Sunday, July 14, 2013

Eating gluten-free in downtown Springfield, MO

Bruno's (from our balcony)
I'll admit it right up front: I love to eat out. I enjoy cooking, too, but set me down in a nice restaurant and put an interesting menu in front of me and all is right with the world. Finding a restaurant with a gluten-free menu or even gluten-free entrees, however, is often a problem.

That's why I'm sharing this list of downtown Springfield (MO) restaurants where I've had successful dining experiences. Unfortunately, menus, ingredients, and preparation methods change, so I'll quickly remind you that eating in restaurants is always risky for people with celiac disease.

Many people with celiac disease, understandably, never take the risk of eating out. Eating out has been such a large part of my lifestyle, that I find the experience worth the risk. Anyway, here's my list (in no specific order), which I'll update every time I make a new discovery or have a particularly good or bad experience.

Ristorante Gilardi's (Italian Fine Dining): Very understanding of celiac disease. The last time I ate there (Summer 2013), I had a wonderful salmon dish. The manager came out and told me that they would soon be making their own gluten-free pasta. I'll keep you posted. Located at 820 E. Walnut.

Maria's (Mexican): I always order El Nacho with chicken--and I've never had a problem. A long time ago, they assured me that their corn tortillas are gluten-free, so I'm not asking questions. I know I should be more careful, but until my body tells me otherwise, I'm going with it. I love them so much. Someday I'm going to quiz them on their tamales, because I've found that tamales are often completely gluten-free as well, but for now, I'm totally content with the nachos. Located at 406 South Ave.

Caprese Salad at Farmer's Gastropub
Farmer's Gastropub (Casual Dining): This restaurant has been inconsistent with gluten-free offerings. At one point they had their gluten-free options marked on their menu, but that is no longer the case. They do seem to understand gluten issues. I had a reaction to a meal there last winter (2013) and stopped eating there for a while. The lure of their wonderful outdoor patio recently drew me back, however, and I've eaten there several times with no problems. Just tell the wait-staff that you must eat gluten-free, and they'll help you out. Located at 431 S. Jefferson Ave.

Big Whiskey's (Pub): The only items on their menu that I order are their salads--but their Maple Apple Salad is the best salad on the planet (in my humble opinion). I could eat it every day. Really. Their Strawberry Hill Salad isn't bad, either. I'm sure I could eat other items on their menu, but I can't get past the Maple Apple Salad. With or without the grilled chicken on it, I've never had a problem. I eat at the downtown location at 311 Park Central East.

Rebecca Grille (Fine Dining): This restaurant is one of my new downtown favorites. They understand gluten issues, and they have lots of gluten-free menu selections (but you have to ask). I've also had brunch there and ordered an omelet and fried red bliss potatoes (no bread, of course). A great place to eat. Located at 209 E. Walnut.

Bruno's (Italian Fine Dining): This is another great restaurant where the wait-staff understands celiac disease. While there is no gluten-free menu, their chef can prepare many of the menu items gluten-free. Wonderful atmosphere, too. Located at 416 South Ave.

Gailey's (Breakfast): A great little breakfast spot, especially if you're not in a big hurry. I order the Create Your Own Omelet with hash browns and a cup of yogurt. No bread. Truthfully, there is a lot of opportunity for cross-contamination, so if you're super-sensitive, you might want to go elsewhere. I've had problems once or twice, but I forgive and move on. I know that's not a great approach (celiac-wise), but I can't resist. Located at 220 E. Walnut.

Springfield Brewing Company (Pub): They have a couple of salads, but the last time I was there, they didn't have a lot of other options for gluten-free eating, according to the person who waited on us. I love the atmosphere, but sadly, I haven't found it to be very celiac-friendly. I am attending an anniversary party there in a couple of weeks, so I'll update my findings in the near future. Located at 305 S. Market.

The Grad School (Casual Dining): Eat the chili on Fridays. It's so good. That's really about it, though, which makes me very sad, because the food there is reportedly outstanding. Located at 434 S. Jefferson Ave.

J.O.B. Public House (Pub): Great place for a drink, but the only food on the menu that celiacs can eat is the chili (which is so good that I could eat it every day) and the salad. This is one of my husband's favorite places to grab a quick sandwich (called Cubicles). They have several of these very popular little sandwiches and bottomless fries, but sadly, not for the gluten-sensitive. Located at 319 E. Walnut.

The Aviary Cafe and Creperie (Casual Dining): Nice salads, and they have a few other items that are gluten-free. I heard from members of the Gluten-Free Support Group (at HyVee) that they now have buckwheat crepes for people who must eat gluten-free. (Buckwheat, by the way, is actually gluten-free, in spite of it's scary name.) I can't wait to try the crepes. Located at 400 E. Walnut.

Mille's Cafe (Urban Casual): They have a few nice salads, including their signature Honey Pecan Chicken Salad, which is what I usually end up ordering (without the pita bread). Located at 313 S. Jefferson.

Three Corner Bar & Grille (Pub): This new restaurant offers excellent baba ghanoush and hummus (both gluten-free), and they'll serve it with sliced cucumbers instead of pita bread upon request. They also have a gluten-free bun for their burgers! Unfortunately, you can't eat the fries. Located at 400 South Ave.

Bistro Marketplace (Deli/Burgers): This little cafe has a nice salad bar and great burgers (but no gluten-free buns). The best offering, though, is their hand-cut french fries, which they fry in a dedicated fryer. I live in a loft right above this place, so I'm afraid I succumb to the temptation to pick up an order of those fries a little too often. Located at 401 South Ave.

Nonna's Italian (Casual Dining): This is a good restaurant for celiacs. They don't have gluten-free menu or gluten-free pasta, but they serve nice risotto and polenta dishes, as well as beef tenderloin tips, which are very tasty and gluten-free. They also have good salads. Located at 306 South Ave.

Kai (Japanese Fine Dining): This sushi restaurant offers a gluten free menu and their sushi, which I love, is delicious. The only problem is that they don't offer gluten-free soy sauce. (If you've read my other blogs, you might remember my husband's reaction to that little problem.) Other than having to haul your own soy sauce with you, which I do, I highly recommend the food. Located at 306 S. Campbell.

Flame Steakhouse & Wine Bar (Fine Dining): Yes, their food is wonderful. Yes, they understand gluten issues. Yes, the menu is priced a little higher than most, but it's a great place for special occasions. Located at 314 W. Walnut St.

Downtown Springfield has so many wonderful restaurants (including several that I haven't even mentioned here) that really can and will accommodate diners with gluten issues. You may have to do a little (or even a lot) of probing to determine what is safe for you to eat, but I guarantee that it is well worth the effort. In future posts, I will recount my experiences with more Greater Springfield and Springfield Area restaurants.