In addition to having a teenager with special needs, my family was recently thrust into the world of food allergies. Our youngest is severely allergic to dairy, soy and nuts, and since I'm still nursing, that means I can't eat anything with those ingredients either. We've been allergen-free for about a year now, but as my son gets older, he’s beginning to beg for the same goodies that his brothers and sister get, making feeding the kids quite challenging, especially when we're out and about.
Thankfully, NYC isn't just filled with allergen-free restaurants, it also has plenty of allergen-free bakeries. In fact, I've discovered so many delicious shops selling nut, soy, dairy and gluten-free treats like cakes, cookies and even ice cream, I'm almost grateful to be eating allergen-free... almost. Here are 10 of my family's favorites.
Before chowing down, make sure you discuss your specific food sensitivities with the staff to confirm that the treat in question doesn't contain any of those ingredients. All of these bakeries have allergen-free options but not everything they sell is necessarily allergen-free.
BabyCakes – Lower East Side
248 Broome Street between Orchard and Ludlow Streets
Nut, dairy, gluten and soy-free
I’m actually glad I live far away from this bakery, otherwise I'd be here all the time. BabyCakes offers a wide variety of organic vegan cakes, cupcakes, muffins and breads free from allergens such as wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs. In addition, the bakers don't use white sugar, artificial sweeteners or artificial colors like Red 40, which happens to be another food sensitivity in our family. On the website, you'll also find a blog, an online store, and vegan, gluten and sugar-free cookbooks. The treats can be a little pricey, but I think it's worth it because there are so many allergen-free options.
Body & Soul – Union Square & Financial District
Union Square Greenmarket, 17th Street and Union Square West
Bowling Green Greenmarket, Broadway at Battery Place
Gluten and dairy-free
Although Body & Soul doesn't have a website or storefront, you can find the treat maker at the Union Square and Bowling Green Greenmarkets year-round. Every time we’re in either area we stop by to grab some of our favorites like dairy-free blueberry sage muffins and gluten-free apple pie (and we don’t even need to be gluten-free, go figure). Each item has a little card next to it that lists all of the ingredients so you can indulge with complete confidence.
Treat House – Upper West Side
452 Amsterdam Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets
A wide selection of gluten, nut and dairy-free (doesn't apply to all items)
After making a splash on school bake sale scene, a local family opened this Upper West Side treat shop. The menu includes breakfast bars, ice cream bars and cake pops, all kosher, and some items are also gluten, dairy and nut-free. Bonus: When you treat yourself you help others: 10 cents from every goody sold is donated to the Food Bank for New York City.
By the Way Bakery – Upper West Side
2442 Broadway near 90th Street
Dairy and gluten-free
Inspired by the original in Hastings-on-Hudson, this Upper West Side bakery offers dairy and gluten-free treats like delicious almond cookies, brownies and tea cakes, all made from scratch in small batches. The menu changes daily but that's okay, it just means you can find a new favorite if your usual is out.
Eleni’s – Chelsea
Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue at 15th Street
Eleni’s sells a tasty and beautiful assortment of nut-free cupcakes and cookies, including seasonal specials. I like splurging on the Color Me cookies, which kids can customize with edible ink markers. They make great gifts or party favors. Bonus: Eleni's offers same-day delivery in NYC.
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – East Village
516 East 6th Street between Avenues A and B
Dairy-free ice cream
This is the only dairy-free ice cream parlor I've ever been in, and honestly, it made me a convert. My kids don’t even notice the difference. Many of the flavors are made from cashew milk but there are a few nut-free options available. There's even an egg-less egg cream!
Pips Place: The Gluten Free Cakery – Upper East Side & Midtown East
1729-31 First Avenue between 89th and 90th Streets
127 East 39th Street near Lexington Avenue
Opened by a mom/baker after her daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease, this spot offers all kinds of gluten-free treats including cakes, muffins, cookies and more. Local delivery is also available.
Champs Family Bakery – Williamsburg
176 Ainslie Street near Leonard Street
If you’re going to try one vegan place in the city, start here. Originally just a bakery, Champs has transformed into more of a restaurant and now offers 100-percent vegan salads, sandwiches and other entrees in addition to desserts. This place is super kid-friendly and the “Death Before Decaf” sign that hangs in the window is totally in line with my life philosophy. The recent addition of mozzarella sticks is worth mentioning, too. Speaking as someone who hasn't had a real piece of cheese in a year (and misses it so much), I can attest to their awesomeness. If sweets are what you're after, try the blueberry pancakes with dairy-free cream or a delicious cinnamon roll.
Dun-Well Donuts – Williamsburg
222 Montrose Avenue between Humboldt Street and Bushwich Avenue
One of our favorite doughnut shops in NYC also happens to be vegan. Somehow, the texture is still just right. I personally recommend the jelly and maple glaze, but really you can't go wrong here. A few tips for this popular place: It's cash only and many varieties sell out long before closing time, so go early. Or, if you need a dozen or more, order in advance.
Everybody Eats – Gowanus
294 Third Avenue at Carroll Street
Gluten, nut and dairy-free
Although not an eat-in place, you can pick up gluten and nut-free breads, cookies, cakes, and even pizza and pasta at this kitchen. There are also a handful of dairy-free options like banana bread, challah and deli rolls.
I also want to put in a good word for the bakery at Whole Foods. Even though it's not allergen-free, every baked good has all of its ingredients listed on a card. I usually find several nut, dairy and soy-free options for my family.
For more allergen-free eats, check out our roundup of gluten-free family-friendly restaurants in our Restaurants Guide.