With Restaurant Week upon us in Washington DC I can’t help but think about how far the restaurant industry has come in the past few years when it comes to serving gluten-free customers! Between the increase in demand for gluten-free products from the celiacs, the gluten intolerant and the fad dieters to the efforts of nonprofits like National Foundation For Celiac Awareness, Celiac Disease Foundation and the Gluten Intolerance Group, people living gluten-free can enjoy the delicious foodie culture that has spread across the country!
Which star chefs and popular restaurants have joined the gluten-free bandwagon? A lot!
Two old school Food Stars, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, offer a full gluten-free menu at all of the locations of Border Grill. Milliken and Feniger starred in 396 episodes of Too Hot Tameles on the Food Network. Mary Sue also competed and was the first runner up in Top Chef Masters Season 3. Check out my pictures from my most recent visit to Border Grill in Downtown Los Angeles.
Fish tacos with jicama, grapefruit, jalapeño aioli and avocado
If you are a fan of the Food Network then you are probably familiar with Stacey Poon-Kinney, one of the final five contestants on The Next Food Network Star. Her restaurant, The Trails Neighborhood Eatery was also featured on an episode of Restaurant Impossible back in 2011. Poon-Kinney offers an extensive gluten-free menu at her restaurant including gluten-free pancakes, which, in my experience, are rarely offered at restaurants!
Another star making delictable gluten-free offerings: Iron Chef and restaurant owner Jose Garces. My favorite of the Garces Group restaurants is Distrito, a modern Mexican restaurant in Philadelphia. In addition to offering gluten-free options, this incredibly popular eatery can satisfy any top-notch foodie’s palate! Distrito has been trained by NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens.
Jose Garces also had his restaurants Amada, Chifa and Tinto trained by GREAT Kitchens. His illustrious Garces Trading Co restaurant offers a formal gluten-free menu. Here are some of the pictures from my most recent visit to Distrito!
Stephen Starr, another wildly successful restauranteur and winner of Restauranteur of the Year by Zagat and Bon Appetit, has several restaurants that have been trained by GREAT Kitchens and offer gluten-free menus! During my last visit to Philadelphia I stopped by El Rey and enjoyed a beautiful modern twist on a chille relleno smothered in a walnut sauce and stuffed with dried fruit, walnuts and ground beef.
About a year ago a friend asked me how I could possibly consider myself a foodie given that I can’t eat most of the food offered by the most acclaimed chefs. Fact of the matter is, the gluten-free lifestyle is becoming more and more common. Restaurants have a financial incentive to cater to the gluten-free community because this particular foodie-niche happens to be an incredibly loyal customer base. When a restaurant makes a commitment to offering safe gluten-free options to its customers the gluten-free community talks about it. Apps like Find Me Gluten Free guide people living gluten-free directly to the doors of restaurants with gluten-free menus. When it comes to gluten-free customers, a gluten-free menu or a GREAT Kitchens logo on your restaurant door attract customers that will keep coming back.
The gluten-free customer base is loyal and hungry so when chefs like Mary Sue Milliken and Jose Garces offer something gluten-free they are pretty much guaranteed a huge influx of new customers.
Next on my list of places to try? One of the newer Stephen Starr restaurants, Le Diplomate in Washington DC! To my fellow Washingtonians, enjoy Restaurant Week! Remember to ask the necessary questions to avoid cross-contamination while dining out! Check out this link to The Gluten Free Professional to help you become a savvy celiac diner! Check out the section called “networking” for specific tips on dining out!
__________ Author Information: CC Bonaduce
CC Bonaduce, Creator of CC Gluten Freed, a blog dedicated to navigating the social aspects of the gluten-free diet in our gluten-filled world, www.ccglutenfreed.com