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Getting Diagnosed with Celiac Disease Sucks, But There Are Amazing Gluten-Free Options In LA

Against a white tiled wall there are black metal mounts where multiple bagels hang. Some are full of sesame and poppy seeds, others are plain.
Bagels on the wall at Modern Bread and Bagel in Woodland Hills.
(Brian Feinzimer
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Food is often seen as a great connector — it builds bridges and creates community. It's a staple used in nearly all celebrations. It can bring us joy after a hard day, and comfort when we’re feeling blue. Food is so much more than nourishment. It's history, culture, and memory.

So when I was diagnosed with celiac disease in June 2022, it felt like someone had died. In fact, I was in mourning, grieving my former (gluten-filled) life, my health, and never eating my favorite foods again.

The only way to manage celiac disease is by never touching gluten again — not even as little as a crumb, as cross-contamination can cause a reaction.

Which means a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet, avoiding all foods that contain wheat, rye, and barley.

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Prior to diagnosis, I experienced a range of debilitating symptoms that affected my daily life. I found myself more depressed and irritable. There was the stomach pain that felt like I was digesting glass shards. The fatigue was not remedied with five shots of espresso (this was when I knew I had a problem) or a nap. The brain fog left me in a haze. Working became difficult. Oh, and some bloating, headaches, and digestive issues.

  • It can be lonely to live gluten-free in a gluten-full world. Here's how to find others in similar situations.

    • GFLA: Gluten Free Los Angeles A Facebook group providing up to date gluten-free recommendations throughout the Los Angeles region.
    • Trail to Connect Health coach Erika Schlick hosts gluten-free meetups and shares gluten-free restaurant guides throughout SoCal.

Celiac disease can fly under the radar and has over 250 symptoms associated with it, according to Beyond Celiac, a research and advocacy group. It’s not just an allergy as I had previously thought, but an autoimmune disorder. Those delicious bits of gluten activate the immune system to go on the offense and attack the villi of your intestines, leading to unpleasant symptoms.

While I was happy to have an answer after suffering for years, it was a shock. I only found out after begging my doctor for food allergy tests when my symptoms became intolerable. When I got the news, I stayed in bed and sobbed for days.

I was medical doom-scrolling and having a hard time imagining life without my favorite foods. Croissants and donuts were a perennial morning favorite. Months prior, my partner and I had found an Italian pasta place that was supposed to be “our spot.” I enjoyed pizza as a cheap and easy meal or burritos with flour tortillas. Suddenly, against my will, I’d have to be the person who eats cauliflower pizza crust and corn tortillas.

I cried more thinking of not being able to eat perfectly normal things, like a slice of birthday cake or a baguette or ramen. I worried about my social life and if I’d ever feel OK dining out again. I wondered how something that could bring so many people comfort could cause me so much pain.

Instead of eagerly wanting to “break bread” with others over a meal, bread was breaking me from the inside out.

Navigating this new landscape felt overwhelming at first, but I quickly found out L.A. has an abundance of amazing gluten-free options.

Here are my top five favorite gluten-free spots in L.A.

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401k Gluten-Free Wine Bar + Eatery


A rectangular red and white neon sign is illuminated against a brick wall.  Below are the partially lit silhouettes of a group people holding drinking glasses.
Diners drink wine inside of 401k gluten free wine bar + eatery in Los Angeles.
(Brian Feinzimer

What you realize very quickly when dining out on a gluten-free diet is that often other food preferences are tacked on to appeal to a larger audience. So many gluten-free items you might find in the wild are also vegan. So, if like me, you’re not vegan, it’s hard to find comfort food that is only gluten-free.

That’s where 401k gluten-free Wine Bar + Eatery in Venice knocks it out of the park. It’s now what I refer to as “celiac heaven.” The restaurant itself has a charming, romantic vibe with a small patio and lights with a colorful “401K” painted on the back wall. The ambiance is as unique and wonderful as its menu.

Since it’s all gluten-free, I could order whatever I wanted, and not just be relegated to a small portion of the menu. That freedom made me feel normal again, at least for a couple of hours. (It’s a very different thing to be forced into a dietary restriction than choosing one.)

