Local Favorites - Shan's Top Spots (GF/DF/VEG)


Well, friends, I've been gluten and dairy free now for almost an entire year (March 3rd will be the "anniversary") and it's been quite the journey. Going from eating anything and everything I wanted (especially as a food blogger) to having to cold-turkey cut out my favorite foods was not easy, to say the least. It did get easier though, and along the way, I found that I don't miss those things I used to eat at all. I found that I function much better on a mostly meat-free diet as well, with a preference for vegetarian dishes. I feel better every day that goes by as my body continues to reverse over 30 years of intolerance damage. I decided to view this experience in a positive light, opening my eyes to a whole new way of living. I was ready to take the challenge head-on, and while I miss many of my favorite restaurants I used to be able to enjoy meals at, I found other places or menu items I could safely eat and MY GOODNESS they delivered. Check out this extensive list (no particular order) of some of my top spots I frequented this past year for food allergy restrictions in the Charlotte, NC area!

  • Clean Juice - If you haven't been to this 100% organic juice bar, it is a must try! They serve açaí bowls, light bites, cold-pressed bottles, cold-pressed shots, cleanse kits, juices, and smoothies. You won't find any dairy in this juice bar (just almond milk) and they offer gluten-free granola for their bowls! 
  • Rico's Açaí - A popular place in the Queen City! I love the Rainbow bowl, but the granola is NOT gluten-free, so I add hemp or chia seed instead for the crunch! 
  • Nekter Juice Bar - If you're in South End, this is a great spot to grab juices, bowls, smoothies and more! They also offer "Skoop" which is their vegan spin on a smooth and decadent frozen treat. It's made fresh daily with creamy cashew milk and other plant-based ingredients! 
  • Frutta Bowls - This superfood cafe in the Metropolitan shopping center offers frozen açaí, pitaya and kale bowls, smoothies, toasts, and hot oatmeal bowls. They also advertise their availability of many gluten, soy, and dairy free options! My favorite toast here is The GOAT topped with roasted red pepper hummus, olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, and basil on gluten-free bread. I just omit the goat cheese! It's perfection! 

  • Living Kitchen - This restaurant in South End will literally give you LIFE. It's 100% plant-based, organic, and very food allergy friendly. *Just be aware that many dishes are served with nuts and seeds, so those with mild to severe nut allergies should not dine here. Two of my favorite menu items are the Sweet Potato Sushi Roll and the Living Burrito. 
  • Fern, Flavors from the Garden - This spot on East Blvd. is 100% vegetarian with many vegan and gluten-free options! I had a burger here once with a deliciously gooey vegan cheese and gluten-free bun and it was perfection. You can't go wrong with anything you order here! 
  • Siggy's Good Food - I can't say it enough. I LOVE SIGGY'S. She became a NYC favorite when she opened her deli in Brooklyn Heights in 2005, and by some stroke of incredible luck from the universe, she decided to move her business here to Charlotte this past year. She prides herself on serving up healthy and delicious food for all diet types from vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free to carnivores. Everything is organic, home-cooked style and has a Mediterranean flare. The Tofu & Veggies on a gluten-free wrap was to die for. 

  • Queen City Grounds - QCG is a great local coffee shop that roasts their own beans in house and is partnered with FūD on the MūV, who makes a lot of vegan and gluten-free eats! I once had a southwest breakfast style burrito prepared in a bowl for me so that I could enjoy it and I didn't want it to end! 
  • Undercurrent Coffee - This coffee shop is in my neighborhood (Plaza Midwood) and has a perfectly labeled menu for gluten-free and vegan options. Everything is made from scratch and full of flavor. I love their avocado toast with a local egg on top! 

  • Tandur Indian Kitchen - Tandur was my very first Indian cuisine experience and I was an instant fan. I love the vegetarian Biryani bowl (sans Naan wedge on the side), the Coconut Curry sauce, and the fried okra. It's all so full of flavor and spice, and the ambiance is fun and inviting. 
  • Viva Chicken - I definitely have been to Viva more times than I can count this year, and I am a total creature of habit. I always order the Tacu Bowl with cilantro infused rice, canary beans, lime marinated onions and tomatoes, avocado and green onions. Then I drench it in ALL THE SAUCE. 
  • Sabor Latin Street Grill - This is another hot spot for a fast-casual lunch or dinner, especially on Tuesdays! You can get GREAT tacos for $1 each here on Taco Tuesdays, and the Autenticos and Locos come on corn tortillas so they are gluten-free! My favorite thing to order is the Build Your Own Bowl with black beans, refried beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, onion, guacamole, and pineapple! It's so filling! 

