I'm starting a new series of posts! I'm sure there are other gf travelers out there who are going the same places and doing the same research, I've had some spotty success in finding a satisfying meal in neighborhoods near tourist attractions. I provided some suggestions about where to eat when visiting the Philadelphia Flower Show, and this post relays our experiences near our hotel near the World Trade Center. I'm hoping that people like me who are traveling to similar touristy spots will find my info and save a wasted trip to a place that that isn't there or just isn't what you are looking for.
All that said, I always prefer a non-chain restaurant experience when possible. When you have celiac disease, there is some comfort in knowing almost exactly what it will be like when you go out to eat. When I travel though, when at all possible I want to see and do and eat stuff I can't have at home. And if any place has a variety of restaurants that can accommodate special dietary needs, it's New York. Our plan was to take the Staten Island Ferry into the financial district since our hotel was the Millenium Hilton next to the World Trade Center Memorial. We would arrive around lunchtime, and my research did not reveal a lot of choices in that neighborhood that would accommodate. One place, Battery Place Market, was pretty close and seemed to have gf offerings on their menu, but it was hard to tell from the website and on-line reviews if it would suit. [We checked it out for breakfast the next day. I would LOVE this place if I were in town for an extended stay nearby and I needed to get provisions to keep in my hotel room, but it's not a Yay-we're-in-New-York-Let's-eat-someplace-cool-and-fun experience. It's more of a order-food-from-the-counter-and-eat-it-outside sort of place. The gf offering that I could have gotten that morning was a gf pasta salad from the case, and it was surrounded by gluteny foods. I had a cup of coffee and a Kind Bar.] I found a great review on Celiac Chicks of a place called PizzaBola. Further on-line research revealed that the downtown location had closed. Our real goal for the day was to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, not fart around trying to get lunch that I could eat. We did have some food with us (I never travel without, just in case), but we decided that a chain lunch in New York is better than an apple and a Lara Bar.
From our last trip to NY, I'd remembered that there are a plethora of Le Pain Quotidien restaurants. First of all, it seems just wrong for a celiac to have to go to a restaurant that brags about bread in its name, but I've done pretty well with Au Bon Pain, and chains give a nice predictability, even if it's a novel experience. Second, we were doing our research on the fly with our iPhones, and I have to say the LPQ website is NOT made for the "Let's find one of these places fast" sort of searches. Anyway, we finally found one that was maybe 5 blocks away and which would put us near the subway to the Met.
The day was a little cold and dreary, and the restaurant had a nice, warm, "let's hang out here for awhile" vibe to it. We opted for a table for two instead of the big communal table experience. There were a number of options for me, and I have to confess that I didn't make the vegan choice. I really wanted to try their 6 veggie quiche on a buckwheat crust with a side of salad on the regular menu. The quiche was tasty, the buckwheat crust unremarkable (which was fine with me), the portion size was generous and the salad was fresh and delicious. Jenn reported that she enjoyed her lunch as well. Two less than positive aspects: 1) Our server started out strong but completely ignored us and his other diners from the moment our meals arrived until the moment we walked out the door. I would have ordered coffee and I wanted to try a gf tartine, but the moments ticked on and he didn't return. 2) It was pretty expensive for what we got: Approx $35 for a sandwich, a piece of quiche, iced tea and water. This is likely the New York pricing -- they don't list prices from other cities' LPQ's on the website to compare, so next time I'm near a Philadelphia location I'll take a peek and see how it measures up.
The next day after our visit to Ellis Island and before we hopped on the Staten Island Ferry to begin our return trip, we decided to visit another LPQ location. This time we WERE looking for predictable and relatively fast. From our generally positive menu experience the day before, we knew I could get something else interesting. We went to the location in Battery Park City -- not as warm and squishy feeling, and the place was sparsely populated. We did sit at the big table that time, since it seemed to be the warmest seat in a dining room that was a little chilly. Plus, it was near an electrical outlet and both our cell phones needed a little goosing.
This time I ordered the organic black bean hummus with avocado and spicy tahini on a gf tartine, which was vegan. A non-gf tartine is a sort of stiff regular bread, and the sandwiches are served open faced. You pick them up and eat them like a slice of small pizza. The gf tartine is more like a cracker. It's thin and stiff and did a good job of not falling apart upon being bitten into. Jenn had the egg salad minus capers and anchovies. My food was very much something I would fix myself and it was very good, though if I'd made it, I'd probably have used some cayenne to give it more kick. The spicy tahini dressing came on the side and I used all of it. The gf tartine was of a less generous proportion than the egg salad, which was a little dissappointing. Jenn and I both agreed this time that the $30+ for two sandwiches and an iced tea seemed like a lot for what we got. Still, I had an interesting gf vegan lunch which is huge, and I would definitely keep LPQ in mind as a fall back restaurant on any of my travels.
Next up: Dinner near the Met!