Against a light grey background are two dishes. On the left is a small black cast iron-looking serving dish that contains yellow and orange mac and cheese. On the right is a white bowl containing brown meatballs covered in white cheese next to two pieces of grilled bread.
Meatballs and garlic bread and mac and cheese at 401k gluten free wine bar + eatery in Los Angeles.
(Brian Feinzimer
LAist )

While there, everything stood out and was incredible. The gluten-free mac and cheese reminded me of comfort food from my youth. The gluten-free meatballs and garlic bread filled my heart with joy and felt like a decadent delight. The gluten-free waffles and fried chicken had a wonderful combination of texture and flavor, sweet and savory.

I ended my meal with the gluten-free churros, something I had missed so dearly. It reminded me of my many visits to the sensory experience that is Olvera Street, to go to Mr. Churro. It was nice to find a gluten-free option.

2553 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291

Wed-Thurs 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Friday-Sunday 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sunday 5 p.m.-9 p.m.

Modern Bread and Bagel

Woodland Hills

A close up of three bagels stacked on top of each other. The bottom one is plain, the middle is olive, and the top is everything full of pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds.
An assortment of bagels at Modern Bread and Bagel in Woodland Hills.
(Brian Feinzimer
    • Beyond Celiac - a patient advocacy group for those diagnosed with celiac disease, working to advance research and find new treatments; has useful information about the disease.
    • UCLA Health Celiac Disease Program - providing care for adolescents with celiac disease and other gluten-associated disorders.

Modern Bread and Bagel is an NYC transplant that made its way to Woodland Hills, nearly hidden inside the multitude of retailers at The Village at Westfield Topanga. I had heard about this standout gluten-free option on a previous visit to NYC.

To my surprise, I discovered there was a location 10 minutes away from me. I went on a rainy morning and got a cappuccino and everything bagel, toasted with cream cheese.

I nearly cried when I bit into the bagel because it tasted just like a New York bagel. Having lived there during my graduate school days, it was nice to be able to eat a bagel safely without any compromises on quality. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference and that felt like magic or some kind of culinary sorcery.

A close up of a loaf of pumpkin bread. The crust is brown with crumbles and pumpkin seeds. The core is a mustard yellow and is spotted by dark brown fibers.
The pumpkin bread at Modern Bread and Bagel in Woodland Hills.
(Brian Feinzimer

The baker behind Modern Bread and Bagel is married to a fellow celiac and learned how to make just-as-good bagels and pastries for those of us who can’t handle gluten. Now that’s a love story.

Aside from the must-have bagels, the chocolate zucchini bread and pumpkin bread are just sweet enough without being overpowering. For a sweet treat that is more dessert than breakfast, the cupcakes and donuts deliver. All items at Modern Bread and Bagel aren’t just gluten-free but also kosher.

6256 CA-27 #1200, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Open daily, 7:30 a.m.-5:30 pm.

Gracefully Fed

Sherman Oaks

A close up of a salad taken looking down from the top. The salad is full of red cherry tomatoes, beige chickpeas, dark purple olives, red bell peppers, white meat chicken chunks, green lettuce slices, green cucumber chunks, and crumbly feta-looking chese.
A salad at Gracefully Fed in Sherman Oaks.
(Brian Feinzimer

When you get diagnosed with something that is so life-changing, finding community is everything. Through social media, I’ve joined celiac and gluten-free groups. On an overcast January morning, I went to a Gluten Free Meetup organized by Erika from The Trail to Health at Gracefully Fed in Sherman Oaks.

It was great to meet others who were part of this undesirable club that nobody really wanted to be in but we found ourselves a part of nonetheless. We went for brunch and I ordered the Gracefully Fed Combo, which has a gluten-free pancake, eggs, bacon, and gluten-free sourdough.

A close up of a sandwich sliced in half atop a white plate atop a light blue cloth place mat. The Bread is toasted and inside there's dark red meat, lettuce, and tomato slices. In the background, out of focus, there's a bowl of soup.
A BLT sandwich and soup combo at Gracefully Fed in Sherman Oaks.
(Brian Feinzimer

Sourdough was my favorite bread pre-diagnosis and pancakes were always a treat, so it was nice to have them here in gluten-free form. It tasted complete on its own and not like a sad alternative, which I appreciated.

