If you're gluten-free, you've no doubt tried many of the well-known chain restaurants that were among the first to offer gluten-free menus...places like Outback, Legal Seafood, P.F. Chang's, and Uno Chicago Grill. But it's always exciting to discover a lesser-known regional restaurant chain that takes its gluten-free customers just as seriously -- and offers them an extensive gluten-free menu.
Rockfish Seafood Grill is just that type of place, and if you live in -- or happen to be traveling to -- Texas or North Carolina, you'll have to make a point of stopping in to one of their 14 locations. You won't even need to ask for the Gluten Free Menu, since they bring it to each table, along with their "Body and Sole" (cute play on words!) health-conscious menu.
As you'd expect, you'll find mostly seafood options on the menu. Want to start with a unique appetizer? Try the Mexican Shrimp Martini (shrimp with avocado, pico de gallo and salsa) or the Ahi Tuna Nachos -- both consistent crowd-pleasers. Another special choice is the Roasted Jalapeno Cream Soup, thickened with corn starch so it's totally gluten-free.
Fish entrees can be either grilled or blackened and are served with your choice of four gluten-free sauces. Their Cedar Plank Salmon is a popular choice, topped with roasted corn salsa nad blackened shrimp. Steak options are available if you're not in the mood for seafood, as is a Chicken Caesar Salad. But it's the seafood selections -- including many entree salads topped with shrimp, Ahi tuna, or grilled salmon -- that are most in demand.
Corporate Chef and Culinary Operations Manager Matt Baum, who's been with the company for almost 10 years, says that, with the exception of anything fried, they try to make as many menu items as possible gluten-free. For example, at many other restaurants, a rice pilaf would be off-limits to gluten-free diners, if the restaurant uses a chicken stock that contains gluten. But not at Rockfish...they switched to a vegetable-based stock which is not just gluten-free, but vegetarian as well. (The mashed potatoes recipe was recently altered to make them gluten-free as well...in fact, it was so recent that it is not yet printed on the GF menu...but you can request them.)
Chef Matt said he goes to great lengths to check every single ingredient from suppliers to ensure it's gluten-free. It's this effort that was behind the relaunch of an expanded Gluten Free Menu over this past year. Rockfish was already offering a GF Menu, due to the previous Corporate Chef's daughter needing to avoid gluten. But when they realized the growing need for gluten-free options as a result of fast-rising Celiac Disease rates, they put even more effort behind examining ingredients used in their "regular" menu so they could expand their GF selections.
Unfortunately, Chef Matt said they aren't able to offer gluten-free fried options on their menu, due to lack of space to add dedicated fryers. But you won't be lacking for choices at this eager-to-please restaurant, and Chef Matt stressed that they always try their hardest to make any new items added to their regular menu available on the gluten-free menu as well. In fact, they roll out a new version of the menu about every six months. Every ingredient for a new menu item is checked, and gluten-free ingredients are used whenever possible. (They also have a policy of using products that don't contain MSG.) For example, a new menu item, which will be printed on menus in February (but the servers already offer to all guests) is Barbeque Chicken, which is completely gluten-free.
Even though Rockfish is not a dedicated gluten-free restaurant, both the kitchen staff and servers are thoroughly trained by Chef Matt himself regarding proper precautions for gluten-free food preparation. So if you live in Texas (or Durham, NC) or have reason to travel there, you're in luck...you have a choice of a regional chain that takes its gluten-free guests' needs seriously.
And to thank their customers, Rockfish rewards them with occasional special offers. Just sign up for their Email Club on the Home page of their website. Another great way to stay in the loop about Rockfish's special offers and events is to Like their Facebook page.