Is eating gluten-free at Duke University easy? Tricky question. Duke Dining does a good job trying to accommodate gluten-free (GF) diets, among other diets, but the options are still a bit limited (justice for GF crepes at Cafe!) and after eating the same Krafthouse sandwich or Panera salad 10 times a month, you might want to venture off campus to see how the Durham food scene handles gluten-free food.
As a disclaimer for this non-exhaustive guide to GF dining in Durham, I am not celiac but gluten intolerant. I cannot guarantee places on this list are 100% celiac-safe.
Tucked in a small strip mall off of 15-501, Twisted Noodles is a great option for Thai food. Most of their expansive menu of curries, noodle dishes and classic Thai options can be made gluten-free. Unsurprisingly, given the name, the noodle dishes, as well as the basil roast duck, have been the highlights of my visits. Although the Durham and Chapel Hill locations no longer have the same ownership, both have similar options and gluten-free accommodations.
Gocciolina and Cucciolo Osteria
Two of Durham’s best options for upscale Italian, Gocciolina and Cucciolo Osteria can both do most of their excellent pastas gluten-free. If I were to choose between the two, I would suggest Gocciolina. Some of the appetizers and other small dishes are also gluten-free and their GF pasta is just a bit better than Cucciolo.
Many cuisines naturally offer a plethora of gluten-free options, and with a hefty helping of injera with any meal at Goorsha, their modern Ethiopian cuisine is no different. The combination platters are the best way to try all Goorsha has to offer on one plate.
For another upscale option, Juju has plenty of gluten-free options, including dishes like fried rice, mongolian beef and others that are often not gluten-free when dining out. I would imagine that they use gluten-free soy sauce to make many of the dishes on the menu.
Saltbox Seafood Joint
Saltbox? Really? I could not believe it either, but it turns out that Saltbox’s decadently fried fish is fried in corn flour. The fish grilled is a great option too, but given how rarely gluten-free folks can have fried anything when out, you might as well take advantage of this opportunity. I would stay away from the potatoes that come as a side for their platters, though. They are fried in the same oil as their hushpuppies, and I have often felt a reaction from them.
Press Coffee Crepes & Cocktails
One hundred percent of the Press food menu can be made gluten-free with modifications. They make a great gluten-free buckwheat crepe and have one of the best gluten-free breads in Durham for their sandwiches and toasts. If you can brave seeing 40+ Duke students in the “real world” on a Saturday morning, their hashbrown waffles, which are just hashbrowns pressed into the shape of a waffle and topped with other breakfast foods, are superb.
Bull and Bean
A great option for breakfast, lunch and brunch, Bull and Bean is a lesser known but essential Durham restaurant. The weekend brunch options are particularly good, and with brunch spots in Durham often overcrowded on the weekends, you can usually snag a last minute table at Bull and Bean. They use Imagine That GF bread, a local Durham gluten-free bread company made in a 100 percent gluten-free facility. The bread is one of the best I have had, and loaves can be purchased at the Durham Co-Op market.
Queeny’s, Bull City Burger, Town Hall Burger and Beer, The Boot Room, Foster’s Market, Toast, Grub Durham
Here’s a laundry list of places in Durham with great burgers and sandwiches that have gluten-free buns and bread. From The Boot Room’s soccer pub aesthetic to Queeny’s late night atmosphere and hours, there’s plenty of great sandwiches to choose from in all settings and at all hours of the day in Durham.
They have like three GF items, but one of them is the pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. Go get the pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. Seriously. Like right now.
Afters is the Durham Food Hall’s dessert bar, and it certainly does not make gluten-free options an after(s)thought (sorry not sorry). A variety of their featured desserts are often gluten-free, as well as their chocolates and dessert flights. They also offer four flavors of GF scones on the weekend, including a particularly good cream cheese scone.
Sweets by Shayda
I profiled Sweets by Shayda more extensively a few weeks ago, but the macarons are excellent, and of course, naturally gluten-free.
Bonus: Il Forno
The whole point of this list was places off campus, but the Il Forno GF pizza is probably the best one in Durham. While it used to taste like cardboard, they changed their distributor and now have an option that might even rival their regular dough (perhaps a bit too far).
I hope this guide helps any gluten-free students looking for some additional options off campus. Durham does have plenty of gluten-free options, most of which beat the GF alternatives offered on campus — except of course my beloved Il Forno pizza.
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