Where to eat Gluten Free?

I’ve had some newly diagnosed, paranoid people ask me if I quit eating out once I was diagnosed. No, I did not. We travel a ton and have a pretty hectic schedule during the week. I do tend to frequent restaurants I have been to previously and don’t venture out to try the “newest hot spot” very often. At least, until I have done some research and stopped by to ask questions without my kids in tow. While I’m willing to walk out of a restaurant, my kids are not quite as forgiving once they are hungry.

We are very fortunate to have great options in our area. I recently traveled to the back woods of Tennessee, the land of breaded and fried food. That experience left me in tears and very hungry. Not all cities are as accommodating to our seemingly, trend based diet.

Here are some of my regular spots in the Indy area. There are a variety, including quick pick-up and some fancy. There are more restaurants than you think that can accommodate. Many just don’t want to have a gluten free menu from a liability perspective.

  1. Rice Cooker – Zionsville, IN

They make the food from scratch and have a family member who is gluten free. Both are really handy when you are trying to avoid being poisoned. They know what gluten is, how to cook amazing food that is flavorful and gluten free and I’ve had things there that no other restaurant can make like hot n sour soup, general tsao’s and fried rice with molasses.

2. Mitchell’s Fish Market

Amazing flavorful options on an actual gluten free menu. They even have salads that are offered on the gluten free menu that aren’t on the regular menu. And they have bartenders who are knowledgeable about gluten free alcohol.

3. Ted’s Montana Grill

This is more of a salad place or burger without the bun option here. The big win is they do have dedicated gluten free frier, so if you want some fries, it’s the place to go.

4. Kona Grill 

They have recently revamped the menu to include sushi and select dishes that are more creative than steamed veggies and chicken.

5. Chipotle

Grab a bowl and build it how you want it. They even have wrap your own tacos. You pick the ingredients and corn tortillas and make them as you go.

6. PF Chang’s

If you want to have an experience that is much like everyone else, this is the place to visit. And the fact that they are all over the country helps loads too. They offer a fantastic standard gluten free menu with loads of options and even have gluten free soy sauce on hand. (No more carrying it in my purse, bonus!)

7. Jason’s Deli

This place offers an amazing organic salad bar with loads of options. Naturally, you skip the pasta salad, croutons, crackers and obvious gluten containing options. Their staff is very knowledgeable should you have questions about the ingredients. They also offer baked potatoes which you can fill with scrumptious choices and sub gluten free bread on their sandwiches. Just make sure they know you want it all to be gluten free when you order.

Keep in mind, what they offer is a “gluten sensitive” menu. This means they don’t have dedicated space and they do not accept liability for gluten free.

8. McAlister’s Deli

Salads without croutons, baked potatoes, vegan chili, and more. Stay away from anything with an asian dressing as it will contain either soy sauce or terriaki. Both have wheat ingredients. Ask questions and make sure to let them know you need it gluten free.

9. Zoup

This place rocks in my book. So many options. They change up their offerings each day so it’s not stagnant. They clearly label what is gluten free, vegetarian, low fat and dairy free. They do not offer gluten free bread, maybe some day!

10. Hardee’s

Although they are not as prevalent as McD’s, they are the best fast food restaurant on road trips. I recommend downloading their app so you can map out your stops in advance. All of their meat is 100% meat with no fillers. As well, any sandwich can be low carb-wrapped in lettuce and paper so you can actually eat it in the car.

Be sure to order with regular (non-beer) cheese. They offer Budweiser cheese. Yikes!

11. Maggiano’s

Oh, so good and how often can you say that you went out for Italian with Celiac? Ask for their gluten free pasta and they will make a dish to enjoy there and one to take home too. Although they can’t do ravioli or lasagna, they have loads of options that will satisfy.

12. Cooper’s Hawk

They offer gluten free bread at the tables, desserts that are not just berries or creme brulee and creative, flavorful entrees on an extensive gluten free menu that will actually leave you a bit confused as to what to order.

13. Season’s 52

This is a fancy option for a special occasion, they offer flat bread pizzas, salads, an assortment of entrees and desserts. Be certain to specify gluten free when ordering.

14. Fogo de chao

Another fancy option that I highly recommend if you have the appetite! Worth the price for a fancy – no kids – night out. Loads of options on the salad bar, the bread is Brazilian so it naturally doesn’t have gluten, rather tapioca. However, I always ask when I go in case they change the recipe. They can identify the 2-3 options of meat that are not gluten free and all the others are flavorful, satisfying and filling.

15. Scotty’s Brewhouse  (multiple locations)

Who doesn’t like a place where they give you a hand towel as a napkin? That just screams “great burger” (on a gluten free bun, no less). They have a fun gluten free menu with options for the kids too. No dedicated frier so skip the fries (maybe some day) but there are several other options and they are great about subbing to accommodate.

16. Harry & Izzy’s

This is one of the more creative gluten free menus. Chef Dave put some of his culinary flavor in this menu and it shows. They have pizza, burgers with gluten free buns,  dedicated fryer for fries, creative salads, St Elmo’s Shrimp Cocktail and a lot of high end gluten free alcohol options. Check it out!

17. Which wich

This is a great alternative lunch place, as they give the option for any of their sandwiches to become a lettuce wrap or a salad. Their convenient bag based order system ensures that your order will end up exactly as you have requested and you don’t have to create the awkward atmosphere of yelling all of your unique requests in a busy shop.

18. Divvy 

This place is cozy and quaint. Bonus for parents who are leaving their kids at home, no kids are allowed so you won’t have to dine with other peoples kids on your night of reprieve. Or if you don’t have them, you will continue to be well rested and not have to eat with my kids.