  • Pasta la Vista - While your friends enjoy the rigatoni, penne, and spaghetti, us gluten-free folk can chow down on the zucchini noodles that are perfectly cooked and drenched in the delicious marinara sauce! Add some veggies for an extra level of goodness and enjoy! 
  • Tin Kitchen - My go to is the buffalo cauliflower taco (sans blue cheese crumbles) and a side salad with any of their house-made dressings! There's smoked tomato vinaigrette, green garlic herb, and soy-ginger vinaigrette. I also love the chips with seasonal salsa and the spicy pickled veggies side!  
  • Hunter's Wife - If you know me, you know I talk about Hunter's Wife ALL. THE. TIME. I could eat their custom Buddha Bowls every day of my life and never wish for anything more. I'm so glad we have them here in Charlotte. You get to pick a protein (black beans, chicken or ribeye steak) choose your base (quinoa, rice or spinach) and then add unlimited veggies, dress it up with house-made veg dressings and top it with avocado or an egg! So many excellent choices for everyone! 

  • Deejai NoDa - This NoDa noodle bar is so, so good! Let your server know if you have a gluten allergy and they will make sure you know all of your options! I always get the Drunken Noodle Bowl with flat rice noodles, bell peppers, onion, broccoli, bean sprouts, basil and vegetable medley. It is SPICY and they offer different levels, but even a level 2 is strong to me, so if you're sensitive to heat be sure to let them know! 
  • Yume - This sushi and ramen bar has vegan and gluten-free options! If you're gluten-free, they will tell you not to order the Vegan Ramen bowl because the broth has regular soy sauce as an ingredient, but you can order the delicious Thai Coconut Curry ramen bowl and omit the pork and egg if you are vegan! It's just the right amount of heat and so good! 

  • The Pizza Peel - Probably my most frequented restaurant in Charlotte, no joke. The gluten-free crust is amazing. They have vegan cheese. You can customize any specialty pizza. Their garlic topping for pies is literally entire cloves of garlic. I hear the wings are awesome. Laid back. Live music. Music Bingo. Kombucha on draft. What's not to love? My go-to order is the Greek pizza (GF crust, omit mozzarella & feta cheese; sub vegan cheese) and my favorite thing about it is the balsamic swirl. 
  • Pure Pizza - "Farm to Fork" pizzas, sandwiches and salads! Organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options here. I love to build my own and get the GF crust, vegan cheese, marinara sauce, black olives, pepperoncini, and tomatoes! The two locations are right near my house...coincidence? I think not. :) 
  • Uncle Maddio's - Another great pizza spot where you can create your own with a gluten-free crust and vegan cheese, or make your own allergy-friendly version of a specialty! All of their veggies and sauces are gluten-free as are most of their meats. 
  • Brixx Pizza - Brixx is one of the most allergy-friendly restaurants, in general, I have been to!  If you ask for an allergy menu, they will bring one out that is clear and easy to read with every allergy/intolerance listed with what you can eat for each one! Their gluten-free crust is awesome and you can ask for it in place of pita bread for the hummus dip and they will cut it into pita shapes for you to dip with! So smart!
  • Pizzeria Omaggio - Omaggio has some of the freshest, most authentic ingredients in the city. They don't have vegan cheese here, but do have a gluten-free crust that you can order! There are a lot of vegetarian options here as well! Build your own gluten-free pizza and omit the cheese if you have to. There's so much quality flavor, you won't miss it! 

