Tips for Gluten-Free Anguilla Travelers
For those who love Anguilla for its wonderful restaurants and foodie-like reputation, a diagnosis like Celiac is not welcome news. But the good news is that the island has several gluten-free friendly restaurants and grocers now stock a variety of celiac-friendly pantry items too. You do not have to go hungry or feel deprived while on an Anguilla vacation! In fact, because so many Anguilla chefs cook from scratch and not out of a sysco-boxes like in the some domestic cities, I have actually found the island to be more accommodating than our home town in the States. A few tips and notes for gluten-free tourists...
Anguilla Restaurants and Gluten-free Dining
- Important note: The following list is *not* an exhaustive compilation of Anguilla restaurant options... Information was gathering by emailing some of our favorite establishments prior to travel, but I'm sure there are others on the island who can accommodate food allergies. Information is current only as of 2016, so please check with businesses directly for more up-to-date details and options. Do talk with chef/owners directly as most of the front line wait staff we encountered were not familiar with the variety of foods that gluten can be in, and so they would often recommend something "without bread" not realizing gluten can be in salad dressings, spice mixes, etc. Thankfully most of the chefs/owners were familiar with what was or was not compliant for those with celiac.
- Don't assume things are gluten-free, ask... for example, I was surprised to learn nothing at Garvey's Sunshine Shack is gluten-free except the salad, but the salad dressing has gluten. If they ever switch their seasoning blend or whatever is making gluten part of the grilled meat/fish offerings, then it would quickly go back on our list as we enjoy Garvey and his location. Similarly at DaVida for lunch I was told they have salads, but that their salad dressings all contain gluten. At Ferryboat Inn, their legendary hamburger patties are pre-seasoned and Christian was going to check with the supplier to see if the seasoning blend has gluten in it or not, but we forgot to follow up on this, so ask before ordering a bun-less burger to be sure it is gluten-free.
Notes from Restaurants and Top 13 Actual Experiences
(in alphabetical order since all are recommended options)
BLANCHARD'S: "Both of our restaurants, however, have plenty of options so no need to worry. Please just make sure you mention it when ordering... GF menu at Blanchards. The Beach Shack has lots of options, too numerous to list here. To give you an idea, we have GF hamburger rolls, GF bread for sandwiches and make our own corn tortillas with no flour added."
COVECASTLES: Very impressed with Chef Marc, Judy, Jerome, and the food quality here and their willingness to accommodate dietary restrictions. Their implementation of adapting dishes was above and beyond. For dessert they even let me order some simple fruit, veering off the menu, and the mango and blueberries were so fresh and tasty that it made me wish their breakfast was still open to the public! We repeated Covecastles several times for dinner and lunch. And since it was low season, Judy had time to even accommodate a special request for a side of grilled vegetables that I could take on the plane. Menu highlight was the beach paella - oh my! The depth of flavor in the broth of that dish was divine. And as weird as this may sound… if you haven’t had pasta in a long time, then calamari in a tomato-based broth could make even true Italian angels sing. The texture is reminiscent of thick noodles. The Covecastles kitchen proves that quality ingredients prepared well can kick any food cravings, and make you feel full and satisfied no matter what you are eating.
DOLCE VITA: The tomatoes or caprese salad are an excellent delivery method for their balsamic without the bread. They have several gluten-free pasta choices for dinner. The dishes were best straight away when hot, as the pasta cooled to lukewarm it was harder to pretend this was a typical night at DV since their normal pastas (which I had in pre-celiac days) are their strength.
DE CUISINE: "Our menu changes on a regular basis, just about every 2-3 months, hence it may be more confusing to provide a list of dishes that are gluten free. Quite a few of the items on our current menu are gluten free or can be adjusted to be if required. We do advise all of our guests to let us know if they have food allergies or issues with things such as gluten. This can be done upon making the reservation or before ordering; this allows us to make appropriate adjustments to the dishes.” When it came to ordering, Joash had remembered my allergy from the reservation process and told me exactly what to order. How refreshing! (Made it so much easier than the rest of the trip to not have to be *that* person asking a bunch of questions.) While the first and main courses were strong, it was actually the amuse bouches that stole the show. A plate of small bites to start were some of the freshest I have had on island - everything full of flavor; the pickled vegetables were especially memorable (would love to know what they did to the carrots), along with tomato and eggplant purees. For the main entree, there was an excellent lamb dish with honey glazed eggplant, roasted carrots, onion, garlic, fresh mint. And there was a flourless chocolate cake for dessert.
GERAUD'S BAKERY: Geraud's has some gluten-free items, but honestly standing in front of a case of chocolate croissants after six months without bread sounded like self-torture, so we didn't see or taste the options first hand - I have heard good things through the grapevine.
HIBERNIA: "Aside from the toast, bread, the seafood tart and the meringue cake, the other items on the menu can be prepared gluten free. Please let us know when you are placing the order.” We had lunch at Hibernia before spending half the day at Elodia’s on Shoal Bay East, which was a great pairing. It was our first time to Hibernia for lunch and it was beautiful to see the view in the daytime and browse the gift shop. The Tom Ya Plah soup is a tried and true dish.
