, choices are easy here. Favorite: Duck confit, $26
Nestled next to the Spokane River as it flows into Lake Coeur d'Alene, Le Peep gives its diners a marvelous view. With an expansive gluten-free menu, diners are certain to enjoy the options here. Whether it's breakfast or lunch you seek, you'll find many choices at Le Peep. Favorite: Turkey apple Brie melt, $12
With captivating panoramic lake views and exceptional service, Beverly's at the Coeur d'Alene Resort should always be a stop when visiting the area. Most of what its menu offers can be made gluten free, including warm rolls before dinner by request. Sunset is a great time to visit. Favorite: 6-ounce certified Angus beef filet mignon, $39
Second Avenue Pizza
As you step inside Second Avenue Pizza, you're greeted with small-town smiles and immediate assurance for a safe, gluten-free pizza. The owner and employees here understand celiac disease and are incredibly supportive to the local GF crowd. The crust is made locally and is remarkably fluffy, which isn't common with gluten-free dough. Grab a gluten-free beer on tap and check out the history that adorns the walls in this historic joint while waiting for dinner. Favorite: The Carolyn Special (named after its owner), $16.95-$23.95 ♦
More to try
- Boots Bakery, Pumpkin waffle with spiced chai butter and organic maple syrup, $7.95
- The Shop, Rotating flavors of gluten-free cakes, $5/slice
- Wild Sage, Honey-dijon chicken, $29
- Cole's Bakery & Cafe (dedicated GF facility), Lemon ricotta pancakes with lemon syrup, $13
- Ginger Asian Bistro, Alaska roll (minus crab and eel sauce), $12.60
- The Wandering Table, Crispy Washington steelhead, $18
- Method Juice Cafe, Blue majik bowl (minus oats), $11.50
- Kobe Hibachi Sushi & Bar, GF steak and shrimp hibachi (prepared on separate grill), $21.75
- High Tide Lobster Bar, GF lobster roll, $17
- The Melting Pot, GF Wisconsin cheddar fondue, $10.95
- Dockside (CdA), Idaho trout, $21.95
- Thai Bamboo (CdA), Fresh rolls, $11
- Cosmic Cowboy Grill (CdA), Salmon plate, $17
- Ivano's Restaurant (Sandpoint), GF melanzane parmigiana, $17
- Spuds Waterfront Grill (Sandpoint), Chicken verde oven-roasted spud, $8.75