  • Common Market - A neighborhood food/beverage market where ALL are welcome. Speaking of ALL, every menu item can be made vegetarian or vegan, you just have to ask. Also, they have gluten-free bread and wraps. They offer breakfast, sandwiches, soups, and salads. I have a punch card here that I actually use if that tells you anything. There's a little kitschy gifts and trinkets section, nooks to sit in, and a bar. It's basically the best hangout. 
  • Verde  - From King St (in Charleston) to the Queen City, this quick salad spot is great for a quick lunch on your work break or when you're looking for something GREEN in your diet. If you can't tell by now, I'm a huge fan of customizing my own food. I build my own salad bowl here, too. I get baby spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, quinoa, roasted red peppers, and olives with either the balsamic vinaigrette or the turmeric vinaigrette. It's got Meditteranean flare and is oh, so good! 
  • Viva Chicken - Deja vu? Viva is on here again because they have a really great quick lunch item that I just love! It's their quinoa stuffed avocado with red pepper, rocoto mayo, and balsamic vinaigrette. It's vegetarian, healthy and filling! If you eat meat, you can add pulled rotisserie chicken to this. 
  • Chopt Creative Salad Co.  - One of my favorite salad spots in Charlotte, but I'm still a creature of habit here. I always, always, always order the Mexicali Vegan with Green Goddess dressing here. It's just the best. 

  • Hello, Sailor - This restaurant right outside of Charlotte is where I decided to go for my birthday lunch this past year and it was everything I wanted and more. They don't have a dedicated allergy menu, however I let my server know and she took my menu and went to the back. Within 10 minutes she was back at the table, with pencil marks all over my paper menu letting me what I could safely order and what could be changed to make it friendly. It was the sweetest thing ever, besides the extra plate of the chili oil drizzled watermelon slices they brought out for me with candles in them because they heard how much I loved the appetizer. Wow. The Citrus Crab Louie salad was fresh, beautifully presented and refreshing. 
  • La Belle Helene - You're probably surprised to see a fancy French restaurant on this list due to the difficulty of being gluten and dairy-free with the cuisine, but this is a dish I still dream about. This salade vegetarienne was made with red quinoa, heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, and balsamic vinaigrette. I omitted the goat cheese and it was AMAZING. This dish is updated seasonally, but there is no question that it is delicious regardless. This is one talented team. 
  • Roots Cafe - This is another South End favorite of mine! This seasonal Farmer's Market Salad with fresh peaches was one of the best I have ever had! All of their handhelds can be prepared on gluten-free bread, and this one magical time, a vegan pate was brought out to our table with gluten-free bread for spreading. They also serve breakfast, brunch and local kombucha on tap! 

  • Corkscrew on 5th - The olive lover medley with gluten-free crisps goes great with wine for a night out! 
  • Diamond - The Greek salad (sans feta cheese; substitute balsamic vinaigrette) and it comes with dolmades y'all. 
  • King of Pops - So many fruity (non-dairy) flavors including but not limited to Raspberry Lime, Strawberry Lemonade, Blackberry Ginger Lemon, and Blueberry Lemonade year-round. You can find seasonal flavors like Pear Vanilla, Orange Basil, Watermelon Mojito, and Pineapple Habanero just to name a few. 
  • 8.2.0 - This fun pizzeria and bar has THE BEST thick cut pomme frites with a TON of sauces. Just ask to see the list that shows you which sauces are gluten-free and you're good to go! Located in the Music Factory, this is the perfect place to grab a bite before a concert!  

  • Sweet Spot Studio - A baking class studio for anyone from novice to professional, and you can request completely allergy friendly ingredients at no extra charge! I've taken two classes here now and absolutely love it! 
  • Jeni's Ice Cream - I was elated to hear Jeni's was coming to Charlotte. There are dairy-free and gluten-free flavor options that are the best type of thick and creamy and leave you wanting more.
  • Cheesecake Carousel - When I heard there was a cheesecake company that offered gluten-free and vegan cheesecake I didn't believe it. That sounds way too good to be true. It is true though, and dare I say it's better than the original cheesecake. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself! 
  • Bravo Bakery - Vegan, non-vegan and gluten-free options from this self-taught local baker! Beautiful cakes, donuts, macarons and more! 


Thanks so much for reading this list and I hope it provides you with options for your next meal out! There are definitely more places than just these here that I frequent and new places I discover all the time, so I can definitely make more of these lists if you find it helpful! Do you have a favorite place on this list, one you've been wanting to try or one you didn't know about and now want to experience? What is your favorite thing to order at any of these places? Let us know in the comments! 

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