JACALA: We repeated this lunch favorite several times. Jacques let me order a mixed salad as a starter that isn’t on the menu; I had seen it ordered by someone else last trip. It trumps salads I have ordered at other places where salads are a permanent focus of the menu. Fresh greens including arugula and carrots, peppers, red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber and a nice vinaigrette. Only advice I have is when something is the daily special - order it! Two times we put off ordering something that later was unavailable. So now I’m craving the crayfish already for next time.
MANGO'S: "Our entire menu is gluten free with the exception of our conch chowder, lobster cake and stuffed chicken. We have gluten free pasta and we have rolls that are gluten free and regular rolls that we bake daily. Our salad dressings are gluten free. For dessert the vanilla ice cream, the banana split without the pastry cup, the creme brulee or the sorbet would be fine.” We had never spent a day there before and in season it was a great spot to have lunch on Barnes Bay. We both had the chef salad, very fresh with real roast turkey and ham (in lieu of deli meat), and reasonable prices. The beach there was even prettier than I remembered, with more sand than when we have seen it during previous trips. Will order the fresh snapper next time, as that is typically my go-to at Mango's.
PICANTE: “…happy to accommodate your gluten free diet. The corn tortillas are steamed and if you let us know ahead of time Theron can do gluten free chips. Fajitas, tacos and quesadillas using all corn tortillas of course. There are other items as well which we can walk you through when you are here.” Before Picante I hadn't had Mexican flavors while dining out as no one in our area makes their chips in oil that hasn't been used with flour items. It was glorious to have chips and salsa again alongside mojitos and margaritas!
STRAW HAT: “...Having spoken with the chef, he says you can eat almost everything on our dinner menu. Breakfast and lunch menus are fairly obvious as to what you can and cannot eat - no pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, and pastas, but the salads and other options are all available. I would stay away from most of the fried items as well but, we will certainly be able to assist you when you’re here. Gluten free is something we’re seeing more and more of lately and we have always been able to accommodate our guests that find themselves in this situation."
TRADITION SUNSET SAIL: This isn't a restaurant, but nonetheless it was a highlight of our evening dining experiences! Bring an appetite for a bountiful spread of fresh fruit, vegetables, imported charcuterie, homemade deviled eggs, and more. It is now a must do for us.
TRATTORIA TRAMONTO: "Salad with Parmigiano, Tuna Carpaccio, Prosciutto & Melon, grilled chicken breast salad, grilled tuna salad, grilled duck breast salad and usually a fish special for lunch. Salad and Tuna carpaccio for dinner, all of our dinner entrees for dinner.” For lunch the grilled Mediterranean Branzino fish of the day and grilled vegetables are a repeat order for me. At dinner their pasta can be ordered gluten-free and they have a smaller appetizer portion available too.
VEYA AND MEZE: “...Meze is almost entirely GF...the only items that are not are the breads and the conch fritters. At Veya, we have our steak wraps, leafy salad, layered salad, all soups, watermelon, carpaccio and calamari-all GF (only 2 apps are not able to be GF-the shrimp cigars and the fritters). For entrees: all are GF except we must serve another side dish for the hush puppies on the shrimp entree. Desserts are a bit trickier: creme brûlées are GF, ice creams and Key Lime Pie minus the Streusel is GF. BTW, we have GF bread for those that let us know." If you are ever looking for a non-alcoholic beverage, Ambo recommended the Lockrum without rum and it was delicious and refreshing... fresh lime juice, their homemade ginger-infused simple syrup, coconut water, and club soda. Gluten-free highlights include the spinach risotto (perfectly prepared) with lobster and steak lettuce wraps, and the chocolate sorbet. The sorbet was so decadent and rich that, even though we wanted to, we couldn't finish it - would order it again as it is a great sweet treat to have at the end of a meal. For those with gluten and dairy avoidance, there are a lot of options at Veya. The fish soup is seasoned just right with coconut, ginger and red pepper. I have yet to try something out of my comfort zone here that didn’t win me over. For example, an amuse bouche of tuna tartare on our second night this trip converted me to not only liking raw tuna for the first time - but liking it so much I asked to order it as a dish later in the week. And just like Chef Marc at Covecastles, Chef Carrie’s creations helped me stay compliant and not feel deprived in any way. Other highlights enjoyed by the table included the calamari appetizer and of course the steak lettuce wraps - an example of simplicity done perfectly. I think I could eat those every day and be happy.