Traci, the business owner behind Gracefully Fed, was inspired to create food while managing an autoimmune disease. The restaurant is located on a tiny sliver of Ventura Boulevard that you could easily miss. But for those wanting or needing gluten-free, organic, and dairy-free food, Gracefully Fed is a must.

13944 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Monday-Tuesday, 10 a.m. -4 p.m., Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m. -7 p.m.,
Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Closed Sunday


Studio City and West Los Angeles

A grey box containing an assortment of six different donuts,  all containing different frosting designs.
An assortment of donuts at fōnuts in Los Angeles.
(Brian Feinzimer
LAist )

My best friend told me that she’s always associated me with donuts. What can I say, I have a love of sugar and fried dough in all its forms. So when I realized I couldn’t have donuts because of celiac, it hit me hard.

I was determined to see what options were available and was pleasantly surprised by fonuts in Studio City. Located on a busy side street off the hustle and bustle of Ventura Boulevard with throngs of people and other restaurants, you can find this gem.

A woman with her back turned with light brown hair in a ponytail stands in front of a glass bakery case, with a man with fair skin wearing glasses standing facing her.
A customer browses for donuts at f?nuts in Los Angeles.
(Brian Feinzimer
LAist )

Fonuts offers gluten-free and vegan donuts that are a treat for those with dietary restrictions. The texture was soft enough and moist enough to resemble its gluten-filled counterpart but felt healthier going down, probably in part because fonuts are baked.

The churro donut is exquisite and, according to the company website, the most popular option. I’ve also enjoyed the peanut butter chocolate donut as that's always a winning combination in my book.

12065 Ventura Place, Studio City, CA 91604
Tue-Sun, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

8104 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, California 90048
Tue-Sun, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Manhattan Beach

The outside of a beige building with a black awning sits in front of a group of medium-sized trees planted along the sidewalk with a view of the ocean in the background.
Rice restaurant nearby the beach in Manhattan Beach.
(Brian Feinzimer
LAist )

Early on in my diagnosis, it felt like Groundhog Day. Every day I’d discover something new that I wouldn’t be able to have ever again. Some things, like pasta or pizza, were obvious.

Other things I never knew had gluten in them came as a complete shock. One of those ingredients was soy sauce. I love sushi and this was a blow. Though rice and fish are gluten-free, when trying to eat out at my favorite sushi places I was often told I could no longer have any of the “special rolls” because of the sauces.

So when someone at the Gluten-Free meetup told me about Rice, an all-gluten-free sushi joint, I knew I had to make the trek to Manhattan Beach (no easy feat for someone who lives in the Valley).

The restaurant is on a tiny side street that leads to postcard-like views of the ocean. Whenever I see views like that I’m reminded, “Oh yes, this is why I live in L.A.”

A row of sushi sits on a narrow rectangular plate, each uniform made with brown rice and green sliced bits of green asparagus in its center. On top of each sushi is fried taro root that's light brown
Yellow submarine sushi roll at Rice restaurant in Manhattan Beach.
(Brian Feinzimer
LAist )

Inside the restaurant, it feels cozy and familiar, but also like a place you need to know about in order to find.

On the menu, you can find a range of sushi and ramen options, all gluten-free. I ordered the Premium Sushi Lunch, which came with miso soup, brown rice tuna rolls, and salmon and tuna nigiri. It came with tamari, which is similar to soy sauce but is gluten-free.

The brown rice on the rolls tasted different from what I’m used to, but I was pleasantly surprised. The fish on the nigiri felt smooth, balanced, and most importantly, fresh. Combined with the tamari, I was able to enjoy a joyful sushi experience without any of the anxiety around dining.

820 Manhattan Ave., Suite 105, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Monday-Tuesday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Wednesday-Thursday 12 p.m.-2: 30 p.m
Friday 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Saturday 12 p.m.-9:30 p.m
Sunday 12 p.m.-9 p.m.

Celiac is tough, but manageable in LA

With not even a year under my belt since diagnosis, I’m still a celiac newbie. But living with this condition in L.A. makes it easier because there are so many gluten-free options, not just the ones listed above. I’ve always considered myself part Epicurean, getting immense pleasure out of food and drink. Now I’m exploring new places, new ingredients, and hopefully newfound health.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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