Planning Your Next Vacation: Eating in San Diego

Davide D'Amico Flickr

My husband had a conference in San Diego two weeks ago so I decided to tag along. It was nice to get away and check out a new city and other than the fact the temperature was unseasonably cold there, I had a good time. While my husband spent his days at the convention center, I explored the local area. My two favorite touristy things to do were biking downtown alongside the water and visiting Mission Beach. I also had the chance to check out different restaurants near our hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Ever since I was diagnosed with fructose malabsorption, finding places that can accommodate my food restrictions and serve really flavorful meals has become a tad difficult. Put it this way, when we are at home, I cook the majority of our meals. Although I eat more variety than when I was first diagnosed, I still avoid onions and garlic and only eat wheat and sugar on rare occasions. The no onion and garlic rule is why there are, unfortunately, no Mexican restaurants on this list, which I was told are great in San Diego. I tried one place but the only options the chef could make me were the ahi tuna tacos or a chicken caesar salad. I chose the ahi tuna tacos and with no fault of the chef, it just did not have much flavor without the sauce and onions. The places I am recommending are good whether you have food restrictions or not but my focus in selecting these is to help those who need to avoid or be mindful of FODMAPs, gluten*, or just do not like onions and garlic.
*If you have celiac disease, please check with the restaurant about cross-contamination before eating there.

  • Le Parfait: This is a cute French bakery that I wish I learned about earlier in my trip. In addition to the usual French pastries and desserts, they sell sandwiches. They make gluten-free baguettes and sourdough bread and although the baguette was denser and not crusty like a gluten-filled baguette is, it was still a nice treat. Le Parfait also sells gluten-free desserts, including brownies and macaroons.
  • Zanzibar Café: I went here for breakfast but they also serve lunch and dinner. It has a relaxed open feel and is a great place to have a cup of coffee while reading a book. They have gluten-free and FODMAP friendly dishes on their menu including gluten-free and sourdough breads.
  • Café 21: I love this restaurant and they serve brunch, lunch, and dinner. I went there twice by myself and brought my husband the third time. It has a cool vibe, the food is great, and their fruits and vegetables are from local farms. Their service is excellent and I want to give thanks and a shout out to Dustin who was helpful in answering all of my questions, each time I went. They have great dishes on their menu without onions, garlic, and wheat and they are willing to modify dishes that do. I highly recommend their potato pancakes made with potatoes, mozzarella cheese, and I think I tasted a hint of rosemary. My husband is still talking about them. Bring a big appetite – the servings are large.
  • JSix: This restaurant is attached to the hotel where we stayed. I had oatmeal for breakfast and the serving was so incredibly large that I still regret not taking a picture to Instagram. It was a bit overpriced as hotel restaurants tend to be, but I am adding this on my list because they advertise that they are gluten-free, they had gluten-free bread for breakfast, and the service was good.
  • Union Kitchen & Tap: This place surprised me. I thought it would be a loud restaurant with so-so food, but, I liked it and they had gluten-free items on the menu and are open to modifying their meals. I also liked that their menu states “our meats are natural & hormone free, we utilize local farms as much as possible.”
  • Food Shop: The same chef is responsible for the restaurant, Sovereign Kitchen and the take out place, Food Shop. I got the vegetarian Pho soup with rice noodles after the woman running the place assured me there was no onion and garlic in it. I felt fine afterwards so I am assuming she was either correct or there was not enough in the soup to bother me. The portions are large but if you ask they sell half portions. The soup was so extremely flavorful that I wish they were a franchise and had a shop here in Boston. A girl can dream…
  • Sab Lai: This place was a hole in the wall that I found when I was looking for lunch at 3:30 pm when many of the restaurants were closed between 2-5 pm. Their wine and beer list was from the Blarney Stone Pub that they also shared a wall with. They did a great job at making a really good meal sautéing my dish with only oil, salt, and pepper. I have not found this to be the case at all Thai Restaurants.
  • Old Spaghetti Factory: I went here craving the gluten free pasta with red sauce but their sauce has onions and garlic in it so I ate somewhere else. I hear it is good and if you can tolerate onions and garlic or you are fine with a simple modified sauce then this is a good option.

What restaurants in San Diego do you recommend?

Photo by Davide D’Amico on Flickr




  1. This is so great! I live here and didn’t know what choices are for FODMAP diet. Now I can still hang out with my friend!


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