Gluten Free in Atlanta
November 21, 2019
Our school system always gives kids a 4-day weekend in late October/early November at the end of the first quarter, and it affords families a nice opportunity to take a short trip when other areas of the country aren't on break. Therefore, you can travel at an off time when you can enjoy fewer crowds and better prices, no matter where you go!
Our son, a junior in high school, wanted to visit the Georgia Tech campus, so this gave us an excuse to visit Atlanta -- a town we hadn't traveled to in 20 years. It was great visiting in early November, when the weather is a bit cooler! We stayed with some good friends in the area and also got to visit relatives. Of course, we managed to squeeze in some sightseeing, scooter riding, and wonderful gluten free meals, to boot!
Within an hour of landing and renting a car, we stopped at Hell Yeah Gluten Free Bakery, near Inman Park. It's a good thing we swung by here when we did (just before lunchtime), as they were already running out of some of their more popular items. Their specialty is fresh-made donuts, so we got an assortment to go. We were meeting friends shortly thereafter for lunch, but each of us just couldn't resist having a fresh donut as an "appetizer" in the car. Oh my goodness...they were the best gluten free donuts we've ever had. The toasted coconut was heavenly! They also offer homemade gluten free breakfast parties (like "Pop Tarts") and gluten free specialty cakes, along with some cookies and other baked goods. They offer savory items as well. Hell Yeah Gluten Free Bakery is open from 7 am - 1 pm on Wednesday through Saturday and 9 am - 1 pm on Sunday. I'd recommend getting there early for the widest assortment. We could tell this was a popular place...not surprising as we would probably go every weekend if we lived nearby!
Next stop was lunch at Bartaco in Inman Park, which is actually a chain with restaurants in 13 states. They have tacos, bowls, appetizers, and apparently great margaritas (although we didn't splurge since we were planning to rent scooters afterwards!). Almost everything on the menu is gluten free, and they are conscientious about diners with dietary restrictions. The way ordering works is that you fill out an order form at the table. The server instructed our son to fill out one for himself and note that he was gluten free for medical reasons/Celiac at the bottom of the form. Note that the corn tortillas and chips are fried in a separate fryer so are safe. However, be sure to talk to your server about the specific location where you are dining to verify everything.
After spending the afternoon on motorized scooters on the pedestrian-friendly BeltLine (great!) and on the roads (not recommended because of the lack of shoulders many places!), we relaxed for a while before heading to dinner at Maggiano's in the Perimeter Mall. This is north of town and near where we were staying. Maggiano's is always a hit and has plenty of choices for gluten free diners. Even though they do have gluten free pasta which our son loves, he opted for a steak served with mashed potatoes and asparagus that evening.
The next morning we met relatives at Egg Harbor Cafe, another restaurant with multiple locations in the Atlanta area, as well as in Chicagoland and Wisconsin. What a treat! It sounded good from recommendations online, but boy, were we floored with their extensive, 2-page Gluten Free Menu. The pancakes our son ordered looked, tasted, and had the consistency of the gluten variety...very rare to find. But perhaps the highlight of the gluten free menu -- and a MUST to order if you go to Egg Harbor Cafe -- is their gluten free cinnamon roll.
Again, it was hard to believe it was gluten free. It was the best cinnamon roll I've ever had, gluten free or not. It was included in the breakfast I ordered, but you can order it as a "side" as well. You'll have your choice of all sorts of omelettes and scramblers, skillets, breakfast meats, sandwiches, salads, soup, and chili here. Their gluten free grits are to-die-for as well. Egg Harbor Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch. We loved this place so much we went back (but to a different location) two days later en route to the airport to catch our flight home. And yes, we ordered the cinnamon rolls again! One warning: This place is VERY popular on weekends. We went on a Sunday around 11 am and had a 45 minute wait. They don't take reservations but do have a "call ahead" list which I would strongly recommend!
That afternoon we visited the College Football Hall of Fame, one of many popular attractions situated around Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. (You'll also find the CNN Studios, the Georgia Aquarium, the SkyView Atlanta giant ferris wheel, and the World of Coca-Cola Museum.) We didn't have time to see everything on this trip, so we chose the College Football Hall of Fame (yes, those are all the college helmets displayed on the entry wall!) and then the Coca-Cola Museum the next day, as those were things you could only do in Atlanta.
That evening and the next we cooked dinner at our friends' house in the suburbs, but rest assured, had we chosen to go out, there are plenty more gluten-free friendly dining options. Restaurants with multiple locations in and around the city include: Yeah! Burger, Taqueria del Sol, Figo Pasta, Farm Burger, and Metro Fresh. Blue Moon Pizza and Buckhead Pizza, both in the Buckhead area uptown, get rave reviews for gluten free pizza. The Perimeter Mall area, where we dined at Maggiano's, also houses a Seasons 52, which has many gluten free options notated on the menu. And, of course, you'll find Chipotle and Chick-fil-A all over the city (gluten free options include grilled nuggets and their famous waffle fries). One note about Chick-fil-A on the Georgia Tech campus...it's an abbreviated menu so therefore doesn't offer the grilled nuggets. However, they did have grilled chicken breast sandwich with a gluten free bun (the bun is prepackaged in a cellophane wrapper for safety).
There's also Sally's Bakery in Sandy Springs, another gluten free bakery that we regrettably didn't get a chance to visit on this trip. Other recommendations to try on another visit include Bantam and Biddy, Fuego Mundo, and Arepa Mia. Clearly, you will eat well if you're gluten free in Atlanta...whether you are downtown, midtown, uptown (Buckhead), or in the suburbs.
If you are looking for a nice place to stay inside the perimeter (the loop around Atlanta), you may want to consider our friends' VRBO rental. It is a first-floor apartment with 2 bedrooms, a large living room, full kitchen and dining area, and even a washer and dryer. It is beautifully furnished with luxury touches throughout, and having your own kitchen will give you the flexibility to make some of your own meals. It's perfect for a short or extended stay. If you let my friend Caroline know that you are gluten free, she will furnish you with a separate toaster and cutting boards for your stay. The location is just a mile from the Perimeter Mall and close to the Dunwoody MARTA train station for access all over Atlanta. Check out the gorgeous property on the VRBO website.
Do you have any favorite GF-friendly spots you'd recommend in Atlanta? If so, please share them in a comment below.