I don’t eat out a lot. The food I make at home is always better and way less expensive, plus I have little kids and eating out with little ones is not my idea of a good time. However, when I travel, I must eat out at least some of the time, and I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, so I thought I’d share with you some of my great gluten-free restaurant finds!
Normally I’m not a fan of chain restaurants. Since I don’t even go out to eat much, I tend to prefer the “little guys” — the ones that treat you like family and every patron counts — you know the kind?
Well, my recent trip to Boston for Natural Products Expo East has changed that for me in some regards, at least as it pertains to eating out in unfamiliar towns.
The first night we arrived in Boston (after driving over 8 hours to get there and parking our car for $40/night!), the last thing we wanted to do was to get into a car and drive to eat. So, we opted for the closest restaurant to our hotel at the convention center that I knew might be ok for celiacs – Legal Seafood. I’ve eated at Legal Seafood before, and been impressed and grateful that they had offerings for the gluten-free set, even on the children’s menu. But this one was a little different. It was the Legal Test Kitchen (LTK for those in the know).
Isn’t it beautiful? Very chic and romantic, low lighting and very crowded, even for late, so at least some others were endorsing the food! As soon as the waitress asked for our order, I began my usual discussion of my gluten-free needs (I’m very nice about it, I promise!) and she assured me that anything on the menu could be changed to suit my dietary restrictions. I was dubious, and indeed it turned out that not everything was modifiable, but in fact, most things were. Someone else soon brought rolls which I politely shooed away, but he indicated they were actually gluten free. Hmmm. They weren’t fantastic by any stretch, but they were especially for me, and the bean dipping sauce was yummy, so I felt pretty taken care of. My meal of shrimp, asparagus and risotto was very nicely done and I couldn’t even finish (probably because I uncharacteristically had rolls with dinner!), so I was quite satisfied.
The next night we joined the editors and publisher of Living Without Magazine for a really enjoyable evening at Burton’s Grill. Now, a little about me, I’m not just a celiac, I also don’t eat meat! So, I normally wouldn’t have opted for a “grill,” but I trust Beth Hillson’s recommendations implicitly, and we’ve eaten together enough for her to know my tastes. So, we embarked for Burton’s Grill and I must say I was thrilled by their extensive Gluten-Free Menu. We sampled everything from calamari to ahi tuna to fish & chips (on a gluten-free bun!).
It was such fun to have the freedom to choose. Burton’s is certified by the Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP – through GIG) and proudly displays their logo on their gluten-free menu and elsewhere, announcing their commitment to the highest gluten-free food safety standards, and inviting those of us eating gluten free to join them anytime. We were treated so well and each of us absolutely enjoyed our meals - highly recommended!
The third night was a working night for us – we grabbed our computers and ate in the lobby of the hotel so we’d have free wireless internet, and ate overpriced, but nicely grilled fish while we typed away on a tiny cocktail table!
The fourth night was raining and blustery and the cab line was a mile long, so we trekked a couple blocks back to LTK. We knew we’d have a good meal and we certainly had great company with the folks from Earth Balance! This time we shared the edamame and I ordered paella without the sausage — it was delicious, and the very fact that as a celiac, I had a choice of offerings on the menu was absolutely priceless.
I heard from others at the show that among the other great place to try out while in Boston, Nebo is one of the best. Looking at their Gluten-Free menu, I may have to make another trip to Boston soon just to check it out. Handmade gluten-free pasta and pizzas with every topping imaginable … I’m getting hungry now just reading that menu!
I should also say that due to my travel schedule, I’ve eaten out more in the last few weeks than the last several months combined! While I was in Atlanta, I joined 19 blogger and local gluten-free friends at the Outback Steakhouse where they even made us gluten-free coconut shrimp! Granted, this was a special Outback in Roswell where they have a dedicated fryer and make things like their “bloomin onion” gluten free. It was indeed a special treat, but regular Outbacks also have many more typical offerings that are gluten free.
I also enjoyed a meal at PF Chang’s, which is my old standby when I’m traveling. The only complaint I have about this restaurant chain is that so many more of their offerings could be gluten-free if they would only commit to using gluten-free soy sauce and gluten-free flavorings in all their dishes. There are actually NO vegetarian entrees on their gluten-free menu –there is just no good reason why their tofu should not be gluten-free! Luckily, PF Chang’s is listening to consumer demand and adding more gluten-free items all the time; I’ll keep my fingers crossed for veggie lettuce wraps in the near future!
Two more tidbits for fellow Marylanders: a new and and old favorite for you:
One of my new favorite restaurants is in Federal Hill in Baltimore: Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen. I enjoyed access to nearly the entire menu, including falafel (made the real way–without wheat!) and quinoa salad, and they were divine. We sat outside and chatted up the proprietor who assured me that between his gluten-free relatives and the number of gluten-free customers he sees daily, he has a handle on making safe food.
My absolute favorite (old) restaurant is Thai Arroy, also in Federal Hill. I feel like Norm from Cheers when I go in there (and I don’t go nearly often enough!) as they know right what I want to order and they ensure that no gluten is in my dish. Super friendly, good prices, amazing food and BYOB with no corkage! What could be better? If you enjoy ethnic foods, I find Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and sushi restaurants are particularly gluten-free friendly, just be sure to double check with the kitchen that each sauce is indeed gluten-free.
Now go forth and find yourself some delicious gluten-free food! Patronize these places that offer us safe and tasty options and let them know you appreciate them, so our food dollars will continue to grow the offerings available to all of us! Chime in and let us all know of other restaurant experiences you have had too (good or bad)!