Our family spent last weekend in Pittsburgh for the Pittsburgh Presidents Cup ice hockey tournament with our younger son's Select hockey team. Despite the frigid weather, snow, and grey skies, we were reminded what a cool city this is -- and how many great "gluten-free friendly" places there are to eat. We visited some old favorites discovered on another trip to Pittsburgh a few years back...and also tried a few new places we'd found while researching places online prior to our trip.
Our first stop -- literally upon arriving in town -- was Gluuteny bakery on Murray Avenue in the "Squirrel Hill" neighborhood. This gluten free, dairy free bakery is almost reason enough to visit Pittsburgh. We'd been there three years before, and we couldn't wait to go again. It just happened to be Valentine's Day, and I figured it could go one of two ways...either they'd have tons of stuff prepared for "last minute" shoppers, or they'd have sold out of most items by the time of our late afternoon arrival.
Fortunately for us, there was a nice selection of items left, and let me tell you, we had a hard time choosing! So we pretty much bought one of everything to try: cupcakes, heart-shaped Valentine-themed sugar cookies, donuts, brownies, cookies, pound cakes, coffee cakes, and whoopie pies. We even bought a few bags of their pre-packed mixes to make at home (their marble pound cake mix and sugar cookie mix). We were literally like kids in a candy store, but when do you stumble upon a place like this? And it was Valentine's Day, so how could we say no to treats we so rarely come across unless we make them ourselves? Our boys were thrilled.
Surprisingly, our huge (and heavy) bag of treats came to just around $60 (we thought it would be more). We parceled out the treats among ourselves over the next few days. The coffee cakes were enjoyed in our hotel room as part of our breakfast before early morning hockey games. The cookies and whoopie pie were especially handy to have at-the-ready when the rest of my son's team got to enjoy a non-GF cookie pie one of the parents had bought to celebrate the boys' winning of the tournament. I find events like this remain the hardest thing to navigate as a parent of a gluten free child, especially one who has hit the age when he wants to be like everyone else. So it helped to have a yummy gluten free treat to whip out at that moment.
You can read my full review of Gluuteny and the other things they offer -- including gluten free cakes, bread, rolls, and pizza crust -- on our review website, GlutenFreeTravelSite. There just happens to be another bakery nearby called Gaby et Jules that specializes in macarons, which apparently are all gluten free. That will have to wait for our next visit!
Our hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott in the Settlers Ridge area -- west of downtown Pittsburgh and right near the airport -- turned out to be located in an ideal spot for reliable gluten free family dining. Keep in mind, we were with a group of families with young kids, so fine dining was not in the cards for this trip! "Safe"restaurants nearby included Joe's Crab Shack, Buca di Beppo, First Watch, Johnny Carino's Italian, Olive Garden, Mad Mex, and Red Lobster. Our first night, we went across the highway to the large Settler's Ridge shopping center to Red Robin for dinner. Another night we ate at P.F. Chang's in the same shopping center. Our family loves so many different items on their gluten free menu...the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken and Shaking Beef being our sons' favorite dishes. Again, you can read my reviews of these -- along with other Pittsburgh area gluten-free friendly restaurants reviewed by others -- by typing in Pittsburgh in the search box on the Search/Mapping page of GlutenFreeTravelSite. Then just click on any restaurant to read the review.
One "new" discovery, (at least for us) was Giovanni's, located at 3047 W. Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh's Dormont area, and offering a HUGE gluten free menu of pizza, pasta, and even grilled chicken parmesan, dessert, and GF beer. It's nothing fancy, but they know what they're doing with gluten free food prep. We had a fantastic lunch here between games one day, and we were so full we didn't need much for dinner that night. We enjoyed their gluten free pizza and several delicious pasta dishes, served with nice salads and the best gluten free garlic bread (more like flatbread) we've ever had. Read my review...
Another "new" restaurant for us was Eat 'n Park, a family restaurant found all over Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. There was one right near one of the ice houses our son's team played at, so we had a mid-day meal there on our last day. Three of our family members enjoyed selections from their all day breakfast menu (some available gluten free), while our younger son ordered a burger on a gluten free bun. Gluten free selections can be found in a special area of the main menu, and while it's not an extensive listing, there's enough to choose from. The service was friendly and the food good -- just what you'd expect from a family restaurant like this (more details in my review). So if you ever encounter an Eat 'n Park while traveling through PA, OH, or WV, it's a good option for any time of the day.
Breakfast for us each morning was pretty easy, as we brought (or bought) many of our own favorite gluten free staples. Our hotel had mini-fridges in each room as well as a microwave in the lobby for heating quick meals or snacks. They also had a full-fledged cafe in the lobby that was another option for breakfast. We were always in such a rush to hit the road for an early morning game, but one morning my husband was able to get the chef to whip up some plain scrambled eggs for our son. Their extensive breakfast menu likely had some other options that were gluten free, including fruit, omelettes, yogurt, breakfast meats, but time didn't allow us to read labels or have a discussion about brands used. So we stuck with the eggs and supplemented with fruit and coffee cake in the room.
For shopping for gluten free groceries, places that come highly recommended include Giant Eagle and Gluten Free Zone in Murrysville, PA (it's actually a store, restaurant, and bakery).
We hope to visit Pittsburgh again and try out even more of their popular gluten free spots like the very popular Mandy's Pizza and Aladdin's Eatery -- but hopefully the next trip will be in the Spring, Summer, or Fall!