I tried a 100% Gluten Free Dairy Free Restaurant, Here's What Happened!
A restaurant in an ex-McDonalds in the Mission District is not exactly where you would expect to find a trendy menu offering food free of gluten, dairy, corn, soy, peanuts, refined sugar and seed oils. But Kitava is exactly that. I couldn't wait to try Kitava because it is completely gluten and dairy free (two things that I am very intolerant of), it has several vegan options, and it is a also a great place to go with my sister and her friend because they are both on the Whole 30 Diet . Kitava obviously looked great on paper before I even tried it. I thought I would give a comprehensive review of my experience for anyone looking to try it.
For me the atmosphere of a restaurant is very important. The color palette at Kitava is mostly whites, greens, and light wood, accented with different art including what seemed to be canvases covered with bark and moss, and paintings of fruits and veggies on the wall. Everything about the restaurant screamed Instagramable! Most of the seating options are larger tables so you may end up sitting with another party while you are there. When you exit the main eating area (on the way to the bathroom) you pass a large open kitchen. It was really cool to see what was going on in there with the food preparation. I really liked the atmosphere of the restaurant so even before I ate the food I was pretty impressed.
Service really influences my experience at a restaurant. Kitava has counter service which was very nice and quick, and the person at the counter was very kind (and had rainbow hair!) There was some confusion with my beverage order because they said they were out of green tea when they were not. But they resolved that issue pretty quickly. Also, although the food was served relatively quickly, it was kind of strange that one person in our party got her food 5 minutes before the rest of us.
Everything on the menu is gluten and dairy free (obviously) but they do serve meat, so I was curious to see how many vegan options they would have, I ended up being very impressed with the options. There were actually so many options that it was really hard to choose. I am usually used to only being able to eat one or two things on the menu. I eventually settled on the the Cuban Bowl (without pork) which is made of rice, beans, kale slaw, plantains (similar to the sweet Sol Food ones), and it had two great dressings on it which were both very flavorful. I didn't love the dressing on the rice because I thought it was too sour, but my sister really liked it. One thing that was weird is when I looked back at the menu, my dish was listed to have avocado, but it was not served with avocado when I got it. I was kind of disappointed to not have the avocado, but it was already pretty filling so I thought the avocado would have been too much. I also shared sides of brussel sprouts and plantains (the same as the ones in my bowl). The brussel sprouts were not really anything special, but they came with a sauce (I can not remember what type) that was really good. I also had some green tea. Over all, I thought the food was good but not all the flavors were for me.
I think Kitava is definitely worth trying and I can see myself going back. The atmosphere and service is very inviting -- I really liked that. A lot of times these "trendy" restaurants can have stuck up or unwelcoming staff, but all the Kitava employees I interacted with were so kind. For the food, I definitely would want to try some of the other things on the menu like the salads, vanilla ice cream, and the mix and match bowls. I think that this restaurant is really cool because it offers really healthy, clean eating, and accommodates lots of dietary restrictions. This restaurant tries so hard to be inclusive and friendly to everyone, from sourcing local, to buying organic, to the whole 30 friendly menu, to even accepting Bitcoin (according to their website). I also think the price point of their menu is very reasonable for what you are getting (most mains range from $9-15). I think that anyone who dabbles in paleo, vegan, gluten free, or clean eating should try this place out.
Kitava, 2011 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110 b/t 17th St & 16th St