The Do’s and Dont’s of NYC if you have Celiac Disease.

There is SO much to do in New York City that a person couldn’t possibly experience it in their entire lifetime. My uncle Keith, who is a former New Yorker says “There’s something really amazing that happens when you put 10 million of the best people in the world all in one place.” I think it’s the most accurate description of New York City I have ever heard. I lived there back in my single days in the heart of Manhattan and got to know this city very well. If you have never been to New York City it is hard to know where to start or what to focus on when you go for a visit, especially a short one. So here is a former New Yorker’s opinion on how to get the most out of your Gluten-Free New York Experience.

Don’t stay in Brooklyn or Queens to save money.

There are 5 official boroughs of NYC. Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Manhattan and Brooklyn are the ones you see the most in movies, and every borough is awesome in its own way! I often have friends stay in Brooklyn out in Sheepshead Bay or Queens to try and save money on a NY vacation but in my opinion, this is a mistake. Unless you are SUPER comfortable navigating public transit and sitting on the train for 1-2 hrs a day. Additionally, I have found locating dedicated gluten-free restaurants harder in these boroughs, there is still many of them, but they are not as prevelant.

Do spend an extra $50-100 to stay in Midtown Manhattan.

The MET, Central Park, Times Square, FAO Schwartz, Broadway, these are the things we associate with NYC. They are all located within a pretty short distance of Midtown Manhattan. It’s worth the time and money to stay here.
Additionally, there is a larger concentration of dedicated Gluten-Free eateries in Manhattan than in the other boroughs. So if you have Celiac Disease and want easy access to food, Mid-Town is your best bet. I have a discount code here for Airbnb. If you have never stayed in one before this will give you $55 off. I find it’s often much cheaper and more comfortable than a hotel as someone with celiac disease because I have more control over my environment and can shop and cook for myself if necessary. If you have any questions on how to navigate booking an Airbnb as someone with Celiac Disease give this article a read.

Central Park

Do use the subway

The New York subway is incredibly easy to navigate and affordable. If I am there for more than 24 hrs and plan to cover a lot of ground I will purchase an unlimited ride ticket (it’s around $30) so that I don’t have to think about reloading my Metro Card. Google Maps is extremely effective at directing, so if you have a smartphone and an ounce of common sense you will be totally fine on the subways.

Don’t go to the top of the Empire State Building.

Everyone wants to do this…. and I just don’t understand. I don’t understand why anyone would pay $25 to go to the top of not the tallest building in the world for 10 minutes or less and look out over a landscape that you may or may not be able to see clearly depending on how the weather is while simultaneously wasting half a day in line. Guys- if you HAVE to do this, do it on a longer trip, it’s not worth losing half a day to the line. Besides, there are WAY cooler views in New York City.

Do visit Highline Park

Highline is a park built on to of defunct train tracks, it is 2-3 stories up in the air and I have never been to another park like it. If you’re looking for a one of a kind view and experience in NYC… this is it. And …. it’s free.

Do go to Central Park

Central Park

Central Park is the shit. It is the subject of so many movies and stories and it’s SO worth the visit. Also, it is Free!!!

Don’t go to the MOMA

I am not saying never go to the MOMA, I am saying if you only have one day, don’t go to the MOMA.

Do go to the MET

Matthew at the MET

The met is worth all of the pennies and then some. You honestly need 3 days to see the whole thing, but if you only have half a day it is still worth the price of admission. My favorite exhibits are China, Ancient Greece and Assyria. Plus if you’re taking a stroll through Central Park the MET is right outside. Kill two birds with one stone!

Don’t go to Giardano’s Pizza or Bleeker Street Pizza, DO go to Pizzarte

A Native New Yorker is currently reading this and imagining all the ways they should slowly kill me for this statement. But believe me, I’ve eaten at virtually every pizza place in NYC worth consuming gluten-free pizza and Pizzarte is the best I have ever had… it’s amazing. They are not dedicated Gluten- Free but the GF pizza is incredible and I had no issues with Cross-contamination.

Do see a play on Broadway

I mean- if you don’t you’re basically sinning. I recommend all of them. Also, Broadway plays are gluten-free.

Matthew and I in Washington Square Park after seeing Avenue Q on Broadway

Don’t go to Liberty Island

I don’t really recommend this ever. It takes like half a day to get there, and then all that is there is a giant statue which you may or may not be able to go to the top of depending on terrorism threats that day. Plus transit there is expensive.

Do go to Ellis Island

This is absolutely worth the half day trek. There is ALOT to do and see. If your family immigrated through Ellis as mine did it is a lot of fun to search for your family names in the registry! I recommend going right when they open and spending half of a day. You will also take a ferry to get there that gives you an amazing shot of Lady Liberty.

Don’t go to the M&M’s store in Time Square.

Everyone loves the goddamn M&M’s store and to me, it’s stressful and overpriced for items you CAN get other places. There are way better sweets in NYC than the M&M store and you won’t feel like you’re a sardine stuffed into a chocolate scented can.

Do go to FAO Schwartz 

Shot from the Movie “BIG”

A far better alternative to the M&M’s store is FAO Schwartz. (It was featured in the movie BIG.) See the giant piano, take pictures with the toy soldiers! It is SOOOO fun. I love FAO Schwartz. If you have a child in your life who is special to you this is a GREAT place to get them a souvenir.

Don’t buy hotdogs from the hotdog carts even without a bun.

New York hot dog carts are extremely iconic, Sabrette and Nathans are staples of any New Yorker’s diet but if you have Celiac Disease I really don’t recommend this. For a few reasons. They cannot guarantee a GF environment and don’t wash their hands or utensils enough. Also, many of them have fake licenses because getting a license for one of those little carts is VERY expensive so there is a massive black market where they produce false licenses. The real licenses are associated with strict food safety inspections and laws, the fake ones… well you get the picture, just don’t.

Do Sunday Brunch

Modern bread and bagel

Sunday Brunch is a sacred ritual in New York that is definitely worth participating in. If you have Celiac Disease I HIGHLY recommend “Modern Bread and Bagel.” They are relatively new, less than 4 months old so you won’t see them on a lot of blogs or Gluten-Free eatery lists. Located on the upper west side they serve a kosher gluten-free menu. I had the Green Shakshuka which nearly killed me it was so delicious. The staff is incredibly attentive and its 100% dedicated GF so there is no risk of cross-contamination. Other great places to check out are Bluestone Lane, By The Way Bakery and NoGlu. All dedicated GF, all bomb. Also, check out my friend “The Gluten-Free Globetrotter.” She has a whole LIST of safe Gluten-free eateries in NYC that she’s vetted and tested and updates regularly.

Do come back for more

There is no way to see all of NYC in a weekend, you have to keep coming back and experiencing this city to really get a feel for it’s magic. But if you’re like me, and millions of others, you will fall in love with it’s energy, beauty and madness the moment you step off the train.

Happy Schlepping,


What is your favorite thing to do in NYC ? Drop a comment below and tell me about it!

2 thoughts on “The Do’s and Dont’s of NYC if you have Celiac Disease.”

  1. I am so with you on the Empire State Building. Generally speaking, I refuse to pay money *JUST* to ride up the elevator and look out a window. I would rather overpay for a latte or drink or lunch at a famously tall building’s cafe or restaurant than pay the fee to just ride up and look out.

    I do have to clarify just a little, though, when it comes to the ESB. It’s probably the best place to view and photograph the Chrysler Building. So if you are an architecture nerd like me and that is your intent in going up in the ESB, then that’s ok.

Leave a Comment