Travel Food – California Style

I wanted to give you all a little insight on my experiences traveling gluten free this summer. The good, the bad, and the totally delicious! Hopefully you can check out some of my favorite stops one day, or at least find some of my “do-anywhere” tips helpful.

As an FYI, I ate 100% gluten free and dairy free while traveling. While I have some sensitivities to soy and nuts, I did not completely avoid these items. I also did not talk to any kitchens about gluten cross contamination, so if you are highly sensitive, please do your homework before visiting these restaurants.

We spent the first week of our vacation visiting Southern California…where my husband grew up. Eating here was really easy for two reasons: we were staying at a friends house and had access to a kitchen, and California has a ton of restaurants that cater to special diets, and there is no shortage of gluten free items in stores. It made me want to move back just for the convenience of eating out with so little stress!

I also should make a disclaimer that a lot of the food I talk about here is NOT the clean/healthy choice. I tried to make healthy choices throughout vacation, but allowed splurges too! That’s what vacation is all about, right?

I always tried to start off the day healthy and cheap with something I had brought from home. Gluten Freeda’s Instant Oatmeal was a total lifesaver! I also took advantage of my access to a freezer and brought some protein muffins to have on hand for an easy grab-n-go breakfast or snack. I also kept Lara Bars, Enjoy Life bars and fresh fruit in my purse.

We ate a few home cooked meals while we were there, a few backyard BBQ’s (where I consumed way too much chips and guac and margaritas) and even an Italian feast courtesy of my husband as a thank you to our hosts!



One of my favorite California food stops (besides the restaurants below!) is Trader Joes. We made several stops here during our stay…to get dinner ingredients, fresh produce and even wine! Their gluten free product selection is extensive and their prices are SO affordable! I got a 2lb bag of GF oats for $2.99! My favorite Trader Joe’s find this trip? Joe-Joe’s! They are GF/DF OREOS! I was seriously obsessed and ate WAY TOO many of these! So so so delish!



We didn’t hold back on our restaurant eating while we were traveling…with the complete lack of decent food choices where we live now, I wanted to take full advantage of all of the options! Here is some commentary on some of our stops.


Restaurant Stops Southern California 2013:

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village: This is my husband’s absolute favorite coffee shop, and our first stop after landing in CA. It used to be my favorite too, before going dairy free. Unfortunately, what makes them so delicious (powdered flavors vs. syrups) contain dairy. They DO offer coconut almond milk in place of cows milk for a regular latte, but if you want anything super delicious (ie: the Ultimate Ice Blended Mocha), dairy free isn’t possible. I enjoyed a delicious iced Americano though!


PF Chang’s – Thousand Oaks: Always a good bet for gluten free goodness. These restaurants are nationwide, and they have a great GF menu. We always order off of the gluten free menu and share, and my husband doesn’t mind at all! Lettuce wraps and Chang’s Spicy Chicken are our favorites. I love how your food is brought out on a different style place to distinguish the food allergy – makes you feel confident they know what they are doing!


In-N-Out Burger – Irvine: A trip to California isn’t a trip to California without the obligatory stop at In-N-Out. It was actually our LAST stop before heading out, and it didn’t disappoint. I go “protein-style” for a lettuce wrapped burger. Top it off with fries and lemonade! Splurge!

The Natural Café Newbury Park: This was a new restaurant discovery for me – and I loved it! I had the Arugula Salad sans parmesan cheese and it was one of the best salads I have EVER had! I got the half size and added chicken and it was gigantic! Totally enough for a meal.

Sumo Sushi – Newbury Park: I was actually slightly surprised/disappointed when my server informed me that there weren’t many gluten free sushi roll options here. Usually it’s not a big problem with sushi! She talked to the sushi chef, however, and they put a list together of rolls and pieces that I could have. They were very knowledgeable and helpful and really enjoyed my sushi. I’ve heard their happy hour prices are the best around, so try go then!


Fresh Brother’s Pizza – Westlake Village: One of my gluten free friends in CA took me here to enjoy gluten/dairy free pizza. It was fun to be able to get a personal pan that catered to my personal dietary needs, but I wouldn’t say it was anything spectacular. I got a pepperoni pizza with Daiya cheese, and it was on a thin, crispy crust. I have had better pizza for sure, but it was fun to try!

STACKED – Thousand Oaks: Of the good, the bad and the totally fabulous – this one tops the charts! A new restaurant in Thousand Oaks (other locations in San Diego and Cerritos) this one blew me away! Their tagline is “Food Well Built” and that’s exactly what it is. Everything is ordered via iPad (high tech!) and you can build your burger/sandwich/pizza/salad/mac&cheese exactly how you want it! They have hundreds of toppings and sauces and you can actually see your meal build before your eyes! Everything that is GF is labeled with a symbol for easy ordering. They even have gluten free hamburger buns, pizza crust and cookies! We went here for lunch one day, and went back later for drinks at their awesome bar! I could have eaten there every day of our trip I think. I had a lettuce wrapped burger with avocado, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and Sriracha sauce! Their fries (regular and sweet potato) are cross-contaminated in their fryer…the only down side!

Think we hit enough restaurants while we were there? Sheesh! I definitely didn’t go hungry!! One cool thing I noticed in CA restaurants is that most of them have implemented the new policy of listing calorie counts on their menu. I have always been an advocate of this, and I think we will be seeing this across the country more consistently soon! I wasn’t sure how it would affect my decision making but it really did make an impact! I’m usually pretty good at scoping out the bad choices, but even I was surprised at the high counts in some menu items. It definitely made me think twice about my order – and when I went for the splurge anyways it helped me keep a mental note of how to adjust the rest of my day.

What about you?

What is your favorite vacation splurge?

Do you want to know how many calories are in your burger and fries while on vacation?


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