If you’re on a gluten-free diet like me, you know the anxiety that comes with going out to eat. Moving to a new town to go to college can be extra stressful if you don’t know what’s available in the community.

I grew up eating relatively normally, at least outside of my home. My sister had a wheat allergy when she was young, so we ate gluten-free at home with her in solidarity. Oddly enough though, she grew out of her allergy and has a totally normal diet now, but we switched places when I had to pull gluten from my diet after I contracted COVID in Fall 2020. Here we are four years later and I’ve gotten used to not feeling sick all the time and eating bland, crumbly food. It’s tough to switch your diet 21 years into life, and there are lots of foods I miss, but the gluten-free industry has gotten a lot better than it was. Thankfully, I’ve found some good substitutes and have gotten pretty good in the kitchen. Eating out is still scary though, but I’m a foodie, so I’ve taken the time to hunt down the good spots and make some recommendations. Here are my top picks!

My criteria for rating these places are as follows:

Taste, obviously! Most of them will have relatively high taste scores; hence, why I’m recommending them, but here you’ll be able to tell the difference between the places I love and the ones I really love. The next is accessibility, which is how close it is to campus and where I judge how clearly marked the menus are or if you have to ask about options. I’m also rating prices to gauge how expensive these places are, but I would like to clarify that a low score doesn’t mean bad or unfair. It really just keeps in mind a tight college budget and helps differentiate places you could maybe frequent versus places that would be an occasional visit. Keep in mind, I’m making judgments based on a gluten-free diet, so a normal price for us gluten-free besties may feel expensive to someone who eats normally (we love that gluten-free price gouging don’t we?). I’ve also left notes on cross-contamination practices for each spot.

Brew Bird 14/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 5/5
Price 4/5

Celiac safe? Yes! All fryers are dedicated fryers and most items are already gluten-free. The only thing that isn’t are the buns for sandwiches, so remember to request a gluten-free bun.

Brew Bird is quite possibly my favorite restaurant in the area. I never thought I would have good chicken tenders again after a few less than impressive attempts to make them myself at home. Their chicken is delicious and I’m also a big fan of their mac and cheese. I love that they have good appetizers, too. Their cheese curds and fried pickles hit the spot every time. Their ranch is unique; it has a stronger dill flavor, but it pairs well with the chicken and their mouth-watering waffle fries. I love the party bowls and the sweet potato fries are also worth a try, especially with the marshmallow fluff sauce. It’s not walkable but is relatively close to campus just past downtown Fargo and the prices aren't too bad, although getting both an appetizer and an entree feels like a lot. There’s still an upcharge for a gluten-free bun but only a dollar, which is less than most places. Their fryers are even dedicated fryers, so it’s good for celiacs! It’s not 100% gluten-free across the board, though. Sandwiches come on regular bread so, even though the chicken breading is gluten-free, you do have to request a gluten-free bun. They have dairy-free and vegetarian options too and everything is very clearly marked on the menu, which is super helpful. I will go back time and time again. Plus, if you go in person the place is so cute and they have fun coloring pages while you wait.

Mahana Fresh 14/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 4/5
Price 5/5

Celiac safe? Yes. Everything on the menu is gluten-free!

