A Gluten Free Celiac's First Trip to LA

Last week was full of firsts for this celiac. Train ride? Check. Teaching a writing class? Check. Having dinner with my boss? Check. Perhaps the most interesting part, however, is where all of these firsts took place: the infamous city of Los Angeles, California.

I'll admit, when my boss first invited me to LA to teach a writing class to other interns, I was nervous. Correction: I wanted to do excited jumping jacks and puke at the same time. Yet, it was an opportunity that I couldn't turn down.

casey the college celiac
Dun dun dun!
The Monday of my trip started with a drive to the closet train station near my house: Sorrento Valley. While the Yelp reviews sounded more than a little sketchy (statements like "The north-bound track is near the liquor store" had me double-checking the pepper spray in my bag), when the train pulled up at 8:54 AM, I was more than ready to (literally) hop on. 

Let me just say: trains are a lot more enjoyable than I thought. I snagged a window seat on the second level with a pull-down table - which, of course, I soon topped with my homemade smoothie bowl. (You aren't a true smoothie addict unless you carry one on a two-hour train ride!) The fact my train came with Wifi didn't hurt either!

casey the college celiac
A few shots from the train and Union Station!
Once I finally arrived at Union Station, I immediately knew I wasn't in San Diego anymore...thanks to both the insane amount of people walking here, there and everywhere and the grandma rocking booty shorts and a crop top. Fashion has no age limits I suppose, especially in Los Angeles!

When my boss's assistant picked me up, we drove to the office...with my boss's adorable pooch riding shotgun (on top of me). Even though I didn't get a chance to explore a lot of LA, it was impossible to miss its artsy vibe. Not only did graffiti decorate nearly every building, but the LA office for my internship is located in an art gallery. Talk about inspiration while you work...

I definitely needed that inspiration when I taught my first writing class! As nervous as I initially felt, the girls were attentive, kind and eager to learn. The two hours flew by in a blur of lectures, writing exercises and one-on-one editing advice. 

Me and my "students"
As terrified as I was for the class, dinner (or, more precisely, late lunch with my boss) made my stomach feel like a butterfly garden. I had researched gluten free and celiac safe restaurants the week before; while LA is full of gluten free restaurants, finding one that was celiac-safe and appropriate for a work meal wasn't easy. In the end, Cafe Gratitude - an all-vegan restaurant that only offers a few dishes with gluten - won out. 

Though I obviously didn't have the chance to take a lot of pictures - lunch with the boss = no foodporn photos! - I loved the cafe. All of its meals have affirmations as names, ranging from "mucho" to "beautiful" to "strong," and customers order by saying, "I am *insert dish name here*." A little confidence booster during a lunch meeting didn't hurt!

I ordered the Mucho bowl, which is like a vegan chipotle burrito bowl. It features mixed greens topped with brown rice (or quinoa), black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo and cashew sauce. After I ordered with the usual "celiac," "gluten free" and "no cross contamination" buzzwords, the manager came to our table. He assured us that the kitchen would do the best to avoid cross contamination, but there was no guarantee - like with any restaurant that also serves gluten. To me, it's sad that restaurants must now worry about legal liability while trying to serve customers with food allergies and celiac disease. 

My dressed-up leftovers!
When my food arrived fifteen minutes later, I was starting and immediately dug in. The rice and beans tasted fresh and tender, which contrasted nicely with the crunchy lettuce and pico de gallo. And that guacamole and cashew cream? Those rich, creamy elements took this bowl into heavenly territory! I took home half for leftovers and they tasted just as delicious the next day, especially paired with extra roasted veggies. 

Overall, lunch went extremely well and, while I definitely felt zombified the next few days, I blame the insane schedule of the trip over any possible gluten. Speaking of that insane schedule...while my actual trip to and in LA went smoothly, the ride home featured a few bumps

I caught the 5:10 train and was one stop away from arriving at Sorrento Valley at 7:39...until we heard the loudspeaker switch on. "A train has broken down on the track," the train conductor explained, "Expect at least a 30-45 minute delay." Not only did we have to wait for a north-bound train to pass so we could use their train track, we also needed to tow that broken train once we reached it. 

casey the college celiac
My Facebook status about says it all...
Cue the most rebellious act of my trip: walking off the train at Solana Beach. (Yes, I definitely did imagine dramatic music playing in the background). It was already getting dark outside and train station was closed, so I decided my safest odds were hanging out at a coffee shop or restaurant across the street...which is why my parents ended up rescuing my from a Subway at 8:30 on a Monday night. Who says this celiac doesn't party hard? 

Overall, I wouldn't say that my first trip to LA was easy. Trains can definitely be nerve wracking...especially when the train gods decide a technical malfunction should end a very long day. And when I spent an hour researching appropriate gluten free options, I definitely wished I was normal. I wished I could let me boss pick her favorite restaurant and just wing it like everyone else. 

But, if LA taught me anything, it's that I have as many opportunities as I create for myself. LA, as dirty or crowded as it may seem at times, is still known as a city of dreams, whether starring in Hollywood or just beating traffic to work. 

casey the college celiac
After my class, the girls wrote down
their favorite metaphors, analogies and turns of phrase (the class topic)
The dream it triggered in me? Seeing celiac disease not as a roadblock to rockin' the working world, but just another fact on my resume. And if this celiac earned another chance to explore LA? I wouldn't turn it down. 

Have you ever struggled eating with co workers or your boss thanks to celiac? What's the most recent "first" you've experienced? 


  1. It sounds like you had a successful trip despite the train. And your lunch combo sounded so good! I love a good bowl meal.

  2. I've only been to LA for a grand total of 13 hours in my life, but even in my short time there I noticed how many gluten free options there were. It's a good place to travel for you (but maybe avoid somewhere like Naples, Italy haha)!


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