More and more of us have specific food needs, whether by a deliberate choice or a necessity. In my case, it’s both: I’ve had allergies since I was young, and I try to eat plant-based as much as I can. One particular challenge is my allergy to soy, which is a mainstay of chain restaurant deep fryers across the country. Luckily for all of us, Massachusetts is one of the top states for food allergy training and awareness. No matter what dishes you’re avoiding and why—from diabetes to keto to kosher, and everything in between—these days you can find more places that take your needs and preferences seriously.
The North Shore has a number of restaurants that obtain that perfect balance: food that’s good, even with modifications. There are comprehensive lists of restaurants like AllergyEats that rate certain restaurants’ ability to handle food needs. But here are a few standouts for you to visit just in time to enjoy some spring vegetables.
Burton’s Grill & Bar
This award-winning restaurant (voted the most allergy-friendly restaurant by AllergyEats in 2019) also has a location in Burlington, as well as elsewhere around Massachusetts and the United States. They have a separate, fully gluten-free menu that offers customizable entrees and also highlights paleo options. Their “scratch kitchen” means that modifications become that much easier. They even use square plates instead of their traditional round ones to highlight for their servers which meals have had special preparations.
145 Turnpike St., North Andover, 978-688-5600, burtonsgrill.com
Flying Saucer Pizza Company
Best of the North Shore winner for best pizza, Flying Saucer also offers robust gluten-free options (and a beer-infused dough, which sounds incredible for those who can have gluten). They have vegetarian and vegan menus, with a make-your-own section, too. They even suggest you ask them if you still want a dish they’ve taken off the menu. Plus, they bill themselves as having a “nerdvana” vibe—with sci-fi decor and knickknacks that include Star Trek, Star Wars, and Doctor Who—and that carries through to their menu. The Nick Fury and Mars Attacks pizzas are among the many thematic pies available.
118 Washington St., Salem, 978.594.8189, flyingsaucerpizzacompany.com
Grove at Briar Barn Inn
This new boutique inn features a menu from executive chef Ben Lightbody that’s locally sourced, including from Alprilla Farm (Essex), Cedar Rock Garden (Gloucester), Ipswich Maritime Products (Ipswich), and Halibut Jack (Gloucester). Their menu is seasonal but adaptive, including a vegan pan-roasted cauliflower steak with golden raisin agrodolce, pine nuts, and quinoa pilaf that’s available now. The menu’s compact but offers a number of different protein options. The post-and-beam barn is rustic and gorgeous, too, for a locale that’s homey and new all at the same time.
101 Main St., Rowley, 978.484.5166, briarbarninn.com/grove
Just in case you’re worried that chains aren’t good for allergies, 110 Grill has an impressive stated allergy commitment. It’s also known for its knowledgeable staff, who can go into detail about a dish’s ingredients and mark carefully when a dish has allergens. The Haverhill restaurant, one of many locations in Massachusetts, also apparently has a separate fryer for those with allergies. They have a gluten-free menu that specifically notes vegetarian options. And they have firepits and outdoor seating for when the weather’s nicer.
1175 Main St., Haverhill, 978.641.3999, 110grill.com
Oye’s Restaurant & Bar
Asian food can be particularly tough for people with allergies (I miss soy sauce so much!), which is why it’s a joy to see a gluten-free menu at Oye’s. They also apparently have options for those with nut/peanut, soy, and sesame allergies—which, again, is very tricky to do with Asian food. Patrons who have severe gluten intolerance and Celiac disease have said they’ve eaten here without any issue, so you can bet that the care they take in food preparation is impressive.
26 Walkers Brook Dr., Reading, 781.944.6800, oyesreading.com
Howling Wolf Taqueria
The Howling Wolf also has locations in North Andover and Marblehead that offer counter service, and its Salem location offers a full-service scratch kitchen. They have specialty burritos and tacos and a wide variety of make-your-own options. Their offerings include grilled vegetables and tofu for vegans and vegetarians, and they have corn tortillas as an alternative to their flour option. Oh, and their drink menu includes specialty cocktails and drinks of the month. This casual, trendy vibe is a must for anyone visiting the historic town, even if you don’t have special food needs.
76 Lafayette St. #4B, Salem, 978.744.9653, howlingwolftaqueria.com