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Gluten Free Dining at Pelican Grill in Beautiful Newport Coast, California


Photo courtesy of Pelican Hill

Our family recently visited Southern California to visit my father for Father’s Day.  When planning which “gluten free friendly” restaurants to dine at, we wanted to visit some “old favorites” as well try some new restaurants that had come highly recommended. One of those was the Pelican Grill at the incomparable Pelican Hill Resort, which was rated by Conde Naste Traveler as the World's Top-Rated Golf Resort in 2012. And it's no surprise...The Resort at Pelican Hill is hard to beat when it comes to beauty. In fact, when living in San Francisco years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. If given the choice of where to play, I’d choose Pelican Hill. It’s that spectacular (although perhaps some avid golfers may have their own preferences!).


Since we were dining with a group including children as well as adults, we opted for the Pelican Grill, as opposed to Andrea, the resort’s more formal signature restaurant, which offers a seasonal selection of hand-made, gluten-free pastas. Don’t get me wrong…Pelican Grill is still quite formal (for California, that is – there’s no jacket required) and the surroundings and view are beautiful. We had a table inside, as opposed to on the terrace overlooking the Pacific. That was just as well, as the terrace isn’t fully enclosed, and the weather was just a bit chilly as it tends to get on June evenings.


IMG_0664I’d called ahead to confirm the restaurant’s gluten free offerings, since I’d read there were many but couldn’t tell from the menu posted online (nothing was notated as being gluten free). When we arrived, we were given a warm welcome, and gluten free bread was delivered to the table.  It looked like Udi’s multi-grain sandwich bread, which had been toasted, and it made our son very happy. I was reminded that they had gluten free pasta available and that they were also working on developing gluten free dough to eventually introduce gluten free pizza.


However, our son was more in the mood for seafood that night, so he ordered the grilled Alaskan King Crab Legs with drawn butter. They are priced by the pound, and his 1 lb. portion was sufficient in size. Unfortunately, many entrees – the Crab Legs being one example -- do not come with sides at Pelican Grill. They must be ordered a la carte. We ordered steamed broccolini for the table and found this to be sufficient, since we all ordered a first course and continued to enjoy both the gluten free bread (and delicious “regular” bread for others at the table). 


IMG_0667I was able to talk with both David Brown, the manager, as well as Chef Derek Brooks. I was thrilled to learn that much of their menu is gluten free, with the exception of the crab cakes which contain breadcrumbs. The roasted chicken, veal chop, fish, and steaks are all safe bets (just verify the sides are gluten free so you can make a substitution if necessary, because a few sides like the hash browned potato puffs weren’t).


Other gluten free entrees enjoyed at our table were the lamb chops, lemon thyme scallops, and red wine braised short ribs with garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables (all pictured here). Notable gluten free first courses ordered at our table were the baby iceberg wedge salad and the warm kale salad served with bing cherries, bacon, and goat cheese (just ask them to leave off the toasted rustic bread which they typically put on top as a garnish).


IMG_0666Their homemade selection of gelatos are gluten free, and the one diner that still had room for dessert enjoyed the vanilla and pistachio varieties. Other dessert selections are not gluten free, and this tends to be the only shortcoming of this othewise impressive restaurant. Overall, however, it was such a pleasure to dine at a restaurant that offers so many delectable choices without relying on gluten-containing ingredients. 

The beautiful California-meets-Tuscany atmosphere of the Pelican Grill makes it the perfect spot for everything from a business dinner to a family gathering to an intimate date. The restaurant is spacious, without tables being so close together. This affords you a degree of privacy and prevents you from having to raise your voice to be heard.


IMG_0665However, the restaurant is family-friendly as well, offering a Kids Menu that’s the perfect blend of standard “kid-friendly” favorites like pizza – and a more sophisticated selection of entrees like a petite filet. I highly recommend this restaurant to both local gluten free folks who’ve never tried it – as well as visitors to the beautiful Newport Coast area of Orange County.  In my opinion, there is no more beautiful spot on the coastline of California, making Pelican Grill the perfect place to savor both the views as well as a range of gluten free culinary delights.