Summertime Gluten Free Restaurant Discoveries

So Labor Day has come and gone, my husband is back to work as an 8th grade teacher, and choir practice at church is back in session.

Summer is over.

And that's probably good thing, because I ate a LOT of food this summer. But the majority of it was good, real good. Just in case you end up near any of these places in your travels, here's some highlights.

Chick Fil A - I'm sure you're wondering why on earth I'm including a fast food place and listing it in the best category. Well, I live in Michigan, and we don't have Chick Fil A near us anywhere. Not in Flint, not in Lansing, not in Grand Rapids. So I made my family stop there when we were on our way to Tennessee.
Not only was the food really enjoyable, (grilled chicken bites that were SUPER delicious and gluten free waffle fries) but the staff was stellar as well. LOVE Chick-Fil-A.

Burger Up - Okay, I really enjoy Red Robin, but Burger Up is my new favorite burger place EVER. Seriously, in my whole life. My burger has BEETS on it. BEETS! This burger has changed my life.
They use locally sourced beef, make their own ketchup so there is no HFCS, and their portions are super generous. Super. I love me some french fries (of which I could have received a free refill), but I could barely finish my lunch.
**Note - Burger Up has more than one location. The Franklin/Cool Springs location is the one that is gluten-free friendly. The Nashville location doesn't have a dedicated fryer with means no french fries. :(

The Pfunky Griddle - As a Celiac, usually breakfast "out" is relegated to omelettes, as long as we can verify that it's not made on the same place as gluten filled pancakes. At Pfunky Griddle, you make your own food, on your won DEDICATED gluten free griddle. That's right, DE-DI-CATED.
So order up a batch of gluten free batter (which also comes with free refills) and your one free topping choice and create away.

Yogurt Mountain - So when we went on vacation, it was to see my 8 year old niece. And since we only see each other once a year (and we had just eaten a large lunch at Burger Up), I was the cool aunt that said, "How about we just have ice cream for dinner?' Yep, all of that is true. So after a quick visit to see my mom at work (she was working the night shift at the local hospital) we took a stop at Yogurt Mountain. Best part, ALL of the flavors that are gluten free are labeled RIGHT on the machine. No guess work, no asking a long laundry list of questions. Oh, and they give you little sampler cups so you can try flavors before you make you make up your frozen yogurt creation. Free ice cream? I'm in!

The Good
For Crepe's Sake - Sometimes you find the best gluten free products at your local farmer's market. We happened up on this brand new crepe business at the Lansing City Market that had not one, but 2 DEDICATED gluten free griddles. The owner has Celiac disease and totally understands the steps to prevent cross contamination. They were pretty good, and the owner even came to talk to us later, asked our input, and wanted constructive feedback on how he could improve things. Totally cool. Please check then out when you're in the Capital City.

Sweet Peaces Vegan Cafe - So my BFF college roommate is vegetarian and flew back to Michigan from Texas.  While she was back here for some family events, she was able to sneak a day away to come visit us. So I was totally interested in taking her to the new Flint Farmer's Market and to the new vegan restaurant inside. The majority of the food is Indian, which totally works, as Sarah's husband is from India. And I LOVE Indian food.
The best thing was the yam fries. The name is a bit misleading, as they are actually baked and not fried. This prevents the whole issue of oil cross contamination. And, it comes with some amazing chipotle dip made from Vegannaise. It was so good that my husband (who hates mayo) said that we could starting using it at home!

Jack's Place - I know I've written about Jack's Place before, but they are beyond wonderful. Our Celiac support group did a bowling outing there, and they treated us like family. The head chef has Celiac disease and prepares all the gluten free food himself, in a dedicated area. They even have rosemary potatoes to go along with their gluten free burgers instead of french fries. Their pizza, served on Gillian's crust, was so delicious. The spouse of one of our GF members said it may just be the best non-gluten pizza crust he's ever had at a restaurant.
If you ever find yourself in Flushing, MI do yourself a favor and stop in. And tell them Margaret sent you!

The Not So Good
The Corner Bar - The draw at this bar in Rockford is the hot dogs. They have a challenge that if you can eat a dozen of their chili dogs, sauce and all, your name is put up on the wall. They have GF buns, but in all honesty they weren't that good. They fell apart and the hot dogs themselves left much to be said for. Neat experience, but I don't feel the need to go back.

'WICHES - This sandwich shop in Oxford MI has gluten free sandwiches and gluten free cookies. AND they are trained by the GIG restaurant program, so you KNOW they understand the risks of cross-contamination. They were good, but like most places offering gluten free options, the gf bread was different and small...and there was an upcharge. In all honesty for the price I paid, I was disappointed. Overall, good sandwich and nice staff, but I don't plan on going back.

57 Brew Pub and Bistro-
This is a first for me in so many ways. The first time I've purposely written to tell people to NEVER go to a restaurant. And the first time in my life that I have ever stood up from my table after ordering dinner and left the restaurant.

So, it was our anniversary and we were vacationing in the greater Grand Rapids area. My husband is SUPER amazing and he's really good about doing the things that I enjoy. On this trip, I wanted to take my husband to places that would make him smile and that he would enjoy. I wasn't a beer drinker before being diagnosed, but my husband does enjoy a good dark beer.
So we went to an establishment that brewed its own beer and specifically marked on its menu the dishes that they offered that could be prepared gluten free.
I should have run for the hills after walking in and the greeter showed me their pizza oven and stated that they cool all the pizzas there, GF and non GF, but that's okay because the oven is super hot and burns off all the gluten. But we stayed anyway.
And my husband ordered a beer. Now, he doesn't drink beer everyday, but he knows how beer is brewed and knows what he likes. He was surprised by the beer the waitress brought him, as he was expecting a different flavor based on the beer that he had chosen. He mentioned it to the waitress, and then she realized she brought him the wrong beer. Strike #1.
I decided on a salad for dinner and my husband ordered a turkey reuben. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I'm not the only person in the house with medical issues with food. My husband is allergic to pork and shellfish. (My husband jokes that even as a Christian, God intends for him to keep kosher.)
We sat quietly, talking while my husband sipped his beer.
When our food came out, my husband was the first to notice an issue with my salad.
There was a huge crouton on it. Strike #2
When the waitress walked away with it to make me a new one, my husband had greater concern that this establishment was not safe for me to eat at. When the waitress cam back to apologize again, we asked her to get a box for my husband's sandwich and we would just take his food to go.
So she brings him a box, and as he proceeds to place his sandwich in it, he notices something.
BACON. Strike #3.
We were both stunned. I immediately went to go look at the menu again, in case we missed something. Nope, no bacon listed on the menu for that sandwich.
It's at this point that the manager comes out. We explain the situation and then Brad asks if that is indeed bacon on his sandwich. At first the manager says no. Then, upon second look, he states that it was indeed bacon from the grill. He stated that we would not have to pay for any of our meal (ah, yeah) and asked if we wanted a gift card.
Yeah, that was a definite NO.
So, we left the restaurant, found a local small delivery pizza shop called BC Pizza that had safe gluten free preparation stations, and we shared a pizza for dinner. The staff was great and they even sang in the background. Not intentionally for us, but it sure helped lighten the mood from the experience we had just had.

So here's hoping you had some excellent gluten free dining choices during your summer travels. What places have you visited that I should be sure to check out the next time I'm traveling?

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