Written by Katie Alwart
In June 2011, following the birth of my second child, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. This falls into that rather long list of “things they didn’t mention could happen to you following childbirth.” In short, celiac is an autoimmune disorder caused by an allergic reaction to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. The only effective treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet.
Fast forward two years and I’m now surprised how easy it was to go gluten-free. While many people are diagnosed with the allergy, many others have a gluten intolerance or have chosen to give up gluten as a lifestyle choice; which I think accounts for the blossoming market for gluten-free products. Despite the occasional mad craving for a perfect grilled cheese sandwich, my total avoidance of gluten has been able to become a part of our life in a pretty straightforward way.
Below are some recommendations on local restaurants and grocery stores with gluten-free options. I hope that it is helpful if any of you are considering going gluten-free or have family visiting who can’t eat wheat. This is definitely an incomplete list and is based only on my own experience – so please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) other great places that I’ve missed – especially those that can serve me that elusive grilled cheese sandwich.
|Twist Bakery Cupcake
* I’ll start with my all-time favorite – Twist Bakery & Café
. Yes, yes, it is true they are in Millis, but if you are gluten-free it is well worth the drive. Very cute little restaurant and 100% gluten free.
* New Leaf in Needham Center (http://www.anewleafvitamins.com) has a ton of gluten-free options, including a lot of sweets. I remember feeling really frustrated about the cookie/cake issue (meaning not having them!) and they have ones that are delicious.
* Locally, Blue on Highland, Not Your Average Joes, PF Chang’s, Stone Hearth Pizza (side note – they have gluten-free pasta, but for some reason it takes forever to make, so order it early upon arrival), Rice Barn, The Cottage, Met Bar and Bertucci’s all have GF menus. With the mainstream awareness of how many people are currently off gluten (estimates have it at 1% of the population with celiac and up to 30% of people trying to avoid it), most places are very familiar with how to handle gluten-free orders. A friend who has a daughter who is GF has had good success asking restaurants to bring something for her daughter when they bring out bread (or to not bring bread out at all), which helps mitigate the fact that everyone else is eating something you can’t.
* In addition to many reasons why you might want to avoid McDonald’s, they are pretty bad with gluten-free options. There is nothing (except for a salad with no meat) that doesn’t have wheat. French fries – which are often a safe bet if fried with no other breaded products – are so often comingled with wheat products that they are also a no-go.
* If you are looking for a fast(er) food option, Chipotle is pretty impressive in their ability to handle gluten allergies. Every single one that I have been to has taken the allergy seriously, changed gloves and stopped and wiped down the production line without making it seem like a pain for them to do it. Another family restaurant option is Pizzeria Uno – they have GF pizza that is pretty good (ask for them to make it well done – weird, I know, but tastes much better). Other fast food options I would recommend are Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Boloco.
* Trader Joe’s not only has a list of gluten-free products they carry, but also have a special symbol on their packaging to make it easy to identify. Star Market (particularly the one on Route 9, less so the one in Dedham) has a good selection, as does Whole Foods. The only place that I’ve found has fresh, unfrozen bread all the time is Trader Joe’s and Volante Farms.
* Treat (http://www.treatcupcakebar.com/) is great – they typically have many options for gluten-free cupcakes.
* Abbott’s in Needham Center (http://www.abbottscustard.com) is willing to work with GF customers on cakes and pies. They made a friend a GF pumpkin custard pie for Thanksgiving.
* Wicked (http://www.wickedrestaurant.com/) is a great option in Dedham. Most places only offer gluten-free options on their cheese and pepperoni pizza – you can get any pizza at Wicked gluten-free.
* Lastly, I’ve had good experiences at pretty much all restaurants we have gone to in Boston, including recent trips to Bondir, Toro, Hungry Mother, No 9 Park, 5 Napkin Burger, Legal Seafoods. I just did afternoon tea at the Boston Harbor Hotel and they replicated all of their sweet and savory treats gluten-free for me.
Happy (wheat-free) eating!
Katie Alwart grew up in California and moved to Needham with her husband in 2009. She serves as Parent Talk’s fundraising co-chair and happily houses the POD for PT’s Used Clothing, Toy & Equipment Sale. She works in the fundraising department at MIT as the director of the MIT Charter Society. If she had her way, her kitchen would be the least used room of the house.