Santa Catalina

When eating out is difficult, travelling to unfamiliar places becomes almost impossible.

Sunday was my seventh wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, my wife planned a trip to Catalina Island. It was my first trip, despite having lived in Los Angeles more than 20 years.

Catalina is only about 20 miles off the coast of L.A., a one-hour boat ride from San Pedro or Long Beach (or 15 minutes by helicopter). We actually drove farther to the port at San Pedro than the boat carried us to the island. Once there, it feels a million miles away. It’s well worth the trip, even if for a day. There is quite a lot of stuff to do on the island, some of it very active, some of it very laid back.

There are a limited number of restaurants on the island, of course, and almost all of them are in a four block stretch of Front Street in Avalon, the only incorporated city on Catalina, and the place you will spend most of your visit. Not surprisingly, the options are somewhat limited.

Cafe Metropole – this small cafe is making the best attempt at accommodating wheat and gluten sensitive folks. They make a variety of sandwiches and one of the bread options they offer is gluten free. The food was good, and fresh.

Don’t assume they’re going to be looking out for you, though. The woman who runs the place is trying to provide options, and she’s willing to answer questions. But it isn’t a gluten-free restaurant and you need to take the usual precautions.

Located at 205 Crescent Avenue in the Metropole Marketplace.

Steve’s Steakhouse – a traditional steakhouse with a variety of surf and turf items. I heard that they were GF friendly, so we called ahead about other allergies and Steve himself answered the phone and told us that they could deal with special requests. And indeed, they did. The service was friendly, the food was good, and they had a nice view of the harbor.

Located upstairs at 417 Crescent Avenue, right across from the Green Pier.

Catalina Lobster Trap – a seafood restaurant with a few turf items on the menu. Reportedly GF friendly. Because of my severe seafood allergies, I did not eat there.

Located at the corner of 3rd and Catalina Street.

Big Olaf’s – ice cream stand right on the beach. They serve Dreyer’s ice cream, so unless there’s an obvious source of gluten, it’s gluten-free. Obviously, ask for it in a cup.

Located at 220 Crescent Avenue, near the walkway to the Casino building.

Von’s – yes, there is a Von’s supermarket. The locals have to buy food somewhere, right? There’s also a Von’s Express a couple blocks away for some reason.

Not a huge store, but you can find plenty of gluten-free foods as you would at any market. Especially useful if you are renting a place with a kitchen.

Located on Metropole, near Catalina Avenue.

I’m sure there are other options on the island. There are two Mexican restaurants on the island (Mi Casita and El Galleon) which likely have potential. And there are plenty of shops with snacks and less formal faire that are probably safe.

The restaurants are required by the Catalina Island Conservancy to stay open year round, so you don’t have to worry about travelling in the off-season. And they all have local numbers and are in the same time zone, so don’t be afraid to call them before your visit.

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