Our Celiac college blogger Julie Bourne, a student at University of Denver, goes "on the road" this month and shares her experience dining gluten free in Dallas, Texas, where she was pleasantly surprised by the range of gluten free dining options.
I grew up visiting my extended family in Kentucky where my memories are flooded with biscuits fresh out of the oven, warm pies offered at every home, and the best fried chicken you could imagine. I haven’t been over to visit since I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2010, but these memories surrounding nothing but glutenous foods of the United States' southern region would make any Celiac weary. While I cannot speak on behalf of Kentucky, I have been visiting my sister in Dallas, Texas for the last week or so and I have found this southern state to be significantly more gluten free friendly than I would have expected. As with any experience, dining out for two to three meals a day, there were some meals that were better than others (and some that sat with me better than others) but overall, I was very pleased to see such great variety of gluten free diners.
It is true, of course, that Dallas offers some of the best chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, and deep-fried funnel cakes. However, with Texas being the grand state that it is, options are plentiful, and gluten free eaters will find themselves with great options that are both satisfying and delicious. In other words, you can order something off of many a menu that is not a salad!
If there is something that I have noticed about Texans, it is that they really like brunch and they take it seriously. My first brunch in Dallas was at the Garden Café (side note: my sister, Katherine, works at the espresso stand there, so say “hi”!). It is an adorable neighborhood spot with a big garden in the back complete with fresh veggies growing and chickens cooling their heels. I ordered an omelet with spinach, tomato, and mushrooms and I could really taste the freshness of the eggs that they use straight out of the backyard garden. They offer gluten free toast here but I opted out since I was unsure of cross contamination risks; it’s a nice option though for those with less severe gluten sensitivities.
My second brunch was at Company Café, which is a classy spot with loads of outdoor seating next to a great running trail. The gluten free offerings here are far and wide - you can even get gluten free chicken fried steak here! I ordered the pancakes with strawberries and blueberries, which unfortunately came out quite burnt. The server quickly compensated for the mistake by removing the charge for the pancakes and giving me some fabulous gluten free lemon cake that I highly recommend to anyone, gluten free or not.
For a midday pick-me-up, I would recommend the Yogurtland in Downtown Fort Worth for some frozen yogurt or Avoca Coffee, also in Fort Worth, for the coffee drinkers. Yogurtland, which can be found in most large cities, is a great go-to spot for gluten free eaters and the location in Fort Worth is situated in a gorgeous outdoor promenade with loads of people to see and be seen by. (All flavors are gluten free, with the exception of those that contain cookies.) Avoca Coffee is a relaxed coffee shop with lots of seating room, energetic baristas, and a great cappuccino. I found myself needing some quiet time with coffee and WiFi, and Avoka fit the bill perfectly.
My sister was performing in a play at a theater in Fort Worth, which is about thirty minutes outside of Dallas so, my parents and I ate all of our dinners there. Spiral Diner, an all-vegan diner, was the first dinner spot we went to. This place is a heaven for vegans, who can order anything and everything from the extensive menu. As a gluten free diner, I had plenty of options but felt a little nervous about the strong possibility for cross contamination. I had chips and guacamole as an appetizer and then a hearty Mexican quinoa salad for my meal, both of which were delicious, and I felt fine afterwards so no gluten!
My favorite meal by far was also in Fort Worth, at a restaurant (right next door to Spiral Diner) called Lili’s Bistro. This restaurant is for a slightly upscale crowd with entrees costing between $15-$30, but the food and service is well worth it. I felt comfortable ordering my food, especially when the waiter knew exactly which ingredients were used in every menu item. In need of protein, I ordered the “Fresh-Off-the-Farm”, which is a plate filled with a variety of grilled seasonal vegetables and juicy grilled chicken. It was perfectly satisfying and finished off my culinary journey through Dallas and Fort Worth on a great note.
You can read Julie's past posts, plus her gluten free dining reviews from Denver and also from Rome, where she recently studied abroad, on GlutenFreeTravelSite. She also writes for her own Blog, The Campus Celiac.