Bergen County Restaurants Respond to Demand for Gluten-Free Dining Options

Braised Lamb Shank with potato puree from Bibi’z

[This guest post is by Heidi Raker-Goldstein of Redhead with a Fork]

With growing consumer awareness of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease, Bergen County  restaurants are increasingly addressing patron demands for wheat and grain-free offerings.  Wheat sensitivities and allergies may be attributed to the way wheat is grown and processed in the U.S. and symptoms include brain fog, depression, difficulty concentrating and sleep disorders along with the appearance of “gluten gut.”  Wheat has also been linked to IBS and other GI conditions, sparking popularity in Paleo and other diets which banish wheat and all grains.  (Check out for more information.)

As a wheat-intolerant food lover who enjoys cooking as much as eating out, I have been challenged to find restaurants that are creative in not using flour in its common guises as pasta base, sauce-thickener, roux emulsifier and go-to crust maker in pan-seared proteins.  While Bergen County chefs restaurants may not yet be experimenting  with quinoa, brown rice and coconut flours in savory and sweet creations, some local menus reflect a desire to accommodate and excite the palates of gluten-free (GF) diners.  I have spotlighted some restaurants that are leading the way in Bergen County.


Bibi’z Restaurant | Lounge in Westwood, had, from its 2011opening, gluten-free menu options have been indicated with GF alongside.   Located in Westwood, Bibi’z co-owner Ida Assaf, who comes from 90 Grand in Englewood and the former Napa Grille at the Garden State Plaza, said her patrons have always been health conscious and that meant menu offerings had to balance rich decadence with unfettered, lighter Mediterranean fare, meaning grilled proteins alongside vegetables and to a lesser degree, whole grains.  “Bibi’z was the first to bring real GF offerings to Bergen,” Assaf explained.  “I had doctors and nutritionists following me from my posts in Englewood and Paramus who were not suffering from Celiac or food allergies, they simply didn’t want to consumer wheat.  Therefore, the bulk of our menu is gluten-free.”

Bibi’z dinner menu (PDF Link) is broken down into organized categories with a “V” indicating a vegan offering and a “GF” indicating a gluten-free item.  At the bottom on the menu where the code is explained, patrons are encouraged to ask for any dish to be made in a GF preparation, even if it involves some improv from the chef.   Gluten-free dishes at Bibi’z include grilled meats and pastas such as the spicy penne Aribiatta.  Bibi’z sides are also all gluten-free.  Ida Martin, owner felt that “it was important to cater to those customers who can’t or don’t eat wheat.  It’s also a healthy alternative.”  Bibi’z also carries halal beef, lamb and chicken as an eco and animal friendly alternative.

Biddy O’Malley’s, an Irish Bistro and bar in Northvale NJ, also serves gluten-free dishes which are indicated on the menu with a GF.  Some examples include their Colorado Lamb, Cheese Ravioli, and Shepard’s Pie.  Biddy’s also carries two gluten-free beers:   Redbridge and Estrella Daura.  This is a more sophisticated menu than what may come to mind when one thinks about Irish fare.

Peppercorn-brined Chicken from Biddy O’Malley’s

Park and Orchard, located in East Rutherford, began as a vegetarian restaurant, though has expanded to include meat and prides itself on being able to cater to any type of dietary restriction, including gluten free.  Some of the entrees they offer are Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini, Shrimp or Scallop Scampi, and Norwegian Salmon Filet.

Janice, A Bistro, located in Ho-Ho-Kus features gluten-free options at breakfast, lunch and dinner service.  According to co-owner John Tinari, the menu is designed so that virtually any dish can be made without gluten upon request.  GF menu items are indicated by an asterisk and Tinari said that 90% at lunch and dinner are inherently GF.

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern, renovated from top to bottom by Laurie and Gordon Hamm, boasts a menu that is 70% gluten-free.  While the menus don’t note which dishes are prepared without gluten, Laurie Hamm said servers are eager to walk patrons through the menu.  The landmark restaurant also is a Zone 7 partner, a farm-fresh distribution organization.  Much of their produce and proteins are sourced within 200 miles or less.

Samdan, the Turkish family restaurant in Cresskill, has an extensive menu with multiple GF items.  Ask servers for confirmation although the Shepherd salad and many appetizers, along with kabobs and grilled items are GF.  Avoid the rice in Middle Eastern restaurants if it is prepared with orzo or noodles cooked in, a common practice.

For pasta lovers, I must mention a non-Bergen restaurant, La Riviera Trattoria in Clifton, which offers an entire menu dedicated to those who are gluten-free.   Prices range from $11-$23.

For more gluten-free restaurant ideas of all price ranges, visit

Jessica’s Natural Foods

Here’s a list of my favorite GF products and vendors:

1.    Jessica’s Natural Foods – I LOVE this great line-up of crunchy, delicious granolas flavored with pure maple syrup and natural ingredients.  Available in six absolutely addicting varieties either online or in Whole Foods Market and made by Jessica Mindell, a young mother in Michigan who launched the specialty line in 2009, inspired by a family member’s intolerance of wheat.
2.    Aleias Foods – this company is run by a CIA-trained pastry pro and her husband and turns out products that taste like their wheat counterparts.  Tasty breads and cookies with great textures.  Their croutons are yummy.
3.    Whole Foods Market Prairie Bread – check the freezer case.  The closest I have found to Eli’s Health Bread which was one of my top picks before eliminating wheat from my diet.  This is lighter than Eli’s, but studded with seeds and just as flavorful.
4.    Sami’s Bakery from Florida – sometimes carried by Organica in Northvale. Excellent bread and bagels for sandwiches and tasty crisps that resemble the texture of a Stacy’s pita chip.
5.    Joan’s – available at Whole Foods.  Crazy good corn and English muffins.
6.    Trader Joe’s has best prices on Udi’s breads and rolls that I have found in the region.  Udi’s is not my favorite, but it’s got fine distribution in the region and slightly lower price points than competitors.
7.    Trader Joe’s also carries its own line of corn-based pastas that are less costly than most rice or soy-based pastas from other markets.

If you want have a favorite GF brand that you think should be on this list, please email at


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