11 Best Gluten-Free Restaurants in Metro Denver

11 Best Gluten-Free Restaurants in Metro Denver
11 Best Gluten-Free Restaurants in Metro Denver

When doctors diagnosed Sean Workman’s wife Betsy and son Taylor with celiac disease 12 years ago, the family struggled to adjust to eating out. With a lack of clear options in gluten-free restaurants who don’t know what safety precautions (if any) are being used in the kitchen, even the most innocuous food can feel risky.

“My son loves french fries like any other kid,” says Sean, who opened Acova, a virtually gluten-free restaurant in the Highlands, with Betsy in 2018. “But we don’t know what the risk of cross-contamination is with deep fryers.”

Today, families like the Workmans face a very different and much improved picture. Most people know what gluten is — although if you need a refresher, it’s the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, semolina, durum, and several other grains — and know that consuming it can It can make those with celiac disease or allergies feel very sick, with symptoms including stomach pain, bloating, and vomiting.

Thankfully, many restaurateurs are now including some gluten-free options on their menus. But navigating the dining scene remains challenging for many. Despite good intentions, some kitchens use less safe sanitation measures to separate gluten from gluten-free products than others. Plus, some diners are more sensitive than their peers, so a restaurant that brings joy to one person may turn someone else’s stomach off. (Not sure how to determine if a restaurant’s practice is safe for you? Experts offer advice here.)

To try to make sense of it all, we rounded up several gluten-free restaurants and breweries whose chefs and owners are known for serving the celiac and gluten intolerance community. We also detail some safety measures in their kitchens to help readers make choices that they (and their doctors) feel good about.


* Have at least one deep fryer dedicated to gluten-free foods.
^ The establishment uses gluten-free ingredients (but may sell beer in airtight containers).
~ The business is a participating MyMeal restaurant. Kayla King, a web developer in Oregon, has built websites and apps that allow users to enter their allergies or dietary preferences and sort participating restaurants’ menus by ingredient, letting diners know which foods are safe. Other features of the app detail each restaurant’s safety precautions and note whether a certain allergen is particularly prevalent in the kitchen.


Acova’s Havana Panini.Photo by Jon Phillips

When Workmans opened Acova, they decided to make it as safe as possible for people with celiac disease. Acova’s staff uses only gluten-free flour (particles like wheat flour can become airborne and contaminate other menu items), and most dishes, like the habanini with braised pork, are naturally gluten-free. Those that don’t are prepared using a separate device. Bonus: Many of Acova’s safety measures have trickled down to Hornet, another restaurant co-owned by the Workmans, which uses MyMeal to educate guests about safety measures and offers a variety of gluten-free specials.

Queiro Arepas*^

Paper-wrapped tortillas with sauce on the side at the gluten-free restaurant Quiero Arepas.
Vegetarian La Original arepa at Quiero Arepas.Photo by Dennis Mickelson

From its beginnings at farmers’ markets in 2010, through the food truck era, to its current two locations—one on Pearl Street and the other at LoHi’s Avanti Food & Beverage—gluten has never been on the menu at Quiero Arepas. That’s because betel nuts use corn dough to make meats, cheeses, and other fillings. Owner Igor Panasewicz grew up eating them in Venezuela, and while he and his co-owner and wife, Beckie, make surprising concoctions like salmon and capers, they keep gluten out of their kitchen. “We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Becky said. “We’re just recreating my husband’s childhood memories.”

Just the kitchen *~^

Hoping to avoid inflammatory foods, Jennifer Peters opened Just Be Kitchen six years ago this month and expanded to the Denver Tech Center last October. Using gluten-free ingredients, the staff also avoids peanuts, soy, seed oils, grains, soy, and refined sugar. If this sounds tedious, think again. “Healthy eating should be about abundance and fulfillment, not want or sacrifice,” Peters said. To capture that hearty feeling, she works with her team to recreate comfort foods like beef bolognese and chicken and dumpling dishes that have appeared on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Marco’s Coal

Marco's Coal - Gluten Free Margaritas
Gluten-free pizza from Marco’s Coal-Fired.Photo courtesy of Marco’s Coal Company

Crumbly gluten free pizza crust, go away. Marco’s Coal-Fired in Ballpark and Magicians of Englewood use Italian flour and gluten-free wheat starch to make altars of chewy, gluten-free cheeses and sauces (the producers rinse the protein out until it’s deemed safe for people with celiac disease people are safe). The resulting dough can be stretched like a traditional Neapolitan thing, though the process takes place far from where regular pizza is prepared at Marco’s pizzaiolos. Bonus: The gluten-free pies even have their own oven.

