The Definitive Guide to Vancouver’s Gluten-Free Happy Hours
One of the common misconceptions about the gluten-free diet is that you have to sacrifice eating what you love for bland alternatives or nothing at all. The gluten-free diet has gained a lot of popularity in the past decade making food, especially in restaurants and bars, much more accessible.
In addition to the greater availability, there is a greater knowledge of gluten substitutes in general. For example, one of the common food items that may contain gluten is soy sauce, eliminating many Asian cuisines. However, in this case it comes down to reading the label and buying the right brand of soy sauce because there are certain soy sauces that are gluten-free. Or, it could be as simple as bringing your own bottle of soy sauce to sushi with friends.
Regardless of whether you have a gluten allergy, Celiac disease, or you just want to try out a gluten-free diet, you don’t have to give up happy hour! Knowing the right places to go, the right dishes to order, and the right questions to ask, you won’t have to worry about missing out. Fortunately, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to prepare you for Vancouver’s best gluten-free happy hours.
Disclaimer: some of the following items are non gluten-free foods that can be made gluten-free upon request. It’s always a good idea to let your server know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time so that they can best accommodate you.
The Whip Restaurant
This Mount Pleasant gem features a Gluten-Free Pale Ale for $5.50 every Wednesday from 4-6pm. It’s important to note that most beers are not Gluten-Free and you must specify when ordering. It’s wise to let your server know of dietary restrictions ahead of time because many foods you may believe to be gluten-free could have traces of gluten.
MeeT on Main
This popular vegan and vegetarian joint has $5 Corn Fritters and $5 Groovy Gravy Fries, both gluten-free, from 3-5pm and 10-11pm on Monday to Saturday. Normally, gravy is something that should be avoided by those who are on a gluten-free diet because wheat flour is often used as a thickener. However, MeeT has explicitly labeled these as gluten-free, so you’re safe on this one!
TUC Craft Kitchen
Make your way to beautiful Gastown for $7 Mussels & Sausage from 5-6pm on weekdays. Meat and seafood are a safe bet for gluten-free diets, but always be sure to ask about the sauce used in cooking them. Gravy, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and more have gluten as a primary or secondary ingredient.
The Flying Pig
You’re going to want to hit up this very gluten-friendly happy hour destination for one of its many gluten-free appetizer options! Every day of the week from 4-6pm, The Flying Pig has $6.25 Beet & Bresaola Salad, $6.50 PEI Mussels, and $6.50 Sriracha BBQ Chicken Drumstick. They also have $6.25 TFP Cured Meats and $6.50 Beef Carpaccio, but be sure to ask for the modification of cucumber instead of crostinis.
Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar
Rogue’s daily happy hour specials run from 3-6pm, and their gluten-free dishes are all under $10! With $4.99 Pork Belly Taco, $4.99 Fish Taco, $4.99 Jerk Chicken Taco, $4.99 Cauliflower & Squash Taco, and $9.99 Gluten-Free Margherita Pizza, you’re bound to find something you like. The key with these tacos is that the tortilla is made of corn rather than wheat. Be sure to make this distinction any time you’re ordering tacos and never assume that restaurants and bars always use corn tortillas.
With $4 Wine and $7 Classic Hot Wings, Browns has happy hour staples that are available to gluten-free individuals every day of the week from 3-6pm and/or 9pm-12am. Chicken wings can be a tricky dish for those on a gluten-free diet. Always ask how they are prepared before ordering. Some restaurants and bars add a flour batter to their wings before deep-frying them, making them inedible for gluten-free diets. Deep-frying is not a write-off for those who are gluten-free; the key is to ask if a batter is used to coat the wings and whether or not a separate fryer is used for other battered foods to prevent cross-contamination.
On weekdays from 3-6pm, make a visit to Granville Island for gorgeous city views and a delicious gluten-free happy hour at Bridges! Their $5 Lemon Press Cocktail and $8.50 Nachos are both gluten-free and equally tasty. However, it’s important to note that many nacho dishes are not gluten-free, simply because of the type of tortilla chips used. You’re usually safe if the restaurant and bar uses corn tortilla chips, but if flour tortilla chips are used, or a deep-fryer is involved, it’s best to avoid ordering it. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so always ask!
Tap & Barrel
The perfectly located Tap & Barrel patio at Canada Place has great vibes and views of the North Shore that’s great to celebrate the end of summer. Their $5 Santa Fe Chicken Tacos are featured from 3-6pm on weekdays and all day long on Mondays. Be sure to ask for regular chicken instead of mole chicken because the ingredients used in the mole version are not gluten-friendly.
Things to Ask:
Before you even look at the menu, let your server know that you are on a gluten-free diet. Some restaurants and bars have a dedicated menu especially for people who are gluten-free and many are well-versed in their knowledge of gluten-free foods. However, not all restaurants and bars have gotten to that point, so always ask these questions to be on the safe side:
Is this cooked in the same fryer, toaster, or grill as food with gluten? Could there be any cross-contamination?
Depending on how food is prepared, it could come into contact with other non-gluten-free foods. For example, gluten-free fried fish may have a gluten-free batter but could be cooked in the same fryer as regular fried fish. This may seem small, but for people with Celiac disease or high gluten-intolerance, it can be very dangerous.
What kinds of sauces are used in this dish?
Many kinds of sauces have hidden traces of gluten that you may not consider. The majority of Asian cuisine uses, in one form or another, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, miso sauce, or oyster sauce, to name a few. These all have gluten in them and should be avoided unless otherwise specified. Certain brands make these sauces available to gluten-free diets, but labels should be read very carefully. An insider tip for sushi lovers is to bring your own soy sauce with you when you go out so you don’t have to miss out! Additionally, gravy is a sauce to generally avoid because flour is commonly used as a thickener, making it inedible for gluten-free diets.
Things to Avoid: (unless otherwise specified)
When reading a menu, look carefully for words such as “fried,” “crispy,” “breaded,” or “battered.” These are good indicators that gluten is involved in the cooking process. Additionally, any sort of regular pasta is naturally made with wheat. Always ask if restaurants have gluten-free pasta to use as a substitute. One noodle exception is rice noodles: most Asian cuisines use rice noodles in some form, but always ask your server if there could be flour in them. If they’re unsure, it’s best to avoid ordering that.
Pastries, bread, and dough should also be avoided. This includes most desserts, nearly all bread baskets, pizza, and cakes. Some restaurants and bars create gluten-free pizza crusts or desserts, so always ask.
Croutons are another thing to avoid. You may think that Caesar salad is a safe option, but if it’s served with croutons, it isn’t. If you want to order a Caesar salad, always ask for it to be served without croutons, as any contact can contaminate the lettuce. Further, although oats don’t often appear in Happy Hour dishes, they should also be avoided.
Malt and barley can often be found in whisky and beer, rendering these drinks unsafe for gluten-free diets. Finally, blue cheese, commonly found in charcuterie plates or other appetizers, is also unsafe for gluten-free diets. These food and drink items are not always the first to come to mind when you envision non-gluten-free foods, but can be harmful.
Things to Note:
Most alcoholic drinks are gluten-free, with the primary exception being beer. French fries are often gluten-free, unless battered or cross-contaminated in a fryer. Not all tortillas or tortilla chips are gluten-free; ensure they’re made with corn. Be wary of imitation bacon bits, salad dressing & marinades, because those can also contain gluten.