- We cooked in more than usual on vacation, simple meals made up of meats we brought from home (checked a cooler of frozen steaks, bacon, and whole chickens) and then supplemented with island produce - fresh salads and cooked vegetables. There are a variety of farm stands where we found local kale, salad greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, ginger, and fruits. Regarding grocery stores, as recommended by others on the Anguilla forum, Proctors was best for organic and local produce outside of the farm stands. New to us was Fruity Web and buying greens from Sensational Flavors (they were out of other items at the time). We never could find Island Greens, which we had read about online. The west-end location of Best Buy has a nice selection of packaged gluten-free options including crackers and chips. One caveat when cooking in: beware of tap water. We generally don't use tap water except for brushing our teeth, but on this last trip we did use it to wash salad produce and for the first time in 10+ trips, two in our party has stomach problems for a few weeks that seemed stomach bug related. The only change in our routine was cooking ourselves and with raw produce that had been washed with the tap.
Another option for dining in is to hire a private chef. We went this route for two meals after reading Shannon Kircher’s blog post: http://www.thewanderlusteffect.com/luxury-escapes-work-private-chef/. When talking to several island chefs about their services, it seemed standard to pay a flat-rate for each meal plus the cost of groceries. The only caveat I’d give for future travelers is not to wait until the last day to use chef services as there may be a good bit of groceries left over depending on the menu that you choose.
Hotels and Resorts
CAP JULUCA: Cap Juluca was quite willing to accommodate special food requests. Upon check-in Lockhardt introduced me to Chef Dean to discuss options at Blue and Pimms during our stay (the new executive Chef Juan Bochenski was off that week). Chef Dean mentioned a fresh sea bass he had for dinner that night, and that he had already communicated with the breakfast staff at Blue for our morning meals. This was my first time traveling at a resort while under such restrictions, and I appreciated how willing they were to accommodate them.
MALLIOUHANA: You may read online old threads about Malli's extensive gluten-free options, but that was during the hotel's initial re-opening with Chef Bearman. He has since moved on and there is a new chef over the hotel's food and beverage program. I've received mixed information by phone and not heard back from emails, so I don't have any up-to-date information at this time.
Since Viceroy Anguilla has recently become a FOUR SEASONS, the new menus are not available yet. However, in an Instagram shot online there were "GF" marks on a paper captioned by their new food and beverage director, which gives me hope they will set a new high bar on the island for allergy-friendly hotels.
ZEMI and CUISINART both advertise accommodating food allergies. When I reached out to CuisinArt to find out about specific options, their replied stated that in regard to their lunch menu: "Kindly note we carry Gluten-Free Bread's Pizza shells [and] about 90% of the menu is gluten free."
TripAdvisor Anguilla Forum Threads/Gluten-free Q&A Info
- Shopping Question - stores with gluten-free items: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k5349555-Shopping_Question-Anguilla.html#40296769 and https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k7067882-Gluten_free-Anguilla.html
- Gluten-free restaurant thread: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k9013051-Anguilla_Restaurants_Gluten_Free_Thread-Anguilla.html
- Another one about Gluten-free restaurants: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k4177579-Gluten_free-Anguilla.html
- Accessing gluten-free food and products/celiac children: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k8444133-Celiac_children-Anguilla.html
- Question about food allergies: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k8380098-Food_Allergies-Anguilla.html
- Gluten-free restaurant question: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k9145951-Restaurant_Venn_Diagram-Anguilla.html#71684893
- Discussion about Geraud's and gluten-free bakery items: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147238-i388-k7904728-Gerauds_Menu_and_some_New_Additions-Anguilla.html#62106614
- Commentary in threads about individual restaurant experiences: Dolce Vita, Straw Hat, and Veya.
Traveling and Packing
- Planning ahead for your flight: Because flights to the Caribbean are sometimes long enough to include meal service, don't forget to call the airline and ask the representative to make a note in your reservation's "PNR" asking for a gluten-free meal if you are in a cabin that offers meal service. (You can also do this online under "special services" depending on your airline.) Because carrier reputations are mixed for meals being truly gluten-free even when labeled as such, I decided to pack my own lunch for our arrival flights. I used a soft sided lunchbox "cooler" with an ice pack (fine for security as long as rock solid) and had salad vegetables and chicken chopped up in a baggy, with a bag of lettuce on top. Included a travel-size container of dressing in my quart-size liquids bag. It was a feast mid-flight. Added in a few oranges as a snack. In the past we've also brought homemade beef jerky, a granola mix, and chocolate squares for something sweet. On the return, I usually ask a gluten-free friendly island restaurant if we can swing by and pick up a to-go order on our way to the airport; last trip this was Covecastles, and in the winter it was Mango's. Both times I ended up with the best looking lunch on the flight! We connect in Atlanta, so for my next meal I usually order a delicious gluten-free soup at One Flew South in the International/E terminal and that fills me up until we make it home.
- Pack a cooler for items you might want during your trip: You can check a cooler with items that are frozen solid and even without ice blocks it should arrive to Anguilla with the contents still frozen. (This was based on a twelve-hour travel window; only exception has been some berries which were mushy on arrival.) But frozen gluten-free meals and meats made the journey just fine.
If you go to the island and discover dishes to add to the discussion, please come back and leave a comment below - we'd love to hear about your favorites. In the meantime, Bon Appétit!