Everything on their menu is clearly marked if gluten free or vegan. One menu. One labeling system. No awkward requests for special menus. Love it. Not to mention the locally sourced, creative menu items and fantastic out-of-the-box desserts.

19. Tuscanos Brazilian Grill

Much like Fogo de chao but a lower price point and inviting family dining atmosphere. Nearly everything is gluten free (except the Brazilian bread is not) and the staff is VERY knowledgeable.

20. Chili’s

Sit down at the table and log onto the little computer tablet for access to the allergy reference menu. I go there for the baked potato soup. No dedicated frier for chips, fries or anything else. No gluten free buns. Just go there for unlimited soup and salad. 😉

21. Authentic Mexican Food (by many names)

Most food made with corn (masa) flour. However, be careful. Many seasonings contain wheat and it’s hard to communicate to find out if their brand has it. As well, some enchilada sauce contains wheat. (Locally, I like La Hacienda and Los Toros)

22. Chinese Restaurants (by many names)

They can make any dish with white sauce (i.e. Moo goo gai pan). It’s gluten free. When in doubt just say “white sauce.” Since it’s often hard to communicate gluten, stay away from anything breaded, fried, with brown sauce (soy sauce) and opt for rice noodles, usually mei fun on the menus.

23. Jimmy John’s

Much like Which wich, they will allow you to order any of their sandwiches as wraps. Bonus is the freaky fast delivery and online ordering system.

A lot of places claim to be gluten free but all they do is leave off the bun. Most don’t even have dedicated fryers for french fries. There is a big difference between, “can I eat anything?” and “am I going to enjoy my gluten free meal.”

There are a lot of restaurants that pop up on the apps like “Find me Gluten Free”. Many are on there because they have great marketing departments, not gluten free food. Use caution. Ask questions. Read the reviews, I find these to be super helpful. If you are celiac or allergic, TELL THEM! I always stress the fact that I am not on a fad diet and I get sick if I eat it. This helps them to understand the severity and most servers will be either scared or responsive and get a manager/chef to talk with you.

For more options, check out (and download) the FIND ME GLUTEN FREE app.

Do you have favorites that aren’t listed? Please comment below and share with us.

Hidden Gluten.

Are you new to the diet, confused and overwhelmed?

Maybe you have been on it awhile and you don’t understand why you are still getting sick?

Here are a few simple ways to keep an eye out for hidden gluten:

#1.     Oatmeal

It must say gluten free. It has to do with how it’s grown. Basically, farmers rotate crops to keep the ground conditioned for optimum growth. This means that one year of wheat, another year of oats, results in wheat being harvested in oats. Many tests have been run on leading oat brands and determined that the contamination was so high you might as well be eating a bowl of wheat bran. My favorite is Trader Joe’s gluten free oats. They are the best value I have found on the market.

#2.     Imitation crab meat

Not only is it imitation, making it essentially equal to the plastic stuff used in the display cases, but it’s full of food dyes. Oh, and did I mention that it’s created from wheat? Check the label. You will see what I mean. Either it’s real crab or it’s not safe.

#3.     Vanilla extract

I have watched the food network and according to Alton brown and his infinite food wisdom, I have learned that vanilla is made from a vanilla bean being placed in a jar with vodka and distilled. If the vodka has gluten in it, which most do, you have a bottle of gluten filled vanilla extract. If the bottle doesn’t specify gluten free, assume it’s not. I use Kirkland brand. It is labeled gluten free and a great value.

#4.     Soy Sauce

I know, you thought it was made from soy, right? Wrong. It’s actually made from wheat. Unless you buy La Choy, Tamari based (gluten free) soy or Liquid aminos. Bragg’s aminos are in my fridge now. They taste amazing and I love the quality of the companies products.

#5.     Licorice Candy

Anyone think that candy must be safe? Well, actually, flour is added in the baking process to most recipes, although the root itself is a legume. Put down the Twizzlers and watch for the “healthy alternatives” to main stream candy as well. The process is the same. The only brand I have found to be free from gluten is from Lovey Candy Co.

 

#6.     Cheese

Don’t get excited, it’s not all cheese by any means. Check the package on shredded brands for flour that is used (as a non caking agent). Also, some bleu cheese may be produced with the aid of flour. I’m not a fan of bleu cheese so this hasn’t been an issue for me.

#7.     Packaged meats

Lunch meat, hot dogs, sausages, hams and turkeys can be infused with gluten containing substances (usually present in the broths they are made in). The safest meats will label gluten free on the package. Boars head is my personal favorite.

#8.     Condiments

BBQ sauce, teriyaki,  salad dressings, asian sauces,  gravy, dips… you name it. I have encountered wheat, rye and barley in all of the above. Be especially careful in restaurants as they tend to buy the least expensive options, due to the quantity they go through. It may be boring but much safer to have any sauce left off.

#9.     Cereal

Just because it is a “corn” “rice”, or “potato” cereal does not mean that it doesn’t contain multi grains. There are a few brands, like Chex that carry gluten free options but always double check the label. And remember that malt is made from Barley, so if your cereal has rice and malt, it’s NOT gluten free.

#10.     Soups

This is one of the most agonizing for me. I love a good bowl of hot soup in the winter and cans, boxes, catering and restaurants love to thicken their soups with flour. Anyone ever heard of corn starch? Seriously. It’s rare that I can have a soup. A few safe ones I have found are Chili’s baked potato, Jason’s deli’s veggie chili and tomato and Zoup has several daily choices that are clearly labeled with gluten free tags.

Unfortunately, there are loads of places that gluten lurks, including “Modified Food Starch” because it can be made from corn or wheat. Keep stead fast, be diligent. It is worth the effort to rid your body of the pollutants and help you feel better.

-Your Gluten Free Sister.