Thai Daughter/La Mai Thai

A plate of Pad Thai reddish in the sun.
Pad Thai at La Mai Thai Kitchen.Photo courtesy of La Mai Thai Kitchen

coconut milk. palm sugar. rice flour. the rice itself. Many of these core ingredients in Thai cuisine are naturally gluten-free, says Orrapan Botthaisong, owner of La Mai Thai Kitchen in Edgewater and co-owner of Daughter Thai & Bar in Highland. For this reason, gluten-averse diners will feel relatively safe at Thai restaurants, though they should make sure that soy sauce (an ingredient that contains wheat) isn’t mixed into the sauce. At Botthaisong’s restaurants, chefs will swap out egg noodles in certain dishes for rice noodles, taking care to prepare the replacement in sanitized pots and pans.

live root*^

Spread in Vital Root.Photo courtesy of Vital Root

Part of the six restaurants under the Edible Beats moniker (Linger, Ophelia’s, El Five and two Root Down locations), Vital Root serves hearty gluten-free meals. Clever tricks, like frying rice paper, mean dishes like cobb salad don’t lack the satisfying crunchy croutons they usually serve. The other five restaurants are all good choices, albeit slightly more risky. Director and head chef Justin Cucci said they do use ingredients that contain wheat and other triggers, but employees receive thorough training on avoiding cross-contamination. Metal bars outline the gluten-free and gluten-filled sides of the flat top, and servers exclusively discuss any allergen requirements with chefs to make sure everyone understands their guests’ needs.

Rivers and Roads Coffee *^

If you’ve grown wary of staring sadly at gluten-filled pastries behind coffee shop glasses, head to Rivers & Roads Coffee. Every muffin, sweet roll, and quiche at the Curtis Park store is safe for those with celiac disease. The company’s second City Park location serves a wider variety of gluten-free dishes, such as Mediterranean hash slathered in spicy harissa.

Lucina Restaurant and Bar *

Blue corn tlacoyo on wooden board.
Natural gluten-free tlacoyo from Lucina Eatery & Bar.Photo courtesy of Lucina Eatery & Bar

Both Erasmo Casiano and Diego Coconati grew up in mixed cultures — Cassiano was Mexican and Bolivian, Coconati Argentinian and Puerto Rican. Their one-year-old restaurant in South Park Hill celebrates the varied cuisines of their childhood with occasional gluten-free specials. For example, alcapurrias, Puerto Rican fritters stuffed with stewed chicken, use grated yucca root instead of flour. The pan (bread) still contains gluten, but chefs bake it in the morning, then sanitize the kitchen to remove as many particles as possible before using other ingredients.

Urban Village BBQ

A bowl of gluten-free kale and lentils served chaat-style at Urban Village Grill.
Gluten-free kale moong dal chaat at Urban Village Grill.Photo courtesy of Urban Village Grill/Prim + Co

Simple strategies, like storing gluten-free and gluten-containing products in separate areas of the kitchen, help the team at this beloved Indian restaurant in the Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree prevent cross-contamination. Chef and owner Charles Mani combines French cooking techniques with dishes he learned from his mother and aunts growing up in Chennai, India, without using flour as a thickener for sauces, such as the rich coconut curry served with char siew salmon.

Holiday Brewing Company ^

Beers from Holiday Brewing Company.Photo by Jess LaRusso

Owner and craft brewer Karen Hertz’s gluten-free suds are available all over the country. But if you want the quintessential Colorado post-hike experience on tap, visit Holidayily’s Golden location for the malty and lightly lemony Favorite Blonde, the pine and citrus Fat Randy’s IPA, and other classics. Or, for a celiac-friendly 2-in-1, visit its new 2022 location in the Denver Tech Center, which shares space with Just Be Kitchen’s second outpost.

Debbie’s Gluten Free^

After one of Monica Poole’s twin boys was diagnosed with celiac disease, her family decided to cut gluten from their diet. She works hard to find safe, great-tasting products and experiment with gluten-free flour blends until she has a bread that kids love. Soon, though, fans of the bread outnumbered her family, so she and her husband, Doug, began selling it. Today, Pooles operates a dedicated gluten-free production facility, grocery store and bakery near Cherry Creek Country Club. There, they sell over 275 celiac-safe flour mixes, breads, pastries and ready-to-eat baked goods and serving products to retail shoppers and consumers—the can’t-miss s’mores cinnamon rolls, available Saturdays only, don’t miss. Various local restaurants.

Angela Ufheil

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