For Northern Virginians who follow a gluten-free diet, recent years may seem like the golden-age for eating sans gluten without giving up their favorite treats. More options — from pizza and pasta to cakes and cookies — are popping up in restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, and cafés across the region. But for those who are extra sensitive to even the tiniest exposure to the wheat protein, like those with Celiac disease (an immune reaction to eating gluten), finding something as simple as a cupcake or a sandwich can prove to be a challenge.
We’ve rounded up some of NoVA’s bakeries and cafés that are 100 percent gluten-free and so delicious that you probably won’t miss the gluten at all.
Emma Cech learned she was gluten-intolerant while studying the art of professional pastry-making at L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland. Instead of giving up on her dream of opening a French bakery, Cech spent several years refining recipes to create delicious pastries sans gluten, eventually opening her French patisserie in 2012. The Happy Tart is a 100 percent gluten-free café offering cakes, tarts, crêpes, cookies, breads, lasagna, pizzas, and more. 410 S. Maple Ave., Ste. 110, Falls Church
Founded by NoVA resident Alyssa Sobecki, The Difference Baker was born out of a mission to help families dealing with dietary restrictions — including her own. Not only is The Difference Baker certified gluten-free, but also it’s 100 percent free of other common allergies like soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and crustaceans. The bakery offers a variety of sweet and savory delights ranging from nut-free macarons, Belgian waffles, and chocolate crescent rolls, to chicken pot pie, Stromboli, and pretzel dogs. 20937 Ashburn Rd., Ste. 130, Ashburn
Creating allergy-friendly baked goods that everyone can enjoy is a challenge, but one that Kickshaws Gluten-free Bakery in Fredericksburg has embraced. In addition to being gluten-free, most of Kickshaws’ treats are vegan and free of the top allergens, too. Consider Kickshaws a go-to for hard-to-find gluten-free goodies such as take-and-bake cinnamon rolls, traditional-style English muffins, chocolate silk pie, jalapeño cheese loaf, and New York-style bagels. 1511 Central Park Blvd., Fredericksburg
In the middle of the pandemic, three sisters — Helena, Haroni, and Leah Tewolde — set out to make a cheesecake that met a handful of dietary restrictions, but still tasted like the real thing. That experiment led to opening Early Bird Cheesecakes in December 2020. In addition to being gluten-free, the minority-owned, women-owned business is non-GMO and uses natural sweeteners like monk fruit and erythritol. Early Bird Cheesecakes offers a variety of six- and nine-inch cheesecakes, cheesecake cups, cheesecake brownie bars, cookies, and chocolate-covered strawberries. 25387 Pleasant Valley Rd., Suite 100, Chantilly
Virginia native Kelly Hartranft fell in love with smoothie bowls in California and opened her first café in Delaware, but a few years ago decided to bring her plant-based and gluten-free menu back to her hometown. Today, Viva Sol,a women of color-owned and family-operated business, sells smoothie bowls, toasts, empanadas, waffles, donuts, custom cakes, and more. And this month, customers can enjoy all the fall favorites — without all the gluten — like caramel apple donuts, pumpkin-filled donuts, and apple fritters. 124 Maple Ave. W., Vienna
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