I LOVE Mahana Fresh and it could totally tie Brew Bird as my favorite restaurant. The only arena it loses points is being a little farther away, about a 15-minute drive into Fargo. Their window says “free of gluten, full of flavor,” which I find both silly and true. The sesame noodles are yummy, but I sometimes forget that oftentimes noodles like that are cold so it was a surprise, but it’s not often you find gluten-free noodles that taste good cold, so it’s a win. The Key West chicken was the perfect balance of savory with a little bit of sweet and I found it to be delightful. I really like the BBQ Luau Bowl. The sauce was yummy and it was thinner, so the chicken wasn’t drenched in barbecue sauce. It was kind of soaked in and had a full flavor. It came with rice, sweet potatoes, and garlic green beans, all of which were perfect. I think my favorite thing ever though is their mac and cheese. I’ve only tried the steak mac and cheese, but it’s so good I’m not sure I could ever try another one for fear of betraying my first love. It’s by far the best gluten-free mac and cheese I’ve ever had — creamy and full of flavor, and the steak was far from tasting like cheap fast food steak. It has a good flavor and tenderness that I might argue is better than Chipotle’s. Historically, my dad is not a fan of gluten-free anything and even he liked this mac and cheese. He looked at me in shock and disbelief as if to ask, “How did they do this?!” and I’m not sure I really had an answer. It’s elite. From my experience, all of their food reheats well, which is always a plus. They have a few Tractor Beverage Co. drinks by their soda fountain and I’m kind of obsessed with the strawberry dragonfruit one. I am also a fan of the tropical green smoothie. I love a fresh smoothie and I feel like it’s hard to find really good ones.

Mehl’s Gluten-Free Bakery 14/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 4/5
Price 5/5

Celiac safe? Yes. Everything here is gluten-free!

I love Mehl’s so much! Their cupcakes are absolutely fantastic and it’s my new go-to for treats. They have mini and big cupcakes. They also have full cakes in (I think) an 8x8 pan and I’m not sure if they do bigger ones for special occasions; I haven’t tried that yet. Their cookies are pretty good. I’ve had their cookie sandwiches and, while the frosting was a bit sweet for me and not the best I ever had, I would still demolish one if given the opportunity. I think their cupcakes outrank their cookies, which is not a shot at the cookie; the cupcakes are just so good. Their bread is probably the best sandwich bread I’ve had to date and it makes for really good toast and grilled cheese. They have so much food around in coolers and freezers too. I am obsessed with their chicken Alfredo frozen pizza. I’m still partial to the frozen DiGiorno for a fluffy crust but, as far as thin crust pizzas go, this one wins. I think they have thicker crust pizzas, but I haven’t tried them yet. This chicken Alfredo pizza has the perfect amount of cheese and the Alfredo sauce base they use is delicious. I only wish they used a bit more chicken (but I do recognize that I like my pizzas covered in toppings and I’m usually adding my own no matter where I buy it from). There is so much here that I want to try but haven’t yet. They have muffins, bagels, English muffins, and mixes so you can make some of their products at home. They also carry gluten-free snacks and a few various products that aren’t their own like chips and queso and tortillas. They also have breakfast and lunch options. You can get sandwiches, chicken strips, and soup — all of which I have yet to try. The prices are fantastic. It’s about a 10-minute drive from campus and worth a stop (or a few)!

Sol Ave. Kitchen 15/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 5/5
Price 5/5

Celiac safe? They’re pretty careful and keep things as separate as possible, but the same risk goes for any restaurant that doesn’t have a dedicated gluten-free space. I was told the kimchi fried rice without egg and charred broccolini are safer because gluten seldom goes over to those areas.

Sol Ave. is one of my other favorite places of all time! Admittedly, I always get the same items because they’re so good. I am obsessed with the pork belly taco and you can get it on a corn tortilla. The potato bravas are also really good and I believe they change the flavors for those somewhat regularly. I have yet to try the smoked tater salad and the rice bowls, but friends that I’ve gone with have confirmed that the fried rice is definitely worth a try. It’s pretty close to campus, not super walkable unless you’re down for a 30-minute stroll across the train tracks, but it’s just a five-minute drive. Gluten-free options are clearly marked, which is always a plus, and every time I’ve gone they ask if I want a flour or corn tortilla with the tacos so I don’t have to remember to ask for a substitute (although I’m used to specifying right off the bat anywhere I go at this point; I’m sure you get it). Prices are pretty good for what you get and so worth it. You can buy tacos one at a time or two at a time for a dollar off, and the rest of their food is pretty reasonable. This is one of my favorite spots to go to (it’s up there with Brew Bird and Mahana).

BernBaum’s 15/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 5/5
Price 5/5

Celiac safe? They do take allergens very seriously and use clean pans, wipe down surfaces, change gloves, etc. They even avoid putting gluten-free items on hard-to-clean surfaces like cutting boards. Here’s the catch: Their bakery is in-house so, while they keep things as separate as possible, there’s technically a risk for airborne flour.

BernBaum’s is such a gem and there are a few gluten-free options that I enjoy. I always get the latke brisket and it’s so delicious; the sauce that comes with it is delightful. Gluten-free items are clearly marked along with dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. They have eggs there too that I haven’t tried because I’m too attached to my latke brisket, but word of mouth says they’re good. They sometimes have macaroons and they were some of the best I’ve ever had! They were very cute and decorated to look like everything bagels. I will come back time and time again, no questions asked. It’s somewhat close to campus in downtown Fargo, so a short drive or a long walk if you’re that kind of person (I’ve honestly done it). Pricing isn’t too bad either; most things range from about $6-$12!

The Tavern Grill 12/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 4/5
Price 3/5

Celiac safe? They are really careful about cross-contamination here and they train their staff, who have always been great about it every time I’ve been there but, as with any restaurant, there’s always a risk.

The Tavern Grill is one of my go-to places when I’m able to spring for something a little nicer. I am obsessed with the crab artichoke dip and the chicken Alfredo. It’s the only place I’ve been able to eat Alfredo, which is one of my favorite foods! They have rice noodles that they substitute and their Alfredo sauce, which is delicious, doesn’t use flour as a thickener. The chicken that they put on top is perfection, and I sometimes add shrimp if I feel like treating myself. Their burgers are also to die for; my favorite is the breakfast burger. They have a really cute notepad to fill out for a build-your-own that makes it easy to customize and clear for the server, which is a win all around. They can put burgers and sandwiches on a gluten-free bun for an upcharge. I’m also a huge fan of their pizza, which for pizza is on the pricey side if you’re adding toppings, but so worth it once in a blue moon. This is one I will spring for if I don’t feel like cooking and want an Alfredo pizza because it’s the only place I can get one made for me. I get it with chicken and bacon and it is scrumptious. It’s a little farther from campus in Fargo, about a 12-minute drive. I am truly impressed with their allergen menu! It is one of the most clear and thorough allergen menus I’ve ever seen and has notes for how to make things gluten-free with their substitution options. I love going back as a treat with friends when we feel like going out. The Tavern is definitely a little more expensive, but it depends on what you order. The appetizers aren’t terrible, but entrees run about $16-$25, pastas are about $18-$22, and drinks are pricey. Overall, I would absolutely recommend it as a good sit-down restaurant. I love this place a lot.

Black Coffee and Waffle Bar 14/15

Taste 5/5
Accessibility 5/5
Price 4/5

Celiac safe? Not free of cross-contamination. The batter is gluten-free, but they make all the waffles in the same irons; none of the waffle irons are dedicated gluten-free. They do have a potato waffle that is entirely gluten-free that I have yet to try.

I love Black Coffee and Waffle. I always get the Dakota Luau on their gluten-free waffle, which is pulled pork, honey barbecue sauce with a pineapple salsa. The waffles are so soft, not dense and dry like a lot of gluten-free options. Gluten substitutions are clearly written on the board; plus, the gluten-free batter is also vegan! This is another downtown Fargo location. I always come back here to curb a waffle craving (or if a friend just says, “Hey, do you want to go to Black Coffee an—”). They have board games for guests to use, so it’s a good spot to hang out with a small group at their long tables. The windows even roll up like garage doors, so it’s like a half indoor, half patio feel when it’s nice out! The pricing isn’t bad, but the gluten-free/vegan batter is an extra $2. The coffee is just less than Starbucks prices. This is a great spot if you’re downtown and want something quick or plan to stay a while.

Pounds 12/15

Taste 4/5
Accessibility 4/5
Price 4/5

Celiac safe? They change gloves and clean stations as well as they can when notified of allergens, but there’s still technically a risk for cross-contamination.

Pounds is another go-to spot with great food! Their new location has good vibes and the staff is really cool. They don’t have a huge variety of gluten-free options, but they have gluten-free buns so you can eat burgers and sandwiches (Da Club is so good) and I love the hippie bowls! The Te Amo bowl is my go-to. Gluten-free items aren’t clearly marked on the menu (besides the gluten-free bread they offer), so you have to ask. Their fries aren’t gluten-free though, which is an L; they’re the kind with that crispy coating that’s chock-full of wheat. This is another spot in downtown Fargo, so not too far away. Prices aren’t too bad; you’re looking at about $10-$15 without a drink, and they have a $2.50 upcharge if you opt for that gluten-free bread. Overall, this is a place I definitely go back to.

Twenty Below 13/15

Taste 4/5
Accessibility 5/5
Price 4/5

Celiac safe? They use separate gloves for gluten-free items and a different toaster for direct contact. Each gluten-free item gets a clean plate when going through their broiler, though non-gluten-free items also go through this broiler but on different plates.

The gluten-free options at Twenty Below are delightful. They have a gluten-free sourdough bread that they use for their toasts. I’m not normally a fan of sourdough, but the toasts here are so good. I really like the ham and cheese toast and the egg breakfast sandwiches. This is almost the only coffee shop where I’ve found good gluten-free breakfast options. You can also buy loaves of the gluten-free bread. They have a bread schedule on their Instagram so you can see when they have it. I do find that because of its density the crust is a little bit tough, but that does not stop me. I recommend slicing it thinner. It holds together well and has a good flavor. When I say I’m not normally a sourdough fan but really like this bread, trust. The gluten-free sea salt chocolate chip cookies are to die for and the gluten-free chocolate chip muffins sell fast for good reason. It is super conveniently located across the street from campus, so it’s easy to get to. They also have a location in downtown Fargo. Gluten-free items are clearly marked. The pricing isn’t terrible, better than Starbucks when it comes to drinks, but I sometimes feel like I’m spending more than I should when I get more than one thing. There’s also an upcharge for the gluten-free bread. That being said, I don’t hesitate to treat myself here. I love going to this spot if I want a good coffee and it’s one of the only places I can go for a good breakfast sandwich too, so I love going back! The staff is friendly and it just all around has good vibes.

My local pizza rankings:

  1. The Tavern Grill

  2. Rhombus Guys

  3. Spicy Pie*
  4. Boston’s

  5. Blaze

*Ask them not to cut your pizza at Spicy Pie. Cut it yourself; I’ve heard they use the same cutters for all pizzas. I’ve only had their pizza once and didn’t have an issue, but I’ve heard mixed reviews from celiacs of varying sensitivity levels so decide what you’re willing to risk.

Grocery shoutout: 

The Dilworth Walmart on 34th Street North has really well-stocked gluten-free frozen and pantry sections with too many good things to list but, notably, that’s the only place I’ve found the Dino nuggets that I’m obsessed with. They have the best box mac and cheese I’ve tried by Jovial Foods (which also has lots of other fun pasta shapes). Pro tip: Not every gluten-free item is in the gluten-free section, so look around.

The Hornbacher’s on 11th Street South in downtown Moorhead has a decent gluten-free pantry section, but the Hornbacher's down 8th Street South on 40th Avenue has a bigger selection as well as more gluten-free frozen foods such as Feel Good Foods.

The Moorhead Target has the gluten-free Kraft Mac & Cheese, as well as a few Amy’s Kitchen frozen dinner options. This is also the only place in the area where I have found the gluten-free frozen DiGiorno that is heaven on Earth.

The Aldi on 34th Street North across from the Dilworth Walmart has pretty good take-and-bake cauliflower crust pizzas too!

If you’re wondering about other spots in the Fargo-Moorhead area or want to keep tabs on good grocery store finds or food trucks in town, join this Facebook group. People are really helpful and give good reviews.

Published June 2024