Story by Beth Erickson
Do you want to hear a really sad story? It's all about the time when about four days before Christmas I ended up in the hospital and my doctor told me I couldn't have gluten (and a bunch of other really nice things like ice cream and mushrooms) if I wanted to not do something horrific in a stomachly area sort of way to myself anymore.
I've spent the ensuing months learning to eat without gluten, and learning to do it in places my gluten-ous friends and family can eat, too. Here are my five favorites.
Pie 5 Pizza Co. Many locations in the dee eff dub, but I am a fan of the super-friendly Greenville location. You can build your own pie, choose one of their recipes or even order a salad. First visit I ordered (gingerly) a build-your-own with a gluten-free crust. (Common among restaurants that cater to GF and non-GF customers, the gluten free option is $2 more). Most gluten-free folk will tell you that pizza crusts and pasta are the most iffy, either pretty good/"wait, this was GF?" or something that has you wishing for a tongue transplant. But this crust? Good. Light, slightly thin, crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle. A little thin for the kitchen sink, but my pepperoni and sausage was fine.
I am fairly certain you could even pass this pie off as a regular pie and nobody would know. But you don't have to, because the pies are individual, so everyone can get their own. This crust is the only one not made onsite; to cut down on cross contamination issues, it's pre-made and sealed. Upon ordering, the prep area is wiped down, and the pizza maker puts on new gloves. A dedicated board and cutter are used on the cooked GF pies, and it can be slipped immediately into a box if you are super worried about cross contamination.
Asian Mint In some restaurants offering a gluten-free menu and a regular menu, you have to ask a lot of questions, because it's not clearly marked, or you are told that items can be made gluten-free but you have to speak to a manager. This is work. If I have to make a production of ordering food, I will probably just make it myself.
Asian Mint figured out that we'd like to just order like normal people and bolded everything in the menu that is gluten free. And there is a lot. Curries, pad thai, salads, fried rice, some sushi, and even some desserts. When I first started looking for places my whole tribe would enjoy, I was told "real Thai" places don't use gluten. My guts told me (after I believed this) that this is not a good yardstick. So thank you, Asian Mint, for just telling me what I can eat, and then making it taste delicious.
Unrefined Bakery There are three locations -- Frisco, Greenville Ave. and North Buckner Boulevard. I'm a habitue of the Buckner location, where you can choose to eat al fresco. It's a dedicated GF, mostly allergen-free facility, but it's still a good place to a) drop in for lunch with a friend, even if said friend can eat all the gluten she wants, or b) drop in to pick up items for home like pizza crusts, quiches, granola bars, muffins and/or desserts.
If you love someone who can't eat gluten, you should buy them a cupcake. Or a whole cake. You will probably get a hug, and possibly sex. The sandwiches offer several choices for breads; I'm a fan of the paleo version, which is dense, slightly nutty, and very much like bread. It does not taste like a piece of sad you have to toast just to get it to not fill your mouth and expand like caulk. Even people who don't have to eat this bread on purpose will like it. So meet a friend for lunch and have sandwiches. Because you can.
Start Not a dedicated GF establishment, but Start is another good option. Burgers offer a gluten-free bun choice, and the breakfast sandwiches and burritos offer gluten-free alternatives as well. If you've been missing the occasional breakfast sandwich from Whataburger, it's nice to be able to order one with a decent, even nutty gluten-free bread.
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A quiz of the staff found that when a GF order is placed, the prep area is wiped down, and the person making it changes gloves. Start's owners say their gluten-free bread comes from Tulu's Bakery, the buns are from Local Oven, and the tortillas are from Food for Life. They also make two gluten-free cakes in house.
Kozy Kitchen Kozy's folks tell me that they can't say they're completely gluten free because of the fact they offer a burger and some breakfast items with a challah bun. But seriously, everything else is. Just that one stupid bun, which you can substitute with a gluten-free bun if you're feeling sandwichy or burgery.
They have two locations. The hours for the Farmers Branch location (which, by the way, is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it building bordered by two office buildings and the frontage road for 635) are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., so basically breakfast and lunch. The McKinney Ave. location is open for dinner, too.
And dude, you can order pasta here - gluten free pasta that doesn't taste like it was hate-made by evil Chef Boyardee. The Chef's Cajun Pasta is as spicy as they say it is in the menu, and the Buffalo Bolognese doesn't disappoint, either. Dinner portions are large -- I generally give up the beast halfway through and get a to-go box. Lunch offers an assortment of salads and sandwiches (all gluten free except for the aforementioned burger), and breakfast is has so many options that you should just go there with something like 17 of your friends and just trade plates all morning. Just don't let anyone